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Processed Deli Meats; Should We Avoid These For Better Health?

Updated: Feb 17

Processed Deli Meats in plate

Deli meats have been used for years as an easy way to incorporate protein in lunch sandwiches. I remember many of my school lunches was a turkey and cheese sandwich! Deli meats come in several different types of meats (ham, turkey, chicken, etc.) and flavors that are pre-sliced in plastic packaging for easy use. Unfortunately not all brands are healthy as most deli meats contain a long list of preservatives which include known carcinogens, natural flavoring (far from natural) and not to mention loads of sodium!

Do Not Trust the Label!

Learn to investigate food nutrition labels and look out for harmful ingredients. It is important to recognize and understand each of the ingredients on the label and to choose a brand that has the most whole or real ingredients possible. Do not trust marketing gimmicks on the product labeling, in most cases these are deceiving.

Which deli meats should I choose?

It is essential to try and consume the best quality meat products as possible. Try to buy organic and humanely raised meat products although they are priced at a premium, it makes a huge difference in your overall health. This ensures that the animal was treated humanely and was not in a feedlot or consuming GMO feed.

Less is more! Look for a brand that contains few ingredients. Avoid deli slices that contain a large amount of sodium, many different preservatives, added sugars, and toxic ingredients (yes, they are allowed to put that in our foods!!). It is also best to choose brands that don't contain added nitrates. Some brands contain celery powder which is actually a natural form of nitrates as opposed to man-made nitrates. It is put in the products in order to prevent bacteria growth on the deli slices.

Watch out for sodium! Processed deli meat can contain roughly a quarter of the recommended salt intake per day! Look for low sodium options and always check the sodium on the nutrition label.

Applegate Farms deli meats are the best on the market! They are organic and humanely raised which a short list of ingredients and no man-made nitrates to prevent bacteria growth. They even use lower sodium and sea salt instead of table salt.

Stay Away from These Ingredients!

Avoid these ingredients found in many brands of deli meat:

- Dextrose- This is a sugar derived from GMO corn, dextrose will spike your blood sugar levels.

- Maltodextrin- A type of food preservative which is harmful to our friendly flora.

- Sodium Phosphate – A type of preservative, avoid if you have colitis or kidney issues as it contains high levels of phosphate. This chemical can also lead to heart disease.

- Sodium Erythorbate- Chemical used in deli meat to cure the meat faster making it pinker in color.

- Sodium Nitrate- A type of salt used to preserve foods.

- Sodium Citrate- Used to balance the pH or acidity of the food item.

- Caramel Coloring- Used to make the deli meat look oven roasted, it is also a known carcinogen.

- Carrageenan- An emulsifier made from seaweed which is a toxin for your gut!

- Yeast Extract- Another name for MSG.

- Natural Flavors- Far from "natural".

- Avoid deli meats in loose packaging!

- Avoid deli meats with a long list of ingredients.

Brands to Buy!

- Trader Joe's Organic Turkey and Ham

- Applegate Deli Meat

- Oscar Mayer Naturals- not organic but better ingredients and price

Brands to Avoid

- Boar's Head- tends to have a lot of preservatives

- Hillshire Farms- A lot of bad ingredients, preservatives, and carrageenan (even the natural version)

Vegan Deli Meat

As plant-based diets are becoming more popular, several brands have developed plant-based deli "meat". This still does NOT mean that the product has clean ingredients.

  • Field Roast deli slices: best ingredients but watch for natural flavors!

  • Tofurkey: contains soy, carrageenan, and natural flavors

  • Yves vegan deli slices: contains carrageenan and natural flavors

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