Choose Healthy Cold Cuts This Holiday

Edited by Jan Margery Castillo, Eng, Lynn, Rebecca M. and 2 others

Holidays are supposed to be a blissful time with your loved ones over delicious food, desserts and wine. Parties here, there, and everywhere, however, could also cause you heaps of stress, especially if you are the host. To save time and effort, some resort to buying processed meats at the nearest deli counter for easy-to-prepare dishes or food garnishes. The question is, are the cold cuts healthy enough? Or, are they even safe? Read on to know more about deli meats and how you can choose a quality and healthy meat for your holiday recipes.


What are Cold Cuts?

Cold cuts, also known as luncheon meats, sliced meat, cold meat, prepared or cured meat and deli meats, are pre-cooked meats. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meats are preserved through smoking, salting, curing, and adding preservatives in order to emphasize the flavor, maintain its freshness and add safety too.

Deli meats are used for lunch sandwich fillings, salad toppers and can be eaten cold while sipping wine. They provide convenience to any household because it only takes a few minutes to prepare a meal with cured meats. They are available in vacuum sealed packs at supermarkets or sliced and cold from deli counters.

Types of Deli Meats

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    Whole cuts
    This pertains to the part of the meat or poultry that are pre-cooked, flavored and sliced-to-order at delicatessens. They are more expensive than other cold cuts. Smoked meats, chicken breast, turkey breast, beef tongue, roast beef and capicola are examples.
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  2. 2
    Sectioned and formed products
    Different parts and/or types of meats are chopped and bonded together using non-meat additives. Then, they are molded into casings and cooked. Examples of sectioned products are luncheon meats, hams, corned beef, headcheese, pastrami and meatloaf.
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  3. 3
    Processed products
    These are the sausage form cold cuts such as bologna, hot dogs, sausages, pork roll, liverwurst, mortadella, salami, pepperoni, cotechino, jagdwurst and praski.
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Components of Cold Cuts

Red meats are usually used for cold cuts. There are several meat preservation processes used to create cold cuts. Basically, all cured meats have preservatives, but the only difference is the way the animals are raised. Animals that were fed with organic food have higher omega 3 fatty acids, which means their meats are healthier compared to factory-farmed animals.

Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate

  • Pros. The primary function of these chemicals is to combat the harmful bacteria in cured meats. It gives the pinkish color to any prepared meat.
  • Cons. Research says that too much nitrite intake can damage cells and can cause colorectal cancer. There was another study that showed that too much sodium nitrate can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Massive sodium is also not good for people with hypertension and those that are sensitive to salt.
  • Alternatives. There are cold cuts that are nitrate-free. Some cured meats used cultured celery extract to preserve meats. Maple Leaf Natural Selections' products are known to be a better choice for cured meats. Another good alternative is soy-based deli slices. They have no nitrates at all; however, they can be very salty.

Saturated Fats and Lean Meats

  • Pros. Saturated fats are elements that put the meats together and also act as preservatives.
  • Cons. Cold cuts have high cholesterol content. Pre-packaged sliced meats from the grocery are richer in saturated fats and have higher sodium content. The reason is that they are packed strategically so you won't see how much fat is included in every pack.
  • Alternatives. Choose lean meat instead. Sliced meats from deli counters are low in fat, like all-natural and uncured turkey, chicken breast, boiled or smoked ham and lean roast beef. It could be a bit expensive, but it's certainly a healthier option because you can see them slice the meat part as you order. You may choose lean or extra lean meats.

Guide When Buying Cold Cuts

Fresh meats are always way better than preserved meats. Even though they are more expensive and tedious to prepare, they are still healthier. However, cold cuts are not that bad for the human body as long you don't regularly substitute it for real and fresh meat. In a 12-year European study, it was found that men and women who constantly eat processed meats die early. This is why the recommended intake per day is 20 grams (1000-1500 mg) only, to avoid premature death. Here some guides on how to choose healthy cold cuts that may be useful this holiday:

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    Buy from trusted suppliers
    Aside from buying all-natural cured cold cuts or sausages, it's important that you get your meats from trusted suppliers. If you are buying turkey breast or roast beef, on the other hand, make sure it comes from a single slab of real animal meat.
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  • 2
    Avoid buying vacuum-sealed cold cuts from the supermarket because they contain carbohydrates and other additives as fillers
    Manufacturers use wheat starch or corn starch. Check the ingredients for these contents, but it's fine if these are listed on the end because it means only a few ingredients were used.
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  • 3
    Non sugar cured are healthier
    Instead of buying honey cured, sugar cured or maple cured meats, opt for smoked or just salted slices. If you want to add flavor to your deli meats, just use low-sugar dressing like mustard, hummus, mayo or vinaigrette.
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  • 4
    Turkey pastrami or salami are better choices than beef and pork because turkey meat has less fat.
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  • 5
    Avoid deli meats with wheat, soy or other milk products ingredients if you have food allergies
    Sometimes they are added to cold cuts for more flavor. If you don't see the ingredients from the delicatessen counter, it's best to verify with the staff for security.
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  • 6
    Watch out for "carrageenan", a common deli meat ingredient, if you have digestive problems
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  • 7
    Beware of Listeria
    Research done by the USDA, FDA and CDC has proven that processed meats can cause listeriosis. Listeria is a bad bacteria developed from a deli meat slicer, particularly when it is not cleaned after slicing one meat after another. Make sure your trusted deli counter practices sanitary measures. Listeria can increase the risk of contraction. It is not advisable for pregnant women and young kids to eat cold cuts, so they can avoid listeria.
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  • Tips and Warnings

    • Bacon is high in nitrites and it can form nitrosamines, a cancerous element, when fried at high temperature. Cook bacon over low fire only.
    • Thin cold cuts are safe to eat, as meats that are cooked at high temperatures can form heterocyclic amines, another cancerous element.
    • If you think deli meats like Oscar Mayer are temptingly affordable, remember that the real and fresh liver and beef are actually cheaper.
    • Cold cuts are highly perishable. Pre-packed meats must be consumed within 3-5 days once bought, while deli meats should be eaten within 1-3 days. Store properly using airtight containers and place them in the freezer.

    It is fine to eat deli meats, but as stated above, make sure you only eat the recommended grams per day to avoid the consequences. According to dietitians, you can avoid cancer-causing effects of nitrite by eating antioxidants before meals.

    Questions and Answers

    I am three days away from my delivery but am afraid because I ate cheese and ham sandwich, though is pre-packed and has preservative can it have listeria and if it does, can it affect my baby within these three day period?

    I am three days away from my delivery but am afraid because I ate cheese and ham sandwich, though is pre-packed and has preservative can it have listeria and if it does, can it affect my baby within these three day period

    Listeria is more commonly found in soft cheeses. The sandwich you ate should be completely fine and three days away from your due date would not have any risk to eating a ham and cheese sandwich. Pregnant women often eat sandwiches but are told to avoid cold cuts if you are unsure if they are safe to eat within expiry dates and soft cheeses in moderation like crumbled blue cheese. If your meats were stored properly in cold refrigeration, then you are less likely to have a listeria outbreak.

    If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


    Article Info

    Categories : Meats & Main Dishes

    Recent edits by: Ju ju, Rebecca M., Lynn

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