Why Processed, Cured and Smoked Meats Aren't Paleo
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Why Processed, Cured and Smoked Meats Aren't Paleo

By Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Founder of The Paleo Diet
July 11, 2017
Why Processed, Cured and Smoked Meats Aren't Paleo image

As more and more people adopt the Paleo Diet, controversy has arisen as to which dietary elements actually comprise a contemporary “Paleo Diet”. Or more precisely, which current foods, food groups or food additives should be included or excluded in modern day diets as we try to emulate the nutritional characteristics of our pre-agricultural ancestors?

A number of popular-day and charismatic bloggers suggest that processed meats such as bacon and other cured, processed and smoked meats should be part of contemporary Paleo Diets on a daily basis (1-3).

Surprisingly, one of the contested elements that charismatic bloggers advocate (via their recommendation to eat processed meats and bacon) is salt (1-3). Look no further than Paleo Diet websites, blogs and cookbooks (1-3, 4-8) to find salt included in virtually all meal plans, menus and dietary recommendations given to the Paleo Diet community by so-called “experts” consisting of charismatic bloggers (1-3) and non-scientific authors (1-3, 4-8).

One of the primary sources of salt in the U.S. Diet comes from processed meats (9). I have previously spoken about the multitude of health problems associated with salt consumption. Please review my blogs showing the harmful effects of salt (10-16).

It is inconceivable how any rational person, much less leaders (1-3) in the Paleo Diet community could advocate the use of salt laden processed meats in contemporary Paleo Diets. High sodium diets are unequivocally recognized to promote high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular disease (9, 17-19). Further, more recent research shows that high salt diets increase the likelihood of autoimmune disease (20-23), immune dysfunction (24-29) and create a cellular environment that encourages cancer growth of all types (30-35).


Listed below is a table of the salt content (both Na+ and K+ concentrations) of processed meats and their fresh unsalted counterparts. A potassium (K+) concentration greater than a Na+ (sodium) concentration of (>1.00) is healthful of which no processed meats exhibit, including bacon. Without being a nutritional scientist, you can see for yourself from the table below, that virtually all processed, cured and smoked meats represent a hazardous food which far exceed the human daily recommendation for sodium of 2300 mg (9, 17-19).

Cured MeatsNa+ mg/1000 kcalK+ mg/1000 kcalK+/Na+
Prosciutto Ham1382126150.19
Ham, cured1031325240.24
Smoked Beef Sliced1016623870.23
Beef Lunch Meat954726320.28
Canadian Bacon, cured897521910.24
Smoked Ham Sliced847220860.25
Turkey Salami Cotto707214770.21
Smoked Turkey Sliced685020560.30
Turkey Salami683014690.22
Beef Cotto Salami635410060.16
Olive Loaf631512640.20
Smoked Chicken Sliced578215520.27
Chicken Lunch Meat55549200.17
Headcheese, Pork52871970.04
Salami Dry Sausage52219820.19
Beerwurst Sausage521010630.20
Turkey Drumstick smoked498014000.28
Genoa Salami47068610.18
Corned Beef45185780.13
Turkey Wing smoked450712040.27
Beef Salami43687110.16
Ham Lunch Meat422212980.31
Vienna Sausage42134390.10
Hot Dog Wiener37595240.14
Thuringer Sausage35917180.20
Italian Sausage35098840.25
Summer Sausage34814840.14
Mettwurst Sausage34718740.25
Pepperoni Sausage33465650.17
Smokie links sausage Oscar Mayer33345960.18
Scrapple, Pork30947420.24
Knockwurst Sausage30296480.21
Kielbasa Sausage29269710.33
Chicken wings Barbequed29159000.31
Pork link sausage269415730.58
Turkey link sausage24899740.39
Salt Pork, cured1904880.05
Blood sausage17941000.06
Bockwurst Sausage16808970.53
Pate de Foie Gras15092990.20
Goose liver pate, smoked15092990.20
Fresh, Unsalted Meats Na+ mg/1000 kcalK+ mg/1000 kcalK+/Na+
Fresh, unsalted lamb loin27214305.25
Fresh, unsalted Beef Sirloin32419546.04
Fresh, unsalted Pork Sirloin27517786.47


Although, virtually all non-scientific, Paleo Diet bloggers (1-3, 4-8) advocate the use of added, mined salt to their recipes, menus and meals, there is absolutely no evolutionary data to support this viewpoint (36-39).

Indeed, the best available evidence supports the notion that elevated salt intake is directly responsible for increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular disease (9, 17-19), increased risk for autoimmune disease (20-23), increased risk for immune dysfunction (24-29) and increased risk for cancer (30-35). This information is perhaps the most important issue where the Paleo Diet community is lost, confused and in error via the misinformation provided by non-scientific, ill-informed Paleo Diet Blogger (1-3, 4-8).











9.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vital signs: food categories contributing the most to sodium consumption - United States, 2007-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012 Feb 10;61(5):92-8.








17.McDonough AA, Veiras LC, Guevara CA, Ralph DL. Cardiovascular benefits associated with higher dietary K+ vs. lower dietary Na+: evidence from population and mechanistic studies. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Apr 1;312(4): E348-E356.

18.Mozaffarian D, Fahimi S, Singh GM, Micha R, Khatibzadeh S, Engell RE, Lim S, Danaei G, Ezzati M, Powles J, et al. Global burden of diseases nutrition and chronic diseases expert group.

Global sodium consumption and death from cardiovascular causes. N Engl J Med. 2014 Aug 14;371(7):624-34

19.He FJ, Li J, Macgregor GA. Effect of longer-term modest salt reduction on blood pressure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Apr 30;(4):CD004937

20.Wu C, Yosef N, Thalhamer T, Zhu C, Xiao S, Kishi Y, Regev A, Kuchroo VK. Induction of pathogenic TH17 cells by inducible salt-sensing kinase SGK1. Nature. 2013 Apr 25;496(7446):513-7.

21.Kleinewietfeld M, Manzel A, Titze J, Kvakan H, Yosef N, Linker RA, Muller DN, Hafler DA.  Sodium chloride drives autoimmune disease by the induction of pathogenic TH17 cells. Nature. 2013 Apr 25;496(7446):518-22

22.Hucke S, Eschborn M, Liebmann M, Herold M, Freise N, Engbers A, Ehling P, Meuth SG, Roth J, Kuhlmann T, Wiendl H, Klotz L. Sodium chloride promotes pro-inflammatory macrophage polarization thereby aggravating CNS autoimmunity. J Autoimmun. 2016 Feb;67:90-101.

23.Zostawa J, Adamczyk J, Sowa P, Adamczyk-Sowa M. The influence of sodium on pathophysiology of multiple sclerosis. Neurol Sci. 2017 Mar;38(3):389-398.

24.Schatz V, Neubert P, Schröder A, Binger K, Gebhard M, Müller DN, Luft FC, Titze J, Jantsch J. Elementary immunology: Na+ as a regulator of immunity. Pediatr Nephrol. 2017 Feb;32(2):201-210.

25.Hernandez AL, Kitz A, Wu C, Lowther DE, Rodriguez DM, Vudattu N, Deng S, Herold KC, Kuchroo VK, Kleinewietfeld M, Hafler DA. Sodium chloride inhibits the suppressive function of FOXP3+ regulatory T cells. J Clin Invest. 2015 Nov 2;125(11):4212-22.

26.Yi B, Titze J, Rykova M, Feuerecker M, Vassilieva G, Nichiporuk I, Schelling G, Morukov B, Choukèr A. Effects of dietary salt levels on monocytic cells and immune responses in healthy human subjects: a longitudinal study. Transl Res. 2015 Jul;166(1):103-10.

27.Zhou X, Zhang L, Ji WJ, Yuan F, Guo ZZ, Pang B, Luo T, Liu X, Zhang WC, Jiang TM, Zhang Z, Li YM. Variation in dietary salt intake induces coordinated dynamics of monocyte subsets and monocyte-platelet aggregates in humans: implications in end organ inflammation. PLoS One. 2013 Apr 4;8(4):e60332.

28.Zhou X, Yuan F, Ji WJ, Guo ZZ, Zhang L, Lu RY, Liu X, Liu HM, Zhang WC, Jiang TM, Zhang Z, Li YM. High-salt intake induced visceral adipose tissue hypoxia and its association with circulating monocyte subsets in humans. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Jun;22(6):1470-6.

29.Min B, Fairchild RL. Over-salting ruins the balance of the immune menu. J Clin Invest. 2015 Nov 2;125(11):4002-4.

30.Amara S, Tiriveedhi V. Inflammatory role of high salt level in tumor microenvironment (Review). Int J Oncol. 2017 May;50(5):1477-1481

31.Amara S, Alotaibi D, Tiriveedhi V. NFAT5/STAT3 interaction mediates synergism of high salt with IL-17 towards induction of VEGF-A expression in breast cancer cells. Oncol Lett. 2016 Aug;12(2):933-943

32.Amara S, Zheng M, Tiriveedhi V. Oleanolic acid inhibits high salt-induced exaggeration of warburg-like metabolism in breast cancer cells. Cell Biochem Biophys. 2016 Sep;74(3):427-34.

33.Amara S, Whalen M, Tiriveedhi V. High salt induces anti-inflammatory MΦ2-like phenotype in peripheral macrophages. Biochem Biophys Rep. 2016 Sep; 7:1-9

34.Amara S, Ivy MT, Myles EL, Tiriveedhi V. Sodium channel γENaC mediates IL-17 synergized high salt induced inflammatory stress in breast cancer cells. Cell Immunol. 2016 Apr; 302:1-10

35.Amara S, Majors C, Roy B, Hill S, Rose KL, Myles EL, Tiriveedhi. Critical role of SIK3 in mediating high salt and IL-17 synergy leading to breast cancer cell proliferation. PLoS One. 2017 Jun 28;12(6):e0180097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180097

36.Eaton SB, Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med. 1985 Jan 31;312(5):283-9

37.Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O'Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):341-54.

38.Carrera-Bastos P, Fontes Villalba M, O’Keefe JH, Lindeberg S, Cordain L. The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Res Rep Clin Cardiol 2011; 2: 215-235.

39 .Frassetto L, Morris RC Jr, Sellmeyer DE, Todd K, Sebastian A. Diet, evolution and aging--the pathophysiologic effects of the post-agricultural inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the human diet. Eur J Nutr. 2001 Oct;40(5):200-13

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