Foods with nitrates include packaged and processed meats, such as salami, hot dogs and bacon, along with vegetables such as celery, beets, parsley, cabbage, leeks and endives. Nitrates are also found in drinking water that comes from wells and public sources. Nitrates act as food preservatives and are commonly found in foods along with nitrites, which also prevent food from spoiling.
Some foods naturally have nitrates, such as leafy green vegetables. However, nitrates are often added to processed meats and even packaged seafood to prevent spoilage. Nitrates are naturally occurring chemicals and take the form of salt. One of the most common forms of nitrate is sodium nitrate, which is a type of salt found around the world.
Foods with natural nitrates are better to eat than those with added preservatives, according to Healthy Child Healthy World. Foods that naturally contain nitrates, such as spinach and other vegetables, also contain other antioxidants and vitamins. As with other dietary items, people need some amounts of nitrates but excess amounts may cause health problems.
Those concerned about nitrate consumption can select items that do not list nitrates, nitrites or added sodium on their labels. Limiting intake of cold cuts and deli meats is another way to reduce nitrate consumption, as is eating organic food, which cannot legally have nitrates.