Does soaking a cucumber in cold water for one hour with one exchange of the water replaces its peeling? Does it remove nitrates and remnants of agricultural preparations?
Nitrates are chemical compounds derivatives of nitric acid which are widely used in agriculture and food industry as preservatives and substances improving the appearance of food products.
Nitrate compounds are normally found in certain amounts in human organism, so there is danger only when large amounts are accumulated, which can intoxicate the body. The harm comes, however, from the derived products – nitrites and nitrosamines / substances produced from nitrates when they enter the human body/.
Nitrites have the property to bind hemoglobin and form methemoglobin but the last cannot transport oxygen to the different tissues, which is the main function of hemoglobin.
When nitrates enter the gastrointestinal tract and there is low acidity / as in neonates and small children/ they turn into nitrosamines – substances with proven high carcinogenic effect.
The systemic intake of higher doses of nitrates leads to allergies, neurologic diseases, thyroid problems. The maximum allowed safe amount of nitrates according to WHO is 5 mg per kilogram body weight for adults.
It is also good to know that in winter and early spring more nitrogen fertilizers are used for growth stimulation of fruits and vegetables. The sun light is a natural eliminator of nitrates, so it is recommended to buy seasonal and fully mature products.
Can we eliminate nitrates or at least bring them to minimum in our menu? Yes.
Nitrates are water soluble which significantly eases this task. The thoroughly washing and soaking for about an hour with water exchange lowers the concentration of nitrates. The highest amounts of them are found in the green leafy vegetables and the root ones like spinach, lettuces, cabbage, spring onion, radishes, beetroot, carrots. So, it is recommended these products to be soaked in cold water for a longer time before consuming them. When you choose products on the market – buy middle sized fruits and vegetables – the largest ones were exposed to the action of nitrogen fertilizers for growth stimulation most probably.
Another easy method to reduce their harmful impact is to flavor the salads with lemon juice instead of vinegar. Vitamin C prevents the transformation of nitrates into nitrites and nitrosamines production as well.
The yellow smears on cucumbers, zucchini and potatoes are also a sign for excessive exposure to fertilizers.
Talking about cucumbers in particular, it is proven that the largest amounts of nitrates are found in the peel and close to the stalk. So my advice is to peel and soak them, and to cut and throw away the part beneath the stalk.