There has been much speculation in recent years that lunch or deli meat may not be the healthiest food to consume. Such speculation results from an analysis of the ingredients in lunch meat and their potential link to the development of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
I personally love lunch meat, and I almost always have a sandwich with processed meat on it for lunch. Health experts advise to refrain from ingesting deli meat more than once weekly, so I definitely do not abide by such criteria. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that not all processed meats are bad, nor do all processed meats contain the same ingredients. I would argue the main reasoning as to why lunch meat has a negative reputation is because of its inclusion of nitrates in its ingredients. Nitrates are a type of preservative, so while it is understandable that they are incorporated into the development of lunch meats, they are not the best thing to consume.
There are six main ingredients to avoid in regards to processed meats, and they are as follows (information sourced from http://www.chatelaine.com/health/how-to-choose-a-healthier-lunch-meat-and-six-key-ingredients-to-avoid/):
(1) Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite: Potential to increase risk of cancers, diabetes and heart disease
(2) BHA/Butylated Hydroxyanisole: Potential carcinogen
(3) BHT/Butylated Hydroxyluene: Potential carcinogen
(4) Any mention of ‘smoking’ for flavour purposes: Potential to contain toxic chemicals
(5) Corn Syrup: Excessive sugar levels which have the potential to worsen diabetes
(6) Aspartame: Potential health detriment which can lead to problems with cognitive development
If you are looking to determine which type of lunch meat is the safest to consume, stick with either turkey, chicken or ham. Also be sure to take note of the sodium levels in the processed meat you are purchasing, because sodium is an additional culprit in terms of ingredients to be aware of in deli meat.
Deli meat is not dangerous to consume, but do be informed of the type you are eating and try to unveil healthier options in your local grocery store.