Hey there! Do you love deli meats as much as I do? They’re so convenient and delicious, especially when it comes to making lunch for the kids… but did you know that consuming too much of them can be harmful to your health? It turns out that nitrates, which are commonly found in deli meats, can pose some serious risks to our health.
To break it down for you, deli meats are processed meats that have been cooked, cured, smoked, or otherwise prepared for convenience. They’re high in sodium and other additives, which can have negative health effects. But the real danger lies in the nitrates that are used as preservatives in deli meats. While they help prevent bacterial growth and extend the shelf life of these products, consuming too much of them can lead to some pretty scary health problems.
For starters, nitrates can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. They can be converted into nitrites in our bodies, which can then form nitrosamines – a potent carcinogen. These nitrosamines can cause damage to our blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other cardiovascular complications. Yikes!
And that’s not all. Nitrates have also been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly colon cancer. The World Health Organization has even classified processed meats, including deli meats, as Group 1 carcinogens, which means they are known to cause cancer in humans. That’s definitely not good news.
If you’re pregnant, it’s especially important to avoid deli meats with nitrates. They can pose a risk to both the mother and the developing fetus, potentially leading to complications such as pre-eclampsia.
The Naughty List
- Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
- Hillshire Farm Ultra Thin Sliced Roast Beef
- Boar’s Head Ovengold Roast Breast of Turkey
- Land O’Frost Premium Sliced Black Forest Ham
- Hormel Natural Choice Honey Deli Ham
- Di Lusso Genoa Salami
- Thumann’s Cooked Salami
- Bridgford Pepperoni
- Armour Pepperoni
The Good List
- Applegate Naturals Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
- Organic Prairie Uncured Roast Beef
- True Story Organic Oven Roasted Chicken Breast
- Organic Valley Organic Genoa Salami
- Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Uncured Ham
- Principe Organic Prosciutto
- Wellshire Farms Organic Smoked Turkey Breast
- Whole Foods 365 Organic Roast Beef
- Beeler’s Pure Pork Uncured Pepperoni
- Pederson’s Farms Organic No Sugar Hickory Smoked Uncured Bacon
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to deli meats, there are plenty of options available. Try roasted or grilled chicken or turkey breast, a hummus and vegetable sandwich, tuna or salmon salad, or homemade meatloaf or meatballs. And don’t forget about cheese! It can be a great sandwich-filling option; just make sure to choose a low-sodium variety.
To sum it up, while deli meats are tasty and convenient, they come with some serious health risks. By choosing healthier alternatives and limiting your intake of deli meats, you can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health problems and enjoy a healthier diet overall.
- “Processed Meats.” American Heart Association, 2017, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/processed-meats.
- Lippi, G., Mattiuzzi, C., & Cervellin, G. (2016). Meat consumption and cancer risk: A critical review of published meta-analyses. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology, 97, 1-14. doi:10.1016/j.critrevonc.2015.08.016
- “Nitrites and Nitrates in Food.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020, www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nitrates/.
- “Nitrate and Nitrite in Drinking Water.” World Health Organization, 2011, www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/nitratenitrite2ndadd.pdf.
- Leong, R. W., & Leong, R. W. (2015). Gastrointestinal cancers: The role of diet in prevention and management. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, 1-14. doi:10.1155/2015/247671
- Turesky, R. J. (2017). Mechanistic evidence for red meat and processed meat intake in colorectal cancer risk: Contributions from experimental animal models. Meat Science, 132, 49-57. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2017.04.160
- Mirvish, S. S. (1975). Role of N-nitroso compounds (noc) and N-nitrosation in etiology of gastric, esophageal, nasopharyngeal and bladder cancer and contribution to cancer of known exposures to noc. Cancer Letters, 1(1), 5-25. doi:10.1016/S0304-3835(75)80003-4
- “Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat.” World Health Organization, 2015, www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/.
- “Nitrosamines.” International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2019, www.iarc.fr/resources/iarc-monographs-on-the-evaluation-of-carcinogenic-risks-to-humans/nitrosamines/.
- Gilboa, S. M., et al. “Association Between Nitrosatable Drug Exposure During Pregnancy and Pre-Eclampsia.” International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 45, no. 6, 2016, pp. 1973-1982. doi:10.1093/ije/dyw128.