A selection of cold cuts

Can You Eat Cold Meat? (Is it safe?)

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Who does not love meat? Okay, vegans probably do not. But for others, meat is a staple. It is delicious and you can cook up some mouthwatering feasts. If you are a meat fan, you should think twice about cold meats or cold cuts. Are they safe to eat?

Some adverse bad health effects can happen from too much consumption of cold meats or processed meat. The World Health Organization has even classified processed meat as carcinogenic. The best is to balance your diet and buy uncured meat. 

Now, let’s learn about what it means when someone says cold meats or cold cuts and their effect on your health. Also, I’m going to share some tips on reducing any health hazards cold meats pose. So, without further ado, let’s get right to it. 

The Various Types of Cold Meats 

To get a better understanding of the whole situation, you first need to know what cold cuts or cold meats are and how many types of cold cuts are there. Cold meats have different names. They are also called lunch meats. 

These are just normal meat that are mostly pre-cooked and sliced. Deli meats are also cold cuts. You will mostly find these types of meats served in sandwiches or on a tray. Primarily there are three types of cold cuts. 

Whole Cuts

This is the first type. They are exactly what they sound like. Whole cuts meat is whole cuts of meat that are then cooked and sliced. Classic examples are corned beef and roast beef. You can also see these being flavored, salted. Another way to flavor these include sugar and spices. Whole cuts tend to be the more expensive variant. 

Sectioned and Formed Meat 

The next one is sections and formed meat. They have basically restructured meat products like cooked ham. To be more specific, multi-part cooked ham. These are generally prepared from meat chunks and then bonded together. 

This bonded piece will become a single piece of meat. Mostly non-meat additives are used to keep the pieces together. 

Processed Meats

Sausages on the grill

These are your sausages and other similar types of meats.  Processed meats are mostly meats that are chopped, seasoned and formed into shapes. Salami is also a form of cold cut and processed meat. 

How Cold Meats Affect Your Health?

Do not get me wrong, there are some benefits of cold meats. I will touch on them a bit later. But there are also some very important health effects you need to know about as well. Regularly eating cold meats or cold cuts can harm your heart and can even cause cancer! 

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat as carcinogenic. Red meat on the other hand is classified as probably carcinogenic. There is more research going on to determine why these may cause cancer. 

As of now, it can be because of the carcinogenic compounds found in them. These compounds are formed during the processing of the meeting or when cooking. So, the more you eat the higher the risk. 

What about heart health? Consuming high amounts of processed meats or cold cuts can spike the levels of sodium intake. This is not good news for your heart health at all! The risk of heart diseases and diabetes is increased with regular consumption. 

When you consume way too much sodium, your blood vessels get stiff. This obviously will put stress on your heart which leads to problems. 

There is a recommended intake of sodium. The American Heart Association says the daily sodium intake should not be more than 2300mg. However, in general adults and kids take in much more sodium than recommended. 

Cold cuts are one of the primary reasons for this excessive sodium intake. For example, just one slice of deli turkey can have over 500mg of sodium. 

Then there is the fact that some cold cuts are high in saturated fat too. This can be detrimental to your heart health as well. 

As I said there is more research being done. But the adverse effects seem to be related to the compounds found in the processed meat itself. There is heme iron, saturated fat, L-carnitine and sodium. 

Can Nitrates in Cold Meats Cause Harm 

Sodium nitrate is sometimes added on cold cuts. This is done mainly to preserve the meat and also to inhibit the growth of bacteria. 

When the nitrate comes in contact with the meat it turns to nitrite. These do not cause cancer themselves. But there is some discussion going on that these may create compounds that are carcinogenic during cooking or processing the meat. 

On the other hand, some nitrate-rich foods like beets are potentially beneficial. So, no one can say for sure that it is harmful as of yet. But it is better to be on the safe side and go for uncured meat. 

Benefits of Cold Cuts

Okay, I am not just going to give you one side of the story and call it a day. After all the negative news, let’s touch on some of the benefits of cold cuts. The primary thing about them is they are just so convenient. 

You do not need to cook them, slice them or do anything. Just put it in a wrap or sandwich and dig in. For people who lead busy lives, this can be very appealing. Apart from that, there are also important vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc in them. 

But the bottom line still stands. While there are benefits, you should not eat too much of it if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

What Can You Do for a Healthy Meat Diet?

So, yeah, cold cuts are not the best. But do not worry, there are some very actionable and practical steps you can take when it comes to eating processed meats. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Rethink Your Diet 

One of the best ways to make your food habits healthier is to think of your overall diet. Planning your overall diet will help you make better decisions. If you like the deli sandwich next to your house, maybe you can cut the processed meat out from other meals. 

Think of all the other ways to intake sodium and try to cut off those. Balancing your consumption is key here. 

Buy Fresh Meat

Beef steaks in the meat section of a supermarket

Of course, another way to tackle this is to just buy fresh meat. Why not directly go to the meat or fish section and buy fresh and lean meat? Unprocessed meat does not have a strong link to bad health effects.

You can cook up a mean chicken sandwich with a fresh slice of chicken or even make a delicious tuna sandwich. Whatever fits for you. 

Look for Low Sodium Options 

If you buy low sodium variants that will automatically reduce your sodium consumption. You can check out brands that are known to not use any sort of antibiotics or added sugar.


There you have it. Although there are some benefits of having cold meats like the convenience factor, there are some serious adverse health effects as well.

I understand that it is quite hard to completely cut off processed meat from our diets. But moderating the intake and making sure we balance it out is one of the best ways you can ensure proper health for yourself. 

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