Top 7 Reasons Why Mortadella Isn’t the Healthiest Choice

Are you health-conscious person and, at the same time, under the spell of tasty mortadella flavor? Chances are, you want to decide whether you should eat mortadella regularly. 

The truth is that

  • Mortadella is high in fat, calories, and sodium to cause heart issues, stroke, chronic inflammation, osteoporosis, and weight gain.
  • Mortadella is also high in nitrates and nitrites, which are linked to an increased risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, developmental problems and heart disease.
  • Mortadella is not an ideal source of protein being processed.
  • Though it’s safe for the general population, it’s best to limit mortadella consumption.

In this blog post, we’re going to tackle the health implications of mortadella. So, let’s dive right in and explore the reasons behind mortadella’s less-than-stellar reputation on the health front.

Why Doesn’t Mortadella Make a Great Choice for a Health Conscious You?

1. Fat Content

Mortadella, being a cured pork sausage, contains a significant amount of fat. Traditional recipes call for a mixture of lean pork and pork fat, resulting in a high fat content. 

Fat is a concentrated source of calories and cholesterol. For instance, one serving of 55 grams of mortadella has 14g of total fat (of which 5 grams are saturated fats) and 40 mg of cholesterol.

Higher fat and cholesterol ratio of mortadella contributes to several health issues:

2. Calorie Density

Because of its high fat content, mortadella is also calorie-dense. It packs quite a caloric punch for a relatively small portion size. 

This characteristic makes it a food to enjoy in moderation, especially if you’re watching your calorie intake or trying to maintain a healthy weight.

3. Sodium Concerns

The sodium content of mortadella is considerably high: only one serving of mortadella (55 grams) contains 600 mg of sodium, which is 25% of RDA. The reason is that cured and processed meats like mortadella often undergo salt curing, contributing to their flavor and preservation. 

Eating mortadella’s high sodium can be harmful to your health in several ways:

4. High in nitrates and nitrites

Nitrates and nitrites are used in meat products, like mortadellas, as preservatives to prevent the growth of bacteria and to give the meat a pink color. However, they may cause several health issues like:

  • Cancer: Nitrates and nitrites can react with other compounds in meat to form nitrosamines, linked to increased cancer risk, especially stomach and colon cancer.
  • Heart disease: Nitrates and nitrites can react with oxygen in the body to form nitric oxide. Too much nitric oxide is harmful and linked to heart disease.
  • Reduced oxygen transport: High levels of nitrates and nitrites can convert hemoglobin to methemoglobin, reducing blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity. This is particularly dangerous for infants.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Some studies suggest high nitrate intake may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Developmental problems: Studies show high nitrate intake during pregnancy can harm offspring.

Considering the adverse effects of nitrates and nitrites, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified them as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also stated that there is “some concern” about the potential health risks of nitrates and nitrites.

The FDA has set limits on the amount of nitrates and nitrites that can be used in meat products. However, some experts believe that these limits are not strict enough.

If you are concerned about the health risks of nitrates and nitrites, it’s better to avoid eating mortadella and other foods having nitrates and nitrites.

5. Additives and Preservatives

Some commercially available mortadella products may contain additives, such as artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives.

These additives are included to enhance the taste, appearance, and shelf life of the sausage. While not all mortadella varieties have additives, it’s important to read labels and choose high-quality options if you’re concerned about additives in your food.

6. Processed Meat Concerns

Mortadella falls into the category of processed meats, which includes other cured and preserved meats like bacon, ham, and sausages. Consumption of processed meats has been associated with increased risks of certain health conditions, such as heart disease and certain types of cancer. 

The reasons behind these associations are still being studied, but factors like high sodium and nitrate content, along with cooking methods and other lifestyle factors, are believed to play a role.

7. Not a Good Source of Protein

When compared to other protein sources like lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, or tofu, mortadella typically has a lower protein content per serving. These alternative protein sources provide more concentrated amounts of protein without the higher fat and calorie content.

So, Should You Avoid Eating Mortadella?

Not necessarily! 

Mortadella does offer some health benefits too, despite its downsides. It’s a good source of protein, helping you build and repair muscle. It also contains Vitamin B12, important for energy production and healthy red blood cells. 

Mortadella can be a part of a balanced diet when enjoyed in moderation and alongside other healthy foods.

Yet, as with most foods, moderation is key. Mortadella may not be the healthiest option, it can still be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Portion Control

Be mindful of your portion sizes when indulging in mortadella. Opt for smaller servings and pair them with plenty of fresh vegetables or whole grains to create a more balanced meal.

Choose Quality

When purchasing mortadella, opt for high-quality options that are made with fewer additives and higher meat content. Local delis or artisanal producers may offer a more natural and authentic product.

Balance Your Plate

Balance is crucial. Incorporate mortadella into a meal that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Adding fibers reduces the health risks associated with packaged foods.

Explore Alternatives

If you’re seeking a healthier substitute, consider leaner protein options like skinless chicken breast or turkey breast as alternatives to mortadella.

Ultimately, mortadella should be enjoyed as an occasional treat rather than a dietary staple. Being aware of its nutritional characteristics allows you to make informed choices and maintain a balanced and mindful approach to your overall diet.

Why do Italians Eat Mortadella Despite it being Unhealthy?

Italians eat mortadella despite it not being the healthiest choice for several reasons:

  • Tradition: Mortadella has been a part of Italian cuisine for centuries, passed down through generations. This is why it’s often enjoyed as a part of culture and tradition.
  • Taste: Mortadella’s rich, savory flavor with hints of spice and garlic make it a popular ingredient in sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes.
  • Versatility: Mortadella can be sliced thin for sandwiches, cubed for salads, or even cooked into pasta sauces 
  • Availability: Mortadella’s easy availability makes it a convenient choice for busy families and individuals.

But Italians’ indulgence in mortadella in no way justifies it as a good food choice.

Here’s the gist:

The top three causes of death in Italy are cerebrovascular disease, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers.

These diseases are often linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.

The diet…Though the Italian diet is more on the Mediterranean side, traditional Italian dishes and dietary choices such as processed meats, red meats, and high intake of sugar and salt lead to terminal illnesses.


Italian’s fondness for processed meat products doesn’t justify their consumption on a regular basis. It’s best to have mortadella occasionally and opt for the best quality mortadella.

What are the Healthier Alternatives to Mortadella?

If you’re looking for healthy substitutes for mortadella, several options that can provide a nutritious alternative while still delivering delicious flavors. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Lean Deli Meats

Opt for lean deli meats such as turkey breast, chicken breast, or roast beef. These options are typically lower in fat and calories compared to mortadella while providing a good source of protein. Look for minimally processed varieties without added sugars or artificial additives.


Tofu can be a versatile and healthy alternative to mortadella, especially for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Choose a firm or extra-firm tofu and slice it thinly to resemble the texture of sliced mortadella. Season it with herbs, spices, or marinades for added flavor.

Plant-Based Sausages

Explore plant-based sausages made from ingredients like soy, peas, or lentils. These sausages offer a similar texture and flavor profile to mortadella while being lower in fat and cholesterol. Look for options with minimal added preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Hummus or Bean Spreads

For a different approach, consider spreads like hummus or bean dips as an alternative to mortadella. These protein-packed options can be spread on bread or crackers, providing a satisfying and nutritious option.

Homemade Options

Consider making your own deli-style meats or spreads at home using lean cuts of meat, poultry, or plant-based proteins. This way, you have more control over the ingredients, including reducing sodium, and additives, and using quality protein sources.

Fresh Vegetables

Embrace the world of veggies and create vibrant, flavorful sandwiches or wraps using a variety of fresh vegetables. Layer sliced avocado, cucumber, bell peppers, tomato, lettuce, and other favorite veggies for a satisfying and nutritious alternative.

Remember, the key is to find options that suit your dietary preferences and nutritional needs. Experiment with different flavors, textures, and combinations to discover your own delicious substitutes for mortadella. Always remember to consider portion sizes and moderation when enjoying any food, including healthier alternatives.


Does mortadella contain any allergens?

Yes, mortadella can contain allergens. The most common allergens in mortadella are:

  • Nuts: Mortadella is often made with pistachios, which are a type of nut. Other nuts that may be found in mortadella include almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts.
  • Milk: Some mortadella may contain milk or milk products, such as whey or casein.
  • Soy: Some mortadella may contain soy or soy products, such as soy protein or soy lecithin.
  • Eggs: Some mortadella may contain eggs or egg products, such as egg whites or egg yolks.
  • Gluten: Some mortadella may contain gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

If you have allergies, it is important to read the label carefully before you buy mortadella. You should also ask the store clerk if they know if the mortadella contains any allergens.

Besides these common allergens, mortadella may also contain other allergens, depending on the manufacturer. If you have any concerns about allergens, it is always best to contact the manufacturer directly.

How Can I choose high-quality Mortadella products?

Here are some tips on how to choose high-quality mortadella products:

  • Look for the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) label. This label indicates the mortadella was produced according to a strict set of rules in a specific region, in this case, Bologna, Italy.
  • Check the ingredients list. Mortadella should be made with pork, myrtle berries, salt, and pepper. Other ingredients, such as pistachios, can be added, but they should not be the main ingredient.
  • Look for a deep pink color. Mortadella should have a deep pink color, which is because of the addition of nitrates and nitrites. However, the color should not be too bright, as this could show that the mortadella has been over-processed.
  • Feel the texture. Mortadella should have a firm, but not hard, texture. It should be easy to slice, but the slices should not fall apart.
  • Smell the mortadella. Mortadella should have a mild, slightly sweet smell. If the smell is too strong or unpleasant, it is best to avoid the mortadella.
  • Buy mortadella from a reputable butcher or grocery store. Reputable retailers are more likely to sell high-quality mortadella.
  • Read the reviews before you buy. If you are unsure about a particular mortadella product, read the reviews online to see what other people have said about it.

Is mortadella gluten-free?

Not necessarily. Mortadella can be gluten-free, but it is not always the case. Some mortadella may contain gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

If you are gluten-free, here are some tips for avoiding gluten in mortadella:

  • Read the label carefully. The label should list all the ingredients in the mortadella.
  • Ask the store clerk. If you are not sure if a particular mortadella contains any gluten, ask the store clerk. Yet, it’s best to avoid it.
  • Look for mortadella that is labeled as “gluten-free.”
  • Buy mortadella from a reputable manufacturer. Reputable manufacturers are more likely to take care to avoid gluten in their products.

If you are still unsure whether or not a particular mortadella is gluten-free, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid it.

How often can I eat mortadella?

How often you can eat mortadella depends on your individual health and dietary needs. However, keeping the health-friendliness status of mortadella in view, as a general rule of thumb, it is best to limit your intake of mortadella to no more than a few times per week. 

Is mortadella safe for pregnant women?

Mortadella is generally safe for pregnant women to eat in moderation, but there are a few risks associated with mortadella consumption:

  • Listeriosis: Unprocessed meats can harbor harmful bacteria, but commercially prepared mortadella is safe as it’s cooked to kill them.
  • Toxoplasmosis: This parasite can cause birth defects, but the cooking process in mortadella eliminates this risk too.
  • Sodium and Calories: Mortadella is high in both, so enjoy it sparingly and balance it with other healthy foods.

Here are some tips for enjoying mortadella safely during pregnancy:

  • Buy commercially prepared mortadella to ensure that it has been cooked to a safe temperature.
  • Check the “use-by” date.
  • Store mortadella properly at or below 40°F.
  • Eat mortadella in moderation: a few slices per week.

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor for personalized advice.

Is mortadella bad when trying to lose weight?

Yes, mortadella, owing to high fat and sodium content, is not good when you’re on weight loss programs. On the one hand, its high calories add more to your body fat; on the other hand, the saturated fats may induce inflammation to cause fluid retention. Similarly, sodium also causes water retention by adding water weight to the body and increasing its volume.

Can I give mortadella to my kid?

Yes, you can give mortadella to your kid, but it’s important to do so in moderation. Mortadella is processed meat, which means that it has been treated with salt, nitrates, nitrites, or other preservatives. 

Processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and other health problems.

In addition, mortadella is high in fat and calories. A 100-gram serving of mortadella contains about 288 calories, which is more than a slice of bread or a piece of fruit.


Remember, food is not just about nourishment; it’s also about pleasure and cultural experiences. So, if you decide to indulge in mortadella from time to time, savor each bite and appreciate it as part of the culinary tapestry that makes our taste buds sing.

Stay informed, stay balanced, and keep exploring the wonderful world of food. Cheers to a healthier and happier you!

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical or dietary advice.

Please consult a qualified healthcare professional for personalized guidance regarding your dietary needs and health concerns.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical or dietary advice. Please consult a qualified healthcare professional for personalized guidance regarding your specific dietary needs and health concerns.

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Cashmere Muhammad
Cashmere Muhammad

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