Why Is There So Much Sodium in Cold Cuts?

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A sandwich piled high with deli ham, turkey or roast beef may be your idea of a tasty meal, but you may not realize just how much sodium you are consuming. Cold cuts are highly processed and contain a large amount of added sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. There are several reasons cold cuts contain so much sodium.


Raw and cooked meats begin to spoil quite quickly and are no longer safe for human consumption after just a few days. Adding salt to meat prolongs the shelf life of the product and keeps it safe to eat for longer periods of time. Cold cuts contain a large amount of added sodium, usually in the form of sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite, to help preserve them.

Taste Enhancer

Sodium also tastes good to many people, so it is used to enhance the taste of the cold cuts. Salt is a common addition to many recipes because it improves the flavor of certain foods. Coupled with spices, sodium improves the flavor of cold cuts that may be bland without them. Traditional cold cuts contain several hundred milligrams of sodium per serving.

Improve Appearance

Certain types of cold cuts, such as deli ham and hot dogs, rely on added sodium to improve the appearance of the meat. Added sodium gives some cold cuts a uniform appearance and also enhances their natural coloring to make them look more appetizing. Salty seasonings are often added to the exterior of a piece of cold cuts to make them look for appealing when they are sliced and displayed.


Look for reduced-sodium versions of cold cuts that retain much of the flavor without so much salt. In addition to possibly contributing to high blood pressure and heart problems, high doses of sodium in cold cuts may irritate the lining of your stomach. Large amounts of sodium nitrates and nitrites have also been connected to a higher risk of certain cancers. Opt for cold cuts that do no contain these substances to help improve the nutritional value of your meat.