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Healthy eating: does charcuterie have a place on our plates?
 

European delicatessen is greatly appreciated for the conviviality and high-end image they represent. But what about their nutritional value? Can we eat charcuterie regularly without fearing for our health? 

European producers are moving towards "better eating".

Charcuterie has not always been recognised for its nutritional value and is often criticised for being too high in fat. Today, commitments to reverse this trend are being made:  

  • In 30 years, the fat content has decreased by 25% in Europe 

  • French charcuterie manufacturers, for example, have committed to offering quality products, while meeting consumers’ health and nutrition expectations. This is achieved by reducing salt and lipids content, and by limiting the use of nitrites (preservatives) to the strict minimum.  

Scientific studies have shown that many charcuterie products provide several vitamins and minerals that are essential for the body to function properly. As for European charcuterie, it is a source of protein with essential amino acids ranging from 10% for terrines, pâtés, and sausages to 20% for hams, dry sausages, and bacon bits. It also contains haem iron, which is 2.5 times more absorbable by the body than iron from vegetables and fruits.

European charcuterie: what influence does it have on our health?

Each human being has his or her own nutrient requirements to ensure daily energy consumption. The nutrients required by each person vary according to several factors: gender, age, body size, daily physical activity, health problems, etc.  

In addition to regular physical exercise, each person’s habits must allow them to provide the following 7 main nutrients in the needed quantities:  

  • Proteins: macronutrients that are the basis of all living organisms,  

  • Lipids: the fats of everyday life,  

  • Carbohydrates: these are the main energy nutrients (sugars),  

  • Fibres: sugars from plant foods (from fruit, vegetables, pulses or cereals),  

  • Vitamins: these have no energy value but are necessary for many physiological processes,  

  • Mineral salts: belonging to the micro-nutrients and derived from rocks, they are found in food in their natural form,  

  • And finally water, which is essential for the living metabolism.  

Why eat charcuterie from a nutritional point of view?

While each family of products has distinct nutritional values, all European charcuterie products are endowed with: 

  • Protein through the contribution of essential amino acids, 

  • Quality lipids: 57% unsaturated fatty acids, of which more than 12% are polyunsaturated and almost no trans-unsaturated,  

  • A significant supply of vitamins from the B3, B6, PP and B12 groups, 

  • Trace elements such as haem iron, zinc, and selenium.

Which charcuterie for which nutrient requirements?

Lipids 

The fat content of a 100g portion of cold cuts can vary between 5 and 40g. Unlike ruminants, pork is often the basis of charcuterie products. The fatty mass is on the outer edge of the lean mass, and hence the fact that it can often be removed in the preparation of charcuterie. To ensure a high fat intake, opt for mousses or rillettes rather than cooked or dried hams. Indeed, the fat concentration varies according to the type of charcuterie:  

  • Less than 10% fat: cooked hams, fat-less (defatted) dry hams, tripe,  

  • Between 10 and 20% fat: dried hams, andouilles, 

  • Between 20 and 30% fat: bacon bits, country terrines, andouillettes, black pudding, sausages, 

  • Between 30 and 40% fat: mousses, pâtés, dry sausage, chorizo, rillettes. 

Protein 

Charcuterie is a source of protein in terms of both quality and quantity. For every 100g of charcuterie, the protein content is between 10 and 26g. The proteins in charcuterie have an excellent biological value (close to the reference protein) and a digestibility of 94%, similar to that of fish. 

Salt 

Salt is indispensable in the production process of certain sausages for three main reasons:  

  • It is a preservative,  

  • It has technological properties thanks to its role as a binder,  

  • And finally, it has organoleptic properties; it embellishes and reveals the flavours of the product. 

To ensure the necessary amount of salt in your meals, it can be just as interesting to add a cold cut to your dishes rather than raw harvested salt.  

Vitamins and minerals 

Naturally present in charcuterie, they are found in varying quantities depending on the cuts and recipes. Vitamins B1, B6, B12 and PP, as well as minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium are mainly found in charcuterie products.  

Note that black pudding is by far the leader in iron in our diet, with 28.5g for a 125g pudding.  

Bonus: healthy charcuterie recipe

And what about the calories?

The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends a daily intake of between 1,800 and 2,200 kcal per day for a healthy woman aged between 18 to 60 and between 2,400 to 2,600 kcal for a man aged between 18 to 60. 

In order not to exceed this intake and to protect yourself against all forms of malnutrition and non-contagious disease (diabetes, etc.), you can take note of the following calories per 100 g for charcuterie: 118 kcal for top quality cooked ham, 246 kcal for chipolatas and over 400 kcal for salami. These figures are given as an indication and it is recommended to think in terms of portion, which is more in line with the reality of consumption. That said, these are not “empty calories”, as charcuterie are rather nutrient-dense foods, i.e. they have an interesting calorie/essential nutrient ratio. 

Finally if they are consumed in reasonable quantities, frequencies and integrated into a balanced diet, European charcuterie will provide all the nutritional contributions necessary for your good health.