Ham is a popular meat used for holidays or special occasions. People incorporate ham in their holiday feasts since it is affordable, has a variety of options, and has a larger serving size. But a considerable amount of people are getting cautious about their food, including ham consumption at present.
The reason owes to the rising awareness of the possible health effects of our unhealthy lifestyles. Specifically, we have a concern over our weight, which is found to have an impact on our overall health. While this being said, ham has been claimed to be healthy recently based on its nutritional value.
The fewer carbs and high protein found in ham are the primary reasons for its purported health benefits. There is also a claim that ham is good for weight loss. This new information has made people shift their focus toward ham to manage their weight. We shall dive into the details to help you find whether ham is healthy and an optimal choice for you.
What Is Ham?
Ham is a red meat variety prepared from the legs of pigs. This pork product is a famous deli meat that undergoes a curing process based on the type of ham. People prefer it over other meat because it is easy to consume and comes at a reasonable price.
Ham is a good source of protein and other nutrients. When you make ham sandwiches with wholegrain bread, it becomes a healthy option that can be added to your diet.
Ham Nutrition Facts
Ham is packed with nutrients that support your overall well-being. It is low in calories, fat, and fiber when consumed alone. At the same time, ham is a rich source of protein. The protein content in ham helps with your energy and metabolism.
Ham is packed with selenium, which plays a crucial part in DNA construction and protection against cell damage. Besides that, ham contains amino acids that optimize the efficiency of metabolic transformations to boost muscle growth and enhance athletic performance.
Two ounces or 57 g of ham contains the following primary nutrients:
- 11 g of protein
- 69 g of carbs
- 2 g of fat
- 1.25 g of sugar
The other major nutrients in ham are sodium, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, iron, copper, and magnesium. Vitamin B complex, vitamin D, and vitamin E found in ham are essential for your body’s effective functioning.
In addition, ham is a good source of carnosine, coenzyme Q10, and choline, which help with energy production and cell communication throughout the body.
How Is Ham Made?
Ham is prepared from the rear legs of a pig. The fresh pork taken from the pig’s legs undergoes one of the following curing processes:
Dry curing involves a curing process without water usage. The pork is coated with salt and herbs. It is then hung in a dark space for many months. The place has to be climate controlled to maintain the health of the ham.
Wet curing involves soaking meat in a liquid brine for some number of days. The liquid brine is prepared with components like salt, nitrates, and nitrites. The soaking process helps the meat absorb the flavors added to it.
The ham is hung in a smokehouse, where it takes on additional flavors and hues from the smoke. In order to improve the flavor of the ham, it is typically smoked for weeks at 100 degrees F.
The ham is then cooked either wholly or partially. We can heat the ham and consume it based on the cooking process adopted.
We can commonly find curated hams or canned hams that are available for purchase. You can also purchase raw hams for consumption. But it would help if you cooked the raw ham well before consuming it.
Types of Ham
Distinct types of ham have different appearances and flavors, depending on where you reside.
- Deli ham: This type of ham is cured and packaged as slices. Since it is already cooked, you can eat it through mild heating.
- Smithfield ham: It is a dry-cured ham that was produced by hogs in Smithfield, Virginia, and fed hickory nuts, acorns, and peanuts. This ham is a type of country ham.
- Chopped ham: When ham chunks, trimmings, and seasonings are mixed together and then packaged into loaves, the end result is known as chopped ham.
- Honey-glazed ham: This ham kind is made by reheating the ham in honey or sugar syrup in addition to some spices.
- City ham: You have to refrigerate this ham to preserve it since it is slightly cured using the wet curing method.
- Black Forest ham: Black Forest ham is a type of dry-cured, smoked ham made in the German Black Forest. This ham is a classic, old-world-style smoked ham that has a characteristic caramel covering flavored with smoke.
- Country ham: Country ham is a type of brined ham that is kept fresh through curing and smoking.
- York ham: York ham is a type of ham that has been dry cured in a process unique to the York region.
- Jamon ham: Jamon is a traditional pork-based cured country ham that is made using dry curing.
- Limerick ham: This ham variety is first boiled in cider before being baked at a high temperature to make the ham’s exterior crispy and crunchy.
- Gammon: The rear leg of pork that has been dry-salted, brined, and possibly smoked is called gammon.
- Prosciutto: Italian ham, known as prosciutto, is salt-cured and dry-aged, with a rich but delicate flavor of pork.
- Anfu ham: Anfu ham is a dry-cured ham from China that features incredibly thick meat and thin skin.
Is Ham Good for Weight Loss?
When you are following a calorie-deficit diet, ham consumption can help you maintain your weight. Lean ham is low in calories, which makes it suitable for weight loss. Since ham is high in protein, it revs up your metabolism and supports muscle growth.
When you have a fast metabolism, your body can burn fat effectively. Ham consumption can help you lose some weight in this way. Besides that, the protein in ham helps you have a fuller feeling. Therefore, you can have control over your food and lower your intake of calories.
When you do any intense workouts, the protein content assists in muscle growth and recovery. Thus, you can actively engage in physical programs to burn calories by consuming ham. Ham contains iron, which boosts your energy and improves your blood circulation. The iron content in ham improves the oxygen supply to your muscles.
Thus, ham is a food with a low-calorie density, which supports healthy weight loss when taken in moderation. We can understand from this that ham can be good for weight loss, but the weight lost through ham consumption is less comparatively.
Health Benefits of Ham
When you consume ham in moderation, it can provide you with various health benefits. We shall look in detail at how the nutrients found in the hams support your overall health.
Enhances Exercise Performance
Carnosine is a dipeptide synthesized using amino acids that enhance exercise performance. The proteins found in the ham also improve muscle repair and promote muscle growth. When your muscle strength is maintained, it enhances the efficiency of your workouts. Ham also provides you with more energy, which you can utilize during your workouts.
The antioxidant properties of carnosine in ham help reduce the risk of inflammation and protect your body from various diseases. Ham may prevent certain platelets from causing inflammation. It may lessen oxidative stress on the body and reduce inflammatory markers.
Promotes Your Overall Health
The vitamins and minerals in ham enhance your immune system and boost energy levels. Ham includes phosphorous, which plays a significant part in the formation of teeth and bones. Zinc is a trace mineral found in ham that helps in cell growth and lowers the risk of age-related problems.
Ham contains an essential trace mineral known as selenium that reduces the risk of thyroid-related problems. Carnosine in ham enhances your brain function and supports your brain health. Ham is composed of a substance called coenzyme Q10 that promotes lipid metabolism by oxidizing fatty acids. Thus, ham supports your overall health.
Possible Downsides of Ham
The high salt content in ham is linked with many potential health effects. While taken in moderate quantities, you can avoid some side effects associated with the consumption of ham.
May increase the risk of chronic disease
The processing of hams results in higher concentrations of carcinogens that may increase the risk of certain cancer types. The preservatives used in its preparation, like nitrates and nitrites, can cause cancer. There are studies that hold processed foods like hams responsible for causing colorectal cancer among people.
When you reheat the hams, the level of carcinogenic compounds may increase and cause possible harmful effects on your body. In addition, high sodium concentration in hams may increase your blood pressure and also increase the risk of heart disease and kidney-related problems.
Increased risk of foodborne illness
Processed meats like ham are still at high risk of bacterial contamination. Thus, pregnant women, older people, and children can avoid eating hams to reduce the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses.
Increased chance of water retention
The high sodium level in ham can cause water retention. Some of the less severe adverse effects of water retention include swelling or puffiness in the hands, feet, and ankles. When consumed in large quantities, it may have a negative impact on your bones, causing some serious bone health problems. This excess sodium can increase the risk of heart-related problems like heart attack and stroke in people with higher blood pressure.
How Much Ham Can You Consume?
Ham is packed with nutrients that can promote your overall health. But it is best to consume ham in moderation. The USDA recommends only a limited amount of processed foods like ham to be consumed on a regular basis. If you consume lean ham in moderate quantities, it can keep your body healthy. Fresh ham is also a healthy choice comparatively.
If you want to add ham to your weight-loss plan, you can prepare healthy ham sandwiches and consume them. What makes a ham sandwich healthy is the moderate amounts of meat along with a sufficient amount of veggies in the sandwich. Replacing white bread with whole grain bread supports your weight loss and health. Thus, a moderate amount of ham is beneficial and can be included in your calorie-restricted diet.
The Bottom Line
Ham is a red meat that contains many nutrients. The processing of hams includes curing and aging. You can also purchase fresh hams, which must be cooked before eating. A slice of ham contains 4.65 g of protein, which makes it a good protein source.
Ham is also low in carbs and calories, which supports weight loss when added to a balanced diet. It is best to be consumed in moderation so as to avoid the risk of chronic conditions. Therefore, ham is healthy to consume when taken in moderate quantities.
The fat present in ham is largely polyunsaturated fat and has minimal levels of monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can help lower harmful cholesterol levels in the blood, while polyunsaturated fats are essential for neuron function, blood coagulation, brain health, and muscle power. Thus, we can clearly see that the fat in ham is healthy when taken in moderation. Also, it is less fattening when added to a balanced diet and helps lose excess fat.
Consuming fresh ham after cooking as required is a healthier option to maintain your health. You can also choose lean, nitrate-free ham that provides you with more health benefits. Hams with less sodium content are often healthy to consume and support weight loss.
According to USDA, carbs in 100 g of ham are 1.5 g. This calorie is less compared to other meats. Thus, ham consumption is healthy when taken in moderation, along with a calorie-deficit diet. The protein in ham increases your metabolism and helps you burn some calories. Thus, it can assist in losing some amount of weight.