Meat of any kind is one of the richest protein sources you can find, and even thinly sliced cold cuts provide a healthy dose with every serving. Stacking your sandwiches high with turkey or ham has plenty of potential benefits, but it’s also important to take a look at the complete nutritional picture to ensure you’re getting a healthy package.
Cold cuts can be a very healthy nutritional choice. ChooseMyPlate.gov reports that lean and low-fat meats, in particular, have the potential to build, grow and repair tissues for muscle, skin, blood and bone. Lean cold cuts also contain enough protein to offer a better value of satiation than other foods, which means they’re likely to keep you full longer and might even spur you to eat fewer net calories.
Ham tends to be one of the fattier cold cuts, so you might find more saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol in it per serving than in other meats. Whenever possible, buy lean or low-fat ham to get just as much protein in a healthier product. According to the USDA, 1 oz. of sliced ham has 45 calories, 4.75 g protein, 2.5 g fat, 1 g carbohydrates and 0.5 g fiber.
Turkey is naturally a lean meat, so it’s an especially healthy sandwich choice. It doesn’t contain quite as much protein per serving as ham, but it tends to be much lower in fat and cholesterol. One ounce of lean deli turkey contains 25 calories, 4.2 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 1 g carbohydrates and no fiber.
Beef is not as lean as cuts of poultry, but it is a rich source of both protein and iron. Like ham, however, it has higher fat and cholesterol counts than poultry. One ounce of sliced deli beef has 40 calories, 5.5 g protein, 2 g fat, 0.2 g carbs and no fiber.
A staple of the reuben, a sandwich that also features Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, pastrami pairs successfully with rye or dark bread. An ounce has 40 calories, 6 g protein, 1.5 g fat and no carbohydrates or fiber.
Salami is typically a mixture of beef and pork, and it’s often even higher in sodium and fat than ham or beef. Although it can fit into a balanced diet as an occasional treat, it’s healthier to choose leaner cuts of meat more often. An ounce of salami has 95 calories, 6 g protein, 7.5 g fat and 0.5 g carbs.
As a highly processed meat, bologna has a smooth, even texture and might be a combination of finely ground beef and pork, chicken or turkey. A 1 oz. serving of bologna has 85 calories, 3 g protein, 7.5 g fat and 1.5 g carbohydrates.
Protein content is only one part of the nutritional equation for cold cuts and all other foods. Although not all processed lunch meats are unhealthy, many are very high in sodium and might even contain additives that are likely to be carcinogens, according to "Best Health Magazine." Because of cold cuts' high sodium content and the relationship between high sodium intake and high blood pressure, the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority recommends avoiding all cured, salted or smoked meats.
- USDA.gov: Nutrient Data Laboratory
- ChooseMyPlate.gov; "Why Is It Important to Make Lean or Low-Fat Choices from the Protein Foods Group?"; May 31, 2011
- BestHealthMag.ca; "Are Processed Meats Safe?"; Claudia Cornwall; September 2010
- University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; "Sodium"; August 2004