From flavored and smoked, to low-sodium and organic — packaged deli meat is a 13-billion dollar business that has grown more confusing over time. The most processed meats of all (salami, pepperoni, and bologna) are essentially sausages made from meat and fat – they can include leftover organs and scraps, which are then cured with starch, salt, corn syrup and preservatives like nitrates. Nitrates make the meat last longer because they kill bacteria and give deli meats their color.
There are also several extra ingredients that can be added without your knowledge, such as fillers, gluten, antibiotic residues, and sugar. Ideally, you should aim to avoid these and get as close to a natural cut of the animal as possible, but this can be difficult when additives are used in most processed meats. Nutritionist Kellyann Petrucci and Dr. Mark Hyman ranked the top deli meats — looking at the biggest brands and multiple criteria, including salt, saturated fat, and flavor. Out of 260 different products, they were able to narrow it down to these top five picks:
- Boar’s Head Ovengold® Roasted Turkey Breast – Skinless
- Applegate Naturals® Smoked Turkey Breast
- Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Lower Sodium Rotisserie Chicken Breast
- Boar's Head Simplicity® All Natural* Cap-Off Top Round Oven Roasted Beef
- Land O'Frost Simply Delicious Hickory Smoked Ham