Cold cuts, also called lunch meat, can be bought prepackaged at a supermarket or at a deli shop where it can be sliced according to your order. They are convenient choices for a sandwich filling or a salad topping or even as a snack, and are quite popular for their taste and simplicity. However, while they can be quite delicious and easy to prepare, they can also come with their own health risks. The risks depend on the type of cold cuts and what they are paired with, so knowing the difference can aid us in taking care of our health and prepare for a healthy diet.
Deli meat is a great source of protein, which is an essential nutrient for building muscle mass and maintaining a strong immune system. The fat content in the meats vary according to what the meat actually is though. For example, bologna contains 7.9 grams of fat which includes 3.1 grams of saturated fat, but only provides around 2.8 grams of protein. Some other examples of high fat content meats are pepperoni, pastrami and salami. It is recommended that these kinds of meats be eaten occasionally, and in smaller quantities (one or two slices for a sandwich). Other meats though, like lean turkey breast, contains 6.4 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat per slice, and is a far healthier option for deli meat. Chicken breast also contains lower amounts of fat. It’s also important to remember that high fat and high calorie meats can lead to significant weight gain if eaten every day. In moderation, though, these meats can actually be a good source of nutrients. Most often, deli meats are paired with cheese, and when combined, are an important source of protein and calcium. Moreover, combining meat and cheese together can also provide vitamin B-12, zinc and iron.
According to mayo Clinic, most forms of deli meat and cheese have high amounts of sodium. According to the American Heart Association, sodium intake, which comes from salt, shouldn’t exceed more than 1500 grams a day, and the high amounts of sodium found in deli meats can easily push you off the limit. One slice of bologna contains over 300 grams of sodium, and even healthier options like turkey breast contain around 200 grams of sodium per slice. This is because sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are commonly used as preservatives for the lunch meats. These preservatives have been linked to many types of cancer, including bladder, pancreatic and colorectal cancer as well as lung disease. Moreover, these preservatives have also been known to trigger migraines in individuals who are susceptible to them.
High sodium levels can lead to high blood pressure while also increasing the risk of developing kidney disease and congestive heart failure. Some examples of meats that contain high sodium amounts are ham, salami, bologna and turkey breast. Cheddar, American and Swiss cheese also have high amounts of sodium, as does bread because it is a high-sodium grain product. This means that an average sandwich can give you more than the daily recommended amount of sodium. You can try including healthier options for your diet, such as cooking quinoa and peppers with your deli meat, or cooking the meat with unsalted grains. You can also include low-sodium options like baby carrots and fresh fruit in your lunch to cut down the sodium intake and still feel full.
Cold cuts are not an unhealthy food source, and help to prevent nutrient deficiencies in our body. Opting for low sodium and low fat meats, like turkey and chicken breast, more frequently can help to control the negative effects that come with cold cuts, especially when high fat and high sodium meats are eaten only occasionally. Make sure to check the nutritional information on the packets to see the amount of sodium and preservatives in each product, as this can help you to plan a more healthy and balanced diet. When eaten in moderate amounts, cold cuts can be a beneficial and healthy meal option.