Is Bologna Bad for You? A Dietitian Answers

Is Bologna Bad for You? A Dietitian Answers

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Bologna is a popular deli meat in the US that’s named for an Italian city where it originated. It’s often cheaper than other cuts of meat, so many consumers are curious about whether or not that means it’s unhealthier.

But what’s actually in bologna? Why is it so cheap? Is it healthy or is it bad for you? And what’s the healthiest type of bologna?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we explain what’s typically in bologna and share our opinion on whether or not this deli meat is unhealthy, based on a review of medical studies.

We’ll explain why bologna is so cheap, give our pick for the healthiest type of bologna, and share a healthier alternative.

What’s in Bologna?

Bologna is not one specific cut of meat, but rather tends to be a blend of different ground meats.

Any combination of chicken, pork, beef and turkey could be included in bologna, and given that it’s a mashup of different cuts of meat, many people online suggest that the cheapest cuts of meat are used.

In fact, Mashed has an article claiming that mechanically separated chicken is typically the first ingredient in cheap cuts of bologna, meaning that bone and cartilage can also be included in the final product, not just lean meat.

Oscar Mayer is one of the most popular bologna brands, and their product is made with chicken, beef and pork (but not turkey) according to the brand’s website.

A Mashed video shows how bologna is made from start to finish:

Is Bologna Bad for You?

There aren’t very many medical studies on bologna consumption specifically and health effects, but there are a large number of studies on processed meat consumption and health effects.

Bologna would be categorized as a processed meat because it undergoes treatment such as curing or the use of chemical preservatives to extend its shelf life.

Processed meat consumption was associated with 18% greater risk of colorectal cancer, 21% greater risk of colon cancer and 22% greater risk of rectal cancer compared to individuals who avoided processed meat, according to a 2021 meta-study.

Processed meat consumption also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke according to a 2022 medical review.

A medical review published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition documented that processed meat intake is also associated with increased risk of developing diabetes.

Overall, it seems quite clear from the available medical evidence that bologna is bad for you.

It’s likely fine in moderation, as are most foods, but we can’t find a single medical study suggesting that bologna consumption improves health, while very many medical studies find that processed meat consumption worsens health and increases health risks.

What’s the Healthiest Bologna?

Given that processed meat generally is unhealthy, the best way to mitigate negative health effects from its consumption, in our opinion, is to source grass-fed meat and meat products without any unhealthy additives.

As we documented in our review of Good Chop, grass-fed meat is clinically shown to be nutritionally richer than conventionally-raised meat.

It also has a more optimal omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio, which is especially important in higher-fat cuts of meat like bologna.

Choosing a bologna brand that’s free of unhealthy additives can also make a difference.

Sodium phosphates is an ingredient in Oscar Mayer bologna, and this preservative may be associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease according to a 2012 medical review.

Grassland Meats sells a beef bologna that’s 100% grass-fed and is free of synthetic preservatives and phosphates. Link here for those interested.

Local butchers may also have suggestions for bologna cuts meeting the criteria established above.

Healthy Sandwich Recipes

For readers of this article who were planning to make bologna sandwiches, here are a few healthier sandwich recipes from YouTube creator Sanne Vloet that may be interesting to check out:

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Bologna is not a healthy choice, and we recommend avoiding processed meat entirely.

Not only is processed meat associated with negative health effects in medical studies like increased risk of certain types of cancer, increased risk of diabetes and increased risk of cardiovascular events, most commercial bologna brands use questionable additives like preservatives and corn syrup that make the finished product even worse for you.

Bologna is a mix of beef, chicken, pork and occasionally turkey, and most manufacturers do not source from grass-fed animals.

In this article we featured some healthier packaged alternatives to bologna, and also featured a video with some healthier sandwich recipes than a bologna sandwich.

Nearly anything, including bologna, can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet, but there are so many options in our opinion that are both healthier, and taste better, than bologna.