Hopefully we’ve already convinced you that a healthy diet is important for success as a gymnast, and that there are many health risks associated with nitrates and nitrites as food additives. But how can you make sure to avoid putting your child at risk?
Step 1: Check Labels Carefully
It will certainly help to lessen consumption of processed and cured meat products like the ones we already listed in Part 1; however, you also need to learn to check labels. Nitrates and nitrites can pop up in products that you don’t even realize contain meat as well as some meat-free products.
Make sure to read all labels, even if a brand or meat product claims to be “nitrate-free” or “uncured.” Often, products advertised as not having nitrites directly added actually contain even higher amounts of nitrites than their peers. This blogger explains how they get away with it: “These products use ‘natural’ sources of the same chemical like celery and beet juice and sea salt, and are no more free from nitrates and nitrites than standard cured meats. In fact, they may even contain more nitrates and nitrites when cured using ‘natural’ preservatives.”
Step 2: Shop the Perimeter
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to shop around the outer edge of the grocery store instead of the aisles, which are mostly comprised of heavily processed foods. Whole foods should make up the majority of your child’s diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are great natural sources of energy and easy on digestion.
Whenever possible, opt for organic produce. Foods labeled as “organic” are grown without synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which greatly increase the nitrate content in the fruits and vegetables you eat.
Step 3: Provide Filtered Water
If you live in an agricultural area and use well water, be sure to have a system installed to remove any nitrates from fertilizer that could have accumulated in the groundwater. Options include a reverse osmosis filter, an ion exchange filter, or a home water distiller.
In addition to making sure your home’s water is safe, be sure your child always has plenty of filtered water in his or her gym bag, so you don’t have to wonder what’s in the water found elsewhere.
Step 4: Add Healthy Antioxidants
Remember how we mentioned that certain vegetables that include nitrates also include ingredients that counteract them? You can do that yourself by eating foods that are high in antioxidants — such as frozen berries — drinking green tea, and taking vitamins such as vitamin C and E.
A diet low in nitrates and nitrites will do more than help you lower your chances of getting cancer; it will also increase your energy levels and overall health in ways you’ll feel almost right away. For your budding gymnast, you can imagine how much that added energy will benefit his or her gymnastics career.