Deli meats are a popular food choice due to their convenience and taste. They are commonly found in sandwiches, salads, and other prepared foods. However, consuming them, particularly those containing nitrates, can have serious health consequences. This article explores the dangers of deli meats and how nitrates, in particular, can harm our health.
What are Deli Meats?
Deli meats are a type of processed meat that has been cooked, cured, smoked, or otherwise prepared for convenience. These meats include popular items like ham, turkey, roast beef, and salami. They are high in sodium and other additives that can negatively affect health.
Dangers of Nitrates in Deli Meats
Deli meats commonly contain nitrates, which are a type of preservative. They help to prevent bacterial growth and extend the shelf life of these products. However, research has shown that consuming too much nitrates can be harmful to our health, particularly when it comes to our cardiovascular and cancer risks.
Consuming nitrates can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Although, our bodies can convert nitrates into nitrites, which form nitrosamines, a potent carcinogen. Nitrosamines can cause damage to our blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other cardiovascular complications.
Nitrates have also been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. The formation of nitrosamines in the body can lead to DNA damage and mutations, which can contribute to developing cancerous cells.. The World Health Organization has classified processed meats, including deli meats, as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning they are known to cause cancer in humans.
Pregnancy and Nitrates Risk:
Consuming deli meats with nitrates during pregnancy can pose a risk to both the mother and the developing fetus. Nitrates can lead to the formation of nitrosamines, which are known to be carcinogenic.. Additionally, nitrosamines can interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, potentially leading to complications during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia. Lastly, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid deli meats or opt for nitrate-free versions to minimize these potential risks.
Alternatives to Deli Meats:
There are several healthier alternatives to deli meats, including:
- Roasted or grilled chicken or turkey breast seasoned with herbs and spices.
- Hummus and vegetable sandwich with cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
- Tuna or salmon salad mixed with Greek yogurt, avocado, and diced celery and onion.
- Homemade meatloaf or meatballs made with lean ground beef or turkey and seasoned with herbs and spices.
- Low-sodium cheese paired with fresh veggies and whole-grain bread.
Deli meats pose several health risks, including an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure, despite being a convenient and tasty addition to many meals. Nitrates, commonly found in deli meats, significantly contribute to these health risks. By choosing healthier alternatives and limiting your intake of deli meats, you can reduce your risk of these health problems and enjoy a healthier diet overall.
- American Heart Association. (2017). Processed Meats. Retrieved fromhttps://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/processed-meats
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Nitrite and Nitrate in Drinking Water. Retrieved fromhttps://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nitrates/.
- 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
- World Health Organization. (2015). Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat. Retrieved fromhttps://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/
- International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2019). Nitrosamines. Retrieved fromhttps://www.iarc.fr/resources/iarc-monographs-on-the-evaluation-of-carcinogenic-risks-to-humans/nitrosamines/
- Gilboa, S. M., et al. (2016). Association Between Nitrosatable Drug Exposure During Pregnancy and Pre-Eclampsia. International Journal of Epidemiology, 45(6), 1973-1982. doi:10.1093/ije/dyw128