Let’s talk about ham!

So the festive season has come to an end for another year and I am sure many of you out there will have eaten your fair share of ham! And if it is not something that popped up at Christmas time, then chances are you have come across it on a sandwich at some time.

Should I be eating ham? Is it a good option?

When you look at the deli section of the local supermarket it not uncommon to see a selection of hams, some shaved in front of you, others prepackaged in packets ready to take home.

Ham has been consumed by certain populations around the world for hundreds of years. Traditionally prepared by curing pork, advances in food processing over the years have meant a range of hams are available to consumers now with differing ingredients.

If you are someone who regularly chooses ham to eat it is important to remember the following:

  • Ham is considered a processed food; depending on the type of ham, additives and preservatives are usually added. These additives may contribute to adverse health effects Β depending on the amount of ham consumed and how often. A recent report by The IARC (International Agency for the Research on Cancer) suggested that for each 50g of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has put together some FAQs on the report.
  • Many hams contain more than just pork and salt; you can see in the following picture an example of a sliced ham product and that only 78% of the ham is actual pork, with the rest of the product made up of salt, stabilisers, modified maize starch etc.
    Let's talk about ham! - Ham
    Example of a packet of ham- purchased in Australia

    If you are someone who enjoys ham

  • consider having it occasionally (no more than twice a week). If you have it regularly on sandwiches for lunch try including more unprocessed meats such a chicken or beef
  • choose ham off the bone (cut off the actual bone) to try and reduce as many unwanted additives to the product.
  • always opt for lower salt products where possible
  • make it ham or bacon- if you are have had bacon during the week, choose not to have ham in the same week.
  • If you have ham on a sandwich, add a large variety of salad/vegetables. Many people in Australia and other western societies enjoy ham with simple additions on a sandwich such as ham and cheese, or ham, cheese and tomato. Try something new such as baby spinach, cucumber, carrot, onion, tomato etc

Remember that there is more to food than just the kilojoule content; ham is sometimes recommended as a food to eat often if you are watching your weight/looking to lose weight as you can get low fat varieties and small portions can be low in kilojoules. But food is more than kilojoules and you need to consider all the ingredients in a food, how they may affect your health and why you are choosing the foods you do (do you like the food? habit? convenience? etc).

Remember that most foods can fit into the context of a healthy diet, however it will depend on when, how much and how often you eat the food as to whether it is considered healthy for you.

If you are looking at receiving personalising nutrition and food recommendations just for you, consider an appointment with one of our dietitians to help any changes you make to your eating habits last.

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