Is Ham Healthy? The Truth May Surprise You…

Ham is a dietary staple that many people enjoy year-round, however; nutritionists are advising people to rethink their ham consumption. So before you rush out to the store to buy your Christmas ham, take a hard look at the following facts.

Ham Nutrition

Most ham in the United States is cured, which means salt, nitrites, sugar, seasonings, phosphates, and other compounds are added into the ham to help preserve the meat. While this process reduces bacterial growth and enhances the pork’s flavor, it also changes the nutritional content of the meat and causes ham to be classified as processed meat. Though ham has a few standout nutrients, such as selenium and thiamin, the ultimate reason ham isn’t good for your health is because of its classification as both red and processed meat.

Health Risks Associated with Consuming Ham

1.) Ham may Increase Your Risk of Cancer

Processed meats like ham are classified by the International Agency for Cancer Research as carcinogenic to humans. This means there is sufficient evidence to indicate ham causes colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.

One reason researchers believe ham can increase your risk of cancer is due to the smoking process and cooking it at high temperatures, which can increase DNA-harming substances. Another reason many experts reason ham increases your likelihood of cancer is due to the nitrites and nitrates that are artificially added into the meat during the curing process.

2.) Ham may Boost Your Risk of Heart Disease

Various research studies have found that eating red meat, especially processed red meat like ham, can substantially increase your risk of heart disease. In fact, studies from BMJ and the Journal of the American Heart Association have found that those who eat red meat have a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.

One potential explanation for this is that red meat contains saturated fats, which can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Another reason red meat can lead to heart disease is it may increase trimethylamine N-oxide levels in your blood. For example, according to the National Institute of Health, those who eat red meat appear to have triple the amount of trimethylamine N-oxide in their blood compared to people who stick to white meat or consume no meat.

Lastly, one serving of ham contains almost half the daily recommended intake of sodium. As I am sure most of us are aware, a high sodium diet has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

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3.) Ham may Raise Your Risk of Chronic Illness

Aside from cancer and heart disease, higher consumption of processed red meat has been found to lead to Type 2 Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, and Dementia. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that a 2021 study published in Nutrition found that the less money spent on processed red meat in a county, the greater the average life expectancy in that county.

4.) Ham Takes a Toll on the Environment

Ham along with other red meats are some of the most environmentally damaging foods. According to the United Nations, raising livestock contributes to 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Raising livestock also requires a lot of water and land, which means deforestation.

While this may not seem directly related to your health, environmental health and public health are closely linked. In fact, according to the CDC, environmental degradation increases the spread of infectious diseases, water-borne illnesses, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Put plainly, cutting back on your ham consumption can not only help the climate but also enhance your long-term health and wellness.

In the End

While ham possesses certain health threats, the truth of the matter is no single food can make or break your health. How often you consume a food is a more important factor when it comes to a healthy diet. So while it may not be wise to eat ham as much as you used to, you can still enjoy it, especially if you pair it with fruits and vegetables.

Sources:

Health

Cynthia Sass

December 21, 2021

 

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