Why it is wrong to exclude the cold cuts from your diet

Today, cold cuts are considered as food to be consumed in moderation or even completely eliminated from diet. If it is true that we should not abuse it, a rule that applies to every type of food, excluding them totally from diet is wrong or useless for the purposes of a so-called “healthy” life.

Cured meats protected by brands and certifications such as PDO and PGI in Europe are guaranteed for quality and authenticity, as the production methods are well regulated. For each product a very precise recipe described in the product specification must be followed, made of healthy and natural ingredients. The quality of these products is objectively high, the result of artisans’ savoir faire who have handed down millenary traditions from generation to generation.

In fact, cold cuts have always been part of the Mediterranean Diet: even our grandparents often give us testimony of that with their stories, reminding us for example of salami hanging from the ceiling, when they sacrificed pork that guaranteed meat all year round, or of toasted hot bread with tasty fat melted on it, a much healthier snack than many of today’s snacks.

#CuredMeats protected by brands and certifications such as #PDO and #PGI in Europe are guaranteed for #quality and #authenticity, as the production methods are well regulated. Click To Tweet

But then why are cured meats so demonized today? One of the aspects is the possible use of nitrites and nitrates, which can turn into carcinogenic nitrosamines. Yet, as already stated on several specialized magazines, these substances are also found in vegetables, in much greater quantities. However, the presence of vitamin C is enough to prevent the formation of nitrosamines, therefore consuming cold cuts along with fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C blocks the reaction and protects us from this danger.

Another factor is the presence of salt, an essential ingredient for cured meats but not ideal for people suffering from hypertension who must follow a low-sodium diet. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum consumption of 5 grams per day of salt, corresponding to about 2 grams per day of sodium, an essential mineral for the correct functioning of the organism.

Today's #CuredMeats have significantly reduced #salt content compared to the past, in percentages ranging from 4% up to 47% depending on the product. Click To Tweet

To meet these needs, today’s cured meats have significantly reduced salt content compared to the past, in percentages ranging from 4% up to 47% less salt depending on the type of product, while respecting the stringent disciplinary of production. For this reason, cured meats today are not the main source of salt, which is instead more and often hidden in many other “unsuspected” foods consumed daily.

Therefore, the recommendation is to generally reduce salt added to dishes, trying to flavour with alternatives such as herbs and spices, or with cured meats themselves, using them instead of salt for example in sauces, in ragù (Bolognese sauce) or to give flavour to soups, risottos and legume soups, a strategy that reduces the overall sodium intake, while increasing the taste and nutritional value of meal.

As for salt, fat has also been significantly modified, both in quantity and quality, thanks to modern techniques of pigs’ breeding and feeding, managing to reduce the content of saturated fats and cholesterol from the early 1990s to today. Beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats passed from 30% to over 60% of the total fats in most products and in cured meats the oleic acid, the main olive oil’s monounsaturated fat, is the predominant fatty acid, accounting for 40% of the total fatty acids.

Beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated #fats passed from 30% to over 60% of the total fats in most #CuredMeats. Click To Tweet

Percentages of reduction of saturated fats vary according to the type of cold cut, obtaining the best results in cooked ham, with a reduction of almost 40%. The presence of omega 3, EPA and DHA is also interesting, in an optimal proportion with omega 6, so a portion of cured meats can effectively contribute to satisfying their needs.

Also their richness in vitamins and minerals is important, in a highly bioavailable form, such as iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and selenium in significant quantities, B vitamins, such as B1, B2, B3, B6, the essential B12 and even the antioxidant vitamin E, managing to cover an important percentage of needs of these nutrients with a single portion.

In short, today’s cured meats show a new food value that should re-evaluate them and make them look from a different and renewed perspective: it is absolutely not wrong or unhealthy to consume them. On the contrary, not consuming them we would lose in taste and in the opportunity to have a wide and diversified range of highly nutritious foods available, practical and quick to prepare. But also, very digestible and suitable foods for all ages.

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.