Often added to pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and charcuterie boards, salami is a versatile ingredient with a rich flavor.

Typically made from pork or beef, salami is a type of cured sausage that’s fermented and dried.

However, despite its widespread popularity, many may wonder whether this processed meat product can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet.

This article takes a closer look at the nutrition, benefits, and downsides of salami.

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Salami is low in carbs and calories but high in protein, fat, and sodium.

It also contains a good number of several other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, thiamine, niacin, and zinc.

Three slices of hard salami contain (1):

  • Calories: 99
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Fat: 8 grams
  • Carbs: 0.5 grams
  • Sodium: 23% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 21% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 13% of the DV
  • Niacin: 9% of the DV
  • Zinc: 8% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 7% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid: 6% of the DV
  • Copper: 6% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 5% of the DV

Salami is especially high in sodium, with almost a quarter of your daily value in just three pieces.

Although sodium plays a key role in regulating fluid balance, consuming high amounts can increase blood pressure, especially among those who are more sensitive to its effects (2).

Salami also contains a hearty dose of vitamin B12 and niacin, both of which are important for maintaining brain function (3, 4).

Additionally, salami is rich in zinc, which is necessary for DNA synthesis, wound healing, and immune health (5).

summary

Salami is low in calories and carbs but provides a good amount of protein, fat, and sodium. It also contains several other micronutrients, including vitamin B12, niacin, and zinc.

Because salami does not require cooking and is typically sold ready to eat, it’s convenient and easy to enjoy.

It’s also high in protein, an essential nutrient that’s necessary for muscle growth and tissue repair (6).

Furthermore, salami contains several other important micronutrients, including B vitamins like vitamin B12, thiamine, and niacin (1).

B vitamins are not only crucial for brain function but also involved in DNA synthesis, energy production, and metabolism (7).

Some types of salami also undergo fermentation, meaning that they contain probiotics, which are a type of beneficial bacteria (8, 9).

Although there’s limited research on the beneficial effects of fermented salami specifically, studies show that probiotics may help support digestion, immunity, heart health, and more (10).

summary

Salami is convenient and rich in protein and several essential nutrients, including B vitamins. Some types are also fermented and may contain probiotics.

There are several downsides to consider with salami, especially in terms of its processing and sodium content.

Contains sodium

Most varieties of salami are high in sodium, with some packing 535 mg into a 3-slice serving (1).

The American Heart Association recommends restricting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, or ideally less than 1,500 mg daily (11).

Consuming high amounts of sodium can increase water retention and blood pressure levels, especially among those who are more sensitive to its effects (12, 13).

Furthermore, some studies show that high sodium diets could be linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer (14, 15, 16).

Therefore, if you have high blood pressure or are limiting your intake of sodium, you may want to opt for a low sodium variety of salami.

Highly processed

Salami is considered a type of processed meat, which is any type of meat that has been cured, salted, smoked, or canned to extend its shelf life and improve its taste or texture (17).

Studies show that processed meat consumption may be associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal, stomach, breast, bladder, and esophageal cancers (18, 19, 20).

In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is a division of the World Health Organization, recently classified processed meat as carcinogenic (21).

Processed meat also often contains preservatives like sodium nitrate, which is used to help meat products last longer.

Sodium nitrate can be converted into a compound called nitrosamine in your body, which has been linked to a higher risk of certain types of cancer (22).

Risk of foodborne illness

Some meat products, including salami, are more susceptible to contamination with harmful pathogens (23).

This can cause foodborne illness, which is associated with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain (24).

In particular, Salmonella bacteria are often found in uncooked meat products, such as salami (25).

Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Listeria monocytogenes are two other strains of bacteria that can contaminate undercooked meats and cause infection (26, 27).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deli meats should be heated to an internal temperature of 165° F (74° C) before eating to ensure your safety (28).

You should also wash your hands thoroughly when preparing food, keep ready-to-eat foods separate from raw meat, eggs, and poultry, and practice proper food storage by refrigerating foods promptly (29).

summary

Salami is processed and high in sodium. It may also make you more susceptible to foodborne illness if you eat it without heating it first.

Although salami shouldn’t be a staple in all your meals, you can still enjoy processed meats in moderation as part of a well-rounded diet.

However, with so many different types of salami available, figuring out which type is healthiest can be challenging.

Cured salami is made using chemical additives, including sodium nitrite. On the other hand, despite its name, uncured salami is also cured but made using salt and natural additives like celery powder.

While uncured salami is cured using nonsynthetic ingredients, it contains nitrites from natural sources, which may also be harmful (30, 31).

There are also several different types of salami, such as Genoa, pepperoni, soppressata, and Felino.

While these varieties differ slightly based on how the meat is cut, the flavors and spices used, and the way that they’re made, they each offer a similar set of nutrients.

Regardless of which type of salami you choose, you should opt for a brand that is low in sodium if you’re following a low sodium diet.

Heating salami until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165° F (74° C) can also help kill pathogens to prevent foodborne illness.

summary

Salami can be enjoyed in moderation. There are several different types, which vary in terms of flavor, texture, and the way they’re produced. Look for low sodium salami and heat it thoroughly before eating it.

Salami is a cured meat product usually made from pork or beef that has been fermented and dried.

Although it contains several important nutrients, it’s also processed, high in sodium, and more susceptible to contamination with foodborne pathogens.

Therefore, you should opt for a low sodium variety whenever possible and enjoy it in limited amounts as part of a balanced diet.