In the world of famous sandwiches, pastrami on warm, toasted rye is an American treasure. However, pastrami meat and other deli meats are also high in unhealthy fats that lead to high cholesterol -- not to mention weight gain -- if eaten without moderation. If you worry about high cholesterol or are simply trying to shed a few pounds, get the nutritional information about pastrami so you know how it fits into your eating plan.
Deli Meats in Your Diet
Pastrami and other deli and lunch meats, along with processed meats like sausage, hot dogs and ham, fall under the Meat and Beans group in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Pyramid Guide. According to the USDA, moderately active adult men and women should consume only five to six 1/2- to 1-oz.-size servings per day from this food group, although those who are extremely physically active may be able to eat more. Although rich in protein and other essential nutrients, some foods in this group are also rich in saturated fat, which can elevate your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol. Similarly, animal foods also contain dietary cholesterol.
Fats and Cholesterol
The Harvard School of Public Health notes that most people absorb far less dietary cholesterol from food than the amount produced by their own bodies. And surprisingly, research conducted at Harvard University shows that the total amount of fat in your diet isn't closely tied to heart disease or weight gain either. However, the saturated or "bad" fat in your pastrami – along with trans fats found in some margarines, snack foods and fast foods – do have a direct tie-in with high blood cholesterol and weight gain. Healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats on the other hand actually decrease your risk for high cholesterol.
Four 1-oz. slices of cured beef pastrami have 165 calories and contain 6.92g total fat, 3g of which are saturated, and 76mg of dietary cholesterol. Serving size is something to take into consideration; many recipes for over-stuffed pastrami sandwiches call for 5 oz.. of pastrami or other deli meat. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 98 percent fat-free beef pastrami might be your better bet. Six slices of this deli meat have 54 calories and contain only 0.66g total fat, none of which is saturated, and 27mg cholesterol.
To avoid high cholesterol, the American Heart Association stresses the importance of knowing what intake of saturated and trans fat and dietary cholesterol is considered heart healthy. Restrict total fat consumption to less than 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories. Saturated fat should come from less than 7 percent of these calories, and trans fats should come from less than 1 percent. Healthy adults should consume less than 300mg dietary cholesterol each day; those with heart disease or high cholesterol are restricted to less than 200mg.
Another problem with deli meats such as pastrami, as well as lunch meats and other processed meats, is that they're laden with sodium. A 5-oz. beef pastrami sandwich contains 1239mg of sodium; a turkey pastrami sandwich contains less sodium – 576mg – but this is still on the high end. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the dietary guidelines for sodium intake for most Americans is 1500mg of sodium each day or less. Healthier choices to include in your diet from the Meat Group are lean cuts of beef and pork, skinless chicken and turkey, and low-fat lunch and deli meats, says the USDA.