Is ham healthy? Ham refers to preserved meat from the upper part of the leg of a pig. You can find it wet or dry cured, smoked or unsmoked. Because pigs are so popular in so many parts of the world, many different regions have their own traditional way of making ham. Whether ham is healthy or not depends on what ingredients they use to preserve it and how often a person indulges in ham. In general, ham has a fair amount of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Some hams are preserved with nitrates or nitrites, which may also be problematic.

Smoked ham on a table

Benefits of Ham

There are benefits to the ingredients that go into curing and preserving ham. Sodium is an electrolyte that works with potassium to balance the pH in the blood and regulate the balance of water in and around the cells. The two elements are also responsible for muscle contraction and expansion and the stimulation of nerves. Sodium also keeps other minerals in the blood soluble. This prevents them from forming deposits in the bloodstream. Sodium rids the bloodstream of carbon dioxide, helps in digestion and is necessary for the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

  • Cholesterol is necessary for health because it builds cell membranes, helps the body synthesize hormones, vitamin D, and bile. Bile is a liquid that the body needs to digest fats.
  • Fat is a very efficient source of energy for the body. It also carries the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It helps the body absorb vitamin D, which helps make calcium available to the bones, teeth and other tissues. Deposits of fat surround and protect organs, insulate the body, slow down digestion and make a person feel satiated after a meal.
  • Sugar is a quick source of energy that is easily digestible by the body, and brown sugar has a slightly higher nutritional value than white sugar. This is because molasses does have some potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6.
  • Ham itself contains nutrients. One cup of ham has 29 grams of protein, 402 milligrams of potassium and provides 1 percent of the daily value of calcium; 11 percent DV of vitamin D; 14 percent DV of vitamin B; 11 percent DV of iron; 30 percent DV of vitamin B6 and 5 percent DV of magnesium. This helps answer the question “Is ham healthy?”

Dangers of Ham

1. Sodium

Sodium in ham comes in the form of sodium chloride, or table salt. Other compounds of sodium are sodium lactate, sodium diacetate, and sodium erythorbate.

Most people already eat far too much sodium, and eating ham regularly adds to the burden. Nearly all types of ham get a curing with salt, and in some types of ham salt is the only ingredient they add to the meat. Too much sodium causes the body to excrete potassium in the urine, which leads to abnormal fluid retention, dizziness, and swelling of the face and legs. Furthermore, a diet high in salt can also contribute to high blood pressure.

2. Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a lipid, a substance related to fat. The human body already makes the cholesterol it needs, and the cholesterol derived from meat such as ham is superfluous. There are a few types of cholesterol, but the two most people focus on are HDL and LDL. LDL is the type of cholesterol that builds plaque in the arteries and contributes to cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, HDL is cholesterol that takes the LDL from the blood vessels and delivers it to the liver, where it is processed.

3. Saturated Fat

Saturated fats are those fats that are usually solid at room temperature, such as lard. They most likely come from animal foods. Ham has about 35 percent saturated fat. Some health experts believe that overconsumption of saturated fats can put a person at risk for such conditions as heart disease and certain types of cancers such as colorectal and reproductive cancers. Moreover, saturated fats disturb the balance between HDL and LDL cholesterol and may cause bones to become less dense.

4. Sugars

Several types of sugars can be used to cure ham, including white sugar, dextrose, and brown sugar, which is white sugar that gets its color from molasses. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate but has no vitamins, minerals or proteins. Consequently, too much sugar causes an imbalance in the relationship between calcium and phosphorus and can lead to overweight, diabetes, arthritis and even hypoglycemia.


A person who wants the answer to “Is ham healthy?” should look them up on the internet or in the library. The types of ham that you can find and the way they are made are fascinating. Some pigs, for example, only eat peanuts or acorns, some hams get a cure with molasses, while some producers of ham encourage a mold to grow on the rind. Lastly, people who have inside knowledge of ham, such as people who actually make it, shouldn’t hesitate to leave their thoughts here.

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