True Cellular Formulas Team - April 17, 2023

The Dark Side of Deli Meats

Understanding the Dangers of Nitrates

The Dark Side of Deli Meats: Understanding the Dangers of Nitrates

Deli meats are a popular food choice for many people, offering convenience and taste in one package. However, recent research has shown that consuming too much deli meat, particularly those containing nitrates, can have serious health consequences. In this article, we will explore the dangers of deli meats and how nitrates, in particular, can be harmful to our health.

What are Deli Meats?

Deli meats are a type of processed meat that have been cooked, cured, smoked, or otherwise prepared for convenience.[1] These meats include popular items like ham, turkey, roast beef, and salami, and are commonly found in sandwiches, salads, and other prepared foods. While deli meats can be a convenient and tasty option, they are also high in sodium and other additives that can have negative health effects.[2]

The Dangers of Nitrates in Deli Meats

Nitrates are a type of preservative commonly found in deli meats. They help to prevent bacterial growth and extend the shelf life of these products.[3] 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.

Cardiovascular Risks

One of the most significant risks associated with consuming nitrates is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Nitrates can be converted into nitrites in our bodies, which can then form nitrosamines, a potent carcinogen.[4] These nitrosamines can cause damage to our blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other cardiovascular complications.[5]

Cancer Risks

In addition to cardiovascular risks, nitrates have also been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly colon cancer.[6] This is because the formation of nitrosamines in the body can lead to DNA damage and mutations, which can contribute to the development of cancerous cells.[7] The World Health Organization has classified processed meats, including deli meats, as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning they are known to cause cancer in humans.[8] 

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.[9] Additionally, nitrosamines can interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, potentially leading to complications during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia.[10] It is recommended that pregnant women avoid deli meats or opt for nitrate-free versions to minimize these potential risks.

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
  • Applegate Naturals Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
  • 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

Alternatives to Deli Meats

If you're looking for a healthier alternative to deli meats, there are plenty of options available. Here are a few:

  1. Roasted or grilled chicken or turkey breast: These are great sources of protein, and they can be seasoned with your favorite herbs and spices to add flavor.
  2. Hummus and vegetable sandwich: Instead of using deli meats, try using hummus as a spread and adding your favorite veggies, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
  3. Tuna or salmon salad: These are great options if you're looking for something that's high in protein and healthy fats. Mix canned tuna or salmon with Greek yogurt or avocado for a creamy texture and add some diced celery and onion for crunch.
  4. Homemade meatloaf or meatballs: Make your own meatloaf or meatballs using lean ground beef or turkey, and season with your favorite herbs and spices.
  5. Cheese: If you're a fan of cheese, try using it as a sandwich filling instead of deli meats. Opt for a low-sodium variety, and pair it with fresh veggies and whole-grain bread.


While deli meats are a convenient and tasty addition to many meals, they are also associated with several health risks, including an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. This is due in part to the presence of nitrates, which are added to deli meats as a preservative. 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.

  1. "Processed Meats." American Heart Association, 2017,
  2. 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
  3. "Nitrites and Nitrates in Food." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020,
  4. "Nitrate and Nitrite in Drinking Water." World Health Organization, 2011,
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. "Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat." World Health Organization, 2015,
  9. "Nitrosamines." International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2019,
  10. 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.

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