Deli Turkey: Processed Meat in Disguise?

You might think that your “oven roasted, no nitrate” sliced turkey is a healthy alternative to processed meats like hot dogs and bologna. However, the truth is, even deli turkey falls under the umbrella of processed meat, and should be limited or avoided for optimal health.

Why Deli Turkey is Considered Processed Meat

According to the World Health Organization, processed meat is any meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or other processes to enhance flavor or preservation. This includes not only the usual suspects like bacon and sausages, but also poultry like turkey.

Even if your deli turkey boasts “no nitrates added,” it’s likely still processed. Manufacturers often use natural sources of nitrates, like celery powder or juice, which ultimately break down into the same potentially harmful compounds as synthetic nitrates.

The Link Between Processed Meat and Cancer

Research has consistently shown a strong link between processed meat consumption and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. This association is so significant that the World Health Organization has classified processed meat as a carcinogen.

While the exact mechanisms are still being investigated, experts believe that nitrates and nitrites used in processing might play a role. These chemicals can react with other compounds in the body to form nitrosamines, which are known to be carcinogenic.

Limiting Processed Meat for a Healthier You

While enjoying a turkey sandwich occasionally might not pose immediate harm regular consumption of processed meat can significantly impact your health. Limiting or avoiding processed meats, including deli turkey is a crucial step towards a healthier lifestyle and reduced cancer risk.

Alternatives to Processed Meat

The good news is, there are plenty of delicious and healthy alternatives to processed meat Here are a few ideas:

  • Bake a turkey or chicken breast and slice it at home. This gives you complete control over the ingredients and ensures no hidden nitrates.
  • Try tuna salad, egg salad, or chicken salad. These protein-packed options are both tasty and nutritious.
  • Explore vegetarian alternatives like hummus or tofu. These provide ample protein without the health risks associated with processed meat.
  • Add vegetarian sausages to soups or chili. These plant-based options often contain less sodium and no nitrates.

Remember, small changes can make a big difference. By opting for healthier alternatives, you can significantly reduce your risk of chronic diseases and enjoy a longer, healthier life.

Deli-Style Roast Turkey for Sandwiches – Food Wishes


Is roasted turkey considered processed meat?

Turkey and chicken are often recommended as healthy alternatives to red meat. But if they are preserved, they count as processed meats and are harmful. Roasted chicken and roasted turkey in deli meat packets or at the deli counter have likely had nitrates added. Turkey bacon does, too.

What is a turkey roast made of?

Boneless turkey roast with white and dark meat. Contains up to 20% of a solution of Water, Contains 2% or less of Salt, Dextrose, Natural Flavor, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphate to enhance tenderness and juiciness.

What is pressed turkey?

Most turkey breast, both from the deli case and in packages, is made from chopped turkey breast muscle that has been pressed together, shaped into a round or oval, then steamed or roasted. When you buy turkey in sealed packages, it stays fairly moist and has a shelf life of 2 weeks or more.

Is oven roasted turkey deli meat healthy?

But while turkey is among the leanest deli meats, in the big picture it may not be healthier than other types. That’s because all cold cuts are processed meats, like bacon and hot dogs. Regularly eating them—even in amounts less than what you probably put in a sandwich—clearly increases the risk of cancer.

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