This post is sponsored by Aqua Carpatica. All opinions are my own.
Have you considered checking your drinking water for nitrates?
We’re used to hearing about nitrates in foods like cured meats, but what about water? Should you be looking for a “nitrate free” label on your bottled water? Recently, I decided I should. That’s when I started drinking Aqua Carpatica still and sparkling spring water. I asked my family to try it, too, and they all agreed it’s our new “house water”.
So that you can make the best decisions for your unique situation, I want to take a moment to talk about nitrates and why you might consider reducing your nitrate intake. But first, a few of my favorite benefits Aqua Carpatica provides:
- Unique concentration of calcium and magnesium makes it well-suited for athletes and those with high levels of physical activity.
- Low mineral content and very low concentration of nitrates (0.14 mg/L versus the FDA-accepted 10 mg/L – more on this below).
- An excellent choice for pregnant women, young children and infants due to low nitrate content. (More on why below.)
- Naturally sodium-free, which makes AQUA Carpatica the perfect choice for people on a low sodium diet, or for those with high blood pressure.
Now, as promised, a bit about nitrates and why you might want to consider reducing your overall nitrate intake.
What are nitrates?
Nitrates are comprised of nitrogen and oxygen and occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. Their use in processed foods like cured meats is to maintain color and prevent bacterial growth in those products.
When we consume nitrates, a chemical reaction occurs between the nitrates and enzymes in our body creating a similar compound, nitrites. You’ve likely seen nitrites mentioned on certain food labels along with nitrates. Chemically, these compounds differ by a single oxygen atom. Another potentially troublesome compound, nitrosamine, is formed from nitrites in high acid environments, such as the human stomach.
We won’t get bogged down in the chemistry here, but I wanted to mention nitrites and nitrosamine, as both are closely related to nitrates and associated health risks.
Are nitrates harmful to my health?
The answer is yes and no.
In some cases, for example in individuals with certain heart conditions, nitrates are actually helpful. You may have heard of nitroglycerin being given to someone having an angina attack. Nitroglycerin is a nitrate that relaxes blood vessels, thus relieving the chest pain associated with angina.(1)
But if you do not need nitrates for a medical issue, you may be wise to curb your nitrate intake due to some serious health issues related to nitrates.
Two Main Health Issues Linked to Nitrates
The two main health issues linked to nitrates are methemoglobinemia (also called blue baby syndrome in infants) and stomach cancer(2).
Methemoglobinemia(3) is a blood disorder that can affect:
- infants under six months old
- the elderly
- pregnant women
- individuals with low stomach acid levels
- people who lack certain enzymes in their body
The condition causes a lack of oxygen release in the blood and results in symptoms like blue skin, headache, nausea, lethargy, and ultimately unconsciousness if not treated.
So, if you’re in one of these categories, or you’re concerned about overall nitrate consumption in general, you might be as surprised as I was to learn cutting back on nitrates in the diet doesn’t only mean skipping the cold cuts. It may be more important to have a look at the water you’re drinking.
Nitrates in Drinking Water: What You Need to Know
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the major sources of over-exposure to nitrate (and subsequently to nitrite) are:
- Leafy vegetables
In fact, the CDC estimates 80% of the nitrate in the diet comes from vegetables. Veggies take up nitrate via their stems and leaves from the air, soil and water supply.
Now, you already know I am not going to deter you from eating nutritious vegetables. What I am going to suggest is to reduce unnecessary nitrate consumption by:
- Reducing the amount of nitrate-laden processed foods you eat
- Switching to nitrate-free bottled water
- Being aware of nitrate levels in your public drinking water supply
- Having your private well water tested for nitrates (if you have a well)
Nitrate in Our Drinking Water
Nitrate occurs naturally in some surface and ground water, generally at levels that do not pose a great risk. However, well water from poorly constructed or maintained wells presents a serious risk of high nitrate levels. Further, older wells and wells in locations where chemical fertilizers are heavily used, or waste is improperly disposed of, could yield water high in nitrates(4).
Regulations for Nitrate Content in Drinking Water
Congress passed the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974. The U S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was given responsibility for setting drinking water standards for all states. Each state is responsible for enforcing the standards.
The EPA sets maximum contaminant levels for all contaminants in the water supply.(5) For nitrate, that level is 1o miligrams per liter (mg/L) of water, or 10 parts per million (ppm). As mentioned earlier, this level is quite a bit higher than the 0.14 mg/L in Aqua Carpatica water.
Now, this is not to alarm you, but I do think we must be aware the EPA guideline is set “as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.” In other words, be aware, the government is setting standards with many parameters, their cost (and not necessarily our health) being right up at the top of the list.
Regulations for Nitrate Content in Bottled Water
When it comes to bottled water, which is one of the most popular convenience products of health-conscious individuals these days, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the limits. Currently, the FDA follows the same 10 ppm standard as the SDWA specifies for public drinking water.
Again, the decision to monitor nitrate intake in your food and water is one you must make on your own, but I hope this information and insight is useful to you in deciding. If you’re interested in reducing your overall nitrate intake like I am, here are a few tips I follow.
Tips for Reducing Nitrate Intake:
- Consume low-nitrate foods
- Avoid processed foods that are high in nitrates
- Drink nitrate-free bottled water (especially important for breastfeeding mothers and infants – see health risks associated with nitrates above)
- Use nitrate-free water for cooking
So now you know, cured meat packages aren’t the only place we should be looking for “nitrate-free” labeling.
Learn More about Naturally Sourced Aqua Carpatica Nitrate-Free Water
Try Aqua Carpatica nitrate-free natural still and sparkling spring water for times when you want a quality, nitrate-free bottled water. Now available in the United States, Aqua Carpatica is sourced from two springs located over 200 meters underground deep within the Carpathian Mountains. The naturally untouched mineral and spring waters are generated from a unique area, one of the remaining untamed forests of Eastern Europe.
I love both the still and sparkling varieties, and my favorite way to enjoy the sparkling water is with a few frozen blueberries in a flute!