Written by Cecilia Snyder, MS, RD top top October 21, 2020 — medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D., Nutrition

Ham is a famous deli meat, appetizer, and also entrée the you’ve likely eaten on sandwiches or through holiday meals.

It’s a pork product that comes from pigs’ legs. The red meat is usually maintained with salt or smoke, despite this process varies depending on the type.

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Since the a handle meat, you may wonder whether ham is great for you.

This article reviews ham’s nutrients, benefits, and also downsides to identify whether the healthy.


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Ham is high in protein however low in carbs, fat, and also fiber. It’s also low in calories when consumed alone.

Just 2 ounces (57 grams) — approximately 3–4 thin slices — that ham administer (1, 2, 3):

Calories: 69Protein: 11 gramsFat: 2 gramsCarbs: 1.5 gramsFiber: 0 grams Sugar: 1.25 gramsSodium: 26% of the daily Value (DV)Selenium: 42–76% the the DVPhosphorus: 11% the the DVZinc: 9% of the DVPotassium: 6% the the DVIron: 3% that the DV Copper: 3% that the DVMagnesium: 3% that the DV

Ham is specifically rich in selenium, offering up come 76% of the DV every 2 ounces (57 grams), depending on the type. Selenium is crucial nutrient that aids reproduction, DNA construction, and also defense from epidemic (2, 3, 4).

Compared v poultry and also fish, pork assets like ham are higher in iron, thiamine, and other B vitamins. Yet, pork may be lower in some nutrients than other red meats, such as beef (5).

Ham additionally provides all nine important amino acids, making that a complete protein. Amino acids aid build proteins and play vital roles in metabolism, gene expression, and also cell communication (6, 7, 8, 9).

What’s more, this well-known red meat consists of decent amounts of phosphorus, zinc, and also potassium, which assist your body create energy, fight infections, and also maintain heart wellness (10, 11, 12).

Furthermore, ham and also other meats space a affluent dietary resource of carnosine, choline, and also coenzyme Q10 — compound that help energy production and also cell messaging throughout her body (13).

SUMMARY

Ham is a lean protein that includes important vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It’s particularly rich in selenium.


Ham begins as a piece of life pork cut from the hind legs of a pig. It’s climate cleaned and cured using one or an ext of the adhering to methods (14):

Dry curing. The pork is extended in salt and also herbs and also periodically pressed to remove the blood before being washed and also hung in a climate-controlled room for 6–24 months.Smoking. The pork is hung in a smokehouse, wherein it absorbs additional flavors and colors native the smoke.

Some commodities like crate ham space mechanically formed. This an approach preserves, flavors, and carefully chops muscle meat from the pig’s leg, climate reshapes and packages it.

Cured and also mechanically developed hams room the most common, however you can also buy fresh raw ham. Due to the fact that this type isn’t cured or cooked, girlfriend must chef it totally before it’s for sure to eat. Food preparation a new ham takes longer than reheating a cured ham.

Keep in mind that factors like the form of pig feed and processing method affect ham’s nutritional worth (15).

One study uncovered that dry-cured ham had considerably lower level of the helpful antioxidant glutathione 보다 fresh pork. Still, many compounds to be unchanged, and some amino acid levels also increased after curing (16).

SUMMARY

Whereas cured hams are preserved using salt or smoke, new hams space raw and must be totally cooked prior to consumption. Mechanically created ham is a very processed variety.


Ham looks and also tastes differently depending upon the type, and also where you live. Many cultures maintain unique methods the curing ham.

Some that the many common types of ham are:

Deli ham. additionally known as lunch meat or a cold cut, this ham is cured, sliced, and usually prepackaged.Chopped or “chipped” ham. this ham chunks are ground, seasoned, and shaped right into a loaf.City ham. This kind is smoked or lightly cured utilizing a wet brine and also must it is in refrigerated to continue to be preserved.Country ham. This sort is dried cured with a huge amount that salt so the it can be save safely at room temperature.Smithfield ham. This type is country ham that’s cured in Smithfield, Virginia.Black Forest. This dry-cured and smoked ham originates in the Black woodland of Germany.Limerick ham. This acting ham originates in Ireland and also is boiled in a mixture the cider and also spices before being small in the oven.Gammon. This brother term defines a ham that’s lightly cured but must it is in cooked again before consumption.York ham. This salty and also firm dry-cured ham comes from white English pigs.Prosciutto. This Italian dry-cured ham is usually cut thin and served cold.Jamón. This dry-cured ham is developed in Spain and often served as tapas.Anfu ham. This kind uses one of the oldest recognized Chinese techniques of dry curing and smoking.Prague ham. A delicacy in the Czech Republic, this tender ham is wet cured, stewed, and smoked.

These arrays differ in nutritional value. This table depicts the nutrient in 2 ounces (57 grams) that various types of ham (17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24):


DeliChoppedCityCountryHoneySmithfieldProsciuttoJamónCaloriesCarbsProteinFatSugarSodium
6118088102114120122102
0.5 grams2.5 grams0 grams1 grams2.75 grams20 grams0 grams0 grams
9.5 grams7.5 grams11.5 grams14.25 grams10 grams23 grams14.25 grams16.25 grams
2.25 grams15 grams4 grams5 grams6.75 grams2.5 grams7 grams6 grams
0 grams0 grams0 grams0 grams2 grams0 grams0 grams
23% the the DV35% of the DV26% the the DV56% that the DV30% the the DV3% that the DV46% of the DV35% the the DV

As you deserve to see, chopped ham packs far an ext calories than most other types. The protein, fat, and sodium materials vary considerably — though Jamón has tendency to have actually the many protein, chopped ham the many fat, and country ham the most salt.

SUMMARY

Ham varies significantly in flavor and nutrients relying on the style and curing method.


Does ham have any health benefits?

Eating ham occasionally might offer several wellness benefits.

Rich in beneficial nutrients

Ham is well-off in protein, minerals, and also other nutrients that assistance optimal health. The many notable include:

May support weight loss

Regularly eating foods with a short calorie density may promote weight loss by helping you feel complete for longer. Calorie thickness is a measure of calories loved one to the load (in grams) or volume (in mL) of a given food (37).

It’s measure up on this range (38):

Low: 1.5 or belowMedium: 1.5–2.25High: 2.25 or more

Sliced ham clocks in in ~ 1.2, offering it a short calorie density. Thus, it might be a good protein to eat in moderation if she trying to shed weight.

Still, water-rich foods items with a low calorie density, such together fruits and also vegetables, make even far better choices for weight loss (39).

May assist maintain muscle mass

Since ham and other pork assets contain numerous amino acids, lock often thought about high quality protein sources. Consistently eating these proteins might play a an essential role in maintaining muscle mass and also strength, specifically among older adult (40).

Moreover, ham is a an excellent source that the molecule carnosine, i beg your pardon may enhance exercise performance (41, 42).

Nevertheless, part studies suggest that the association in between dietary protein intake and also muscle mass no as strong as initially thought (43).

Certain varieties may alleviate inflammation

Spanish-style Iberian ham, or Jamón Ibérico, originates from black Iberian pigs that eat a diet of grains and corn before grazing ~ above acorns, grass, and also herbs prior to slaughter.

Recent studies imply that this kind of ham doesn’t rise your risk of chronic conditions, such together high blood pressure and heart disease, contrasted with other varieties (44, 45, 46).

Several studies also indicate that several of its compounds exert antioxidant-like results that diminish the risk of inflammation and also endothelial harm connected with high blood press (47, 48, 49, 50, 51).

All the same, additional research is necessary.

SUMMARY

Ham is a short calorie protein that provides beneficial nutrients and also may help you maintain muscle mass.


People might avoid or border meats choose ham because that a variety of reasons, such together their high amounts of preservatives and also salt.

In addition, ham may have actually several drawbacks.

May rise your threat of cancer

Curing and also smoking — the primary cooking methods because that ham — result in greater concentrations of several well-known carcinogens, including polycyclic fragrant hydrocarbons (PAHs), N-nitroso compound (NOCs), and heterocyclic fragrant amines (HAAs) (5, 52, 53).

Levels of this compounds rise even more when ham is reheated utilizing high-temperature cooking methods like grilling, pan-frying, and also barbecuing (5, 52, 53).

Furthermore, nitrate- and also nitrite-based preservatives, which space sometimes added to ham to maintain its color, border bacterial growth, and prevent rancidity, may similarly cause cancer (54).

The International company for research on Cancer (IARC) holds the processed meats choose ham cause colorectal cancer and also possibly pancreatic and prostate cancers (5, 52, 53).

Very high in sodium

Processed meats like ham contribute significant amounts the salt to many people’s diets approximately the civilization (54, 55, 56, 57).

In fact, a 2-ounce (57-gram) offer of ham delivers practically 26% that the DV for salt (1).

High salt intake is connected to an increased risk of problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney failure. Consequently, human being who have actually these problems or are at risk of occurring them might want to limit their ham input (54, 55, 56).

Potential chronic condition risk

Although a link between processed meat and cancer risk is fine established, studies present mixed results regarding how ham affects your threat of other chronic diseases.

On one hand, Spanish-style Iberian ham may protect versus inflammation. Top top the other hand, large human studies display a higher mortality rate amongst those that eat handle red meat frequently — likely due to an boosted susceptibility to chronic condition (58).

One meta-analysis uncovered that eat 1.76 ounces (50 grams) of handle red meat per day not only raised one’s hazard of prostate and also colorectal cancers but additionally breast cancer, stroke, and death because of heart an illness (59).

Keep in mind the these studies aren’t details to ham, together they encompass other processed meats like roast beef, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs.

Plus, in these types of huge cohort studies, it can be complicated to isolate the straight effects of handle meat from various other lifestyle components that affect death and also chronic disease.

As such, much more research is needed.

May increase your danger of foodborne illness

Although outbreaks of food poisoning attached directly to ham have reduced in recent years, processed meats and sliced deli meat choose ham stay at a high danger of air pollution by Listeria, Staphylococcus, and also Toxoplasma gondii bacteria (60, 61, 62, 63).

Therefore, human being who have a high risk of contracting foodborne illness may want to prevent ham. These populations include young children, older adults, and also those who room immunocompromised or pregnant.

SUMMARY

Ham and also other processed meat are an extremely high in salt and associated with an raised risk of details cancers.


Although ham has several potential benefits, it might be best to eat it in moderation because of its downsides.

Multiple cancer organizations, consisting of the human being Cancer Research fund (WCRF) and American Cancer culture (ACS), advise human being to eat an extremely little, if any, handle meat (64, 65).

Since research web links processed meat come colorectal, stomach, pancreatic, and also prostate cancers, world with a family background of this cancers may especially wish to border or avoid ham.

Choosing much less processed types of ham may be one means to reduced its health and wellness risks.

The U.S. Department of farming (USDA) recommends eat 26 ounces (737 grams) that meat, poultry, and eggs every week — while limiting processed meats and also choosing native a variety of plant and animal protein (66).

Thus, ham can be one of numerous protein choices in a healthy and balanced diet. Bear in mind the a new ham usually includes less sodium and also fewer carcinogens than cured or handle ham, so look carefully at the label to recognize whether the fresh, lean, or short in salt.

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SUMMARY

Some cancer organizations suggest eating as little processed meat as feasible due come its wellness risks. All the same, if you desire to gain ham, eat the in moderation and choose species that room fresh, lean, and also low in sodium.