Holiday traditions and yummy foods go together like apple and pie. For many, ham is a traditional part of the celebration. But how healthy is that holiday ham? Get the ham health facts you need to make informed decisions about what to serve over the holidays.
Processed Meat Additives
Sodium nitrate is a preservative used in many processed meat products. When we consume nitrates, they interact with other compounds in the body to create substances with the potential to cause cancers, particularly those of the colon and liver . Learn more in 5 Facts About Nitrates. In addition, research suggests that consuming processed meats increases the risk for a range of health problems, including coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes .
Ham contains high amounts of sodium, especially when compared to other meats—a three-ounce serving offers about 42% of daily intake. Too much sodium boosts the risk for high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke. Nine out of ten Americans consume excess sodium , so even if you’re careful about your intake, consider that some holiday dinner guests may not be as mindful of its risks.
Fat and Cholesterol
One of the ham health facts to understand is that this meat is high in fat. One three-ounce serving of cured, roasted ham offers about 22% of total fat intake and 25% of saturated fat intake. Ham’s also high in cholesterol, with one serving delivering over 40% of your daily intake. (Need heart-healthy food ideas? Try The Top 10 Foods for Cleaning Your Arteries.)
Like other meats, ham offers plenty of protein—about 19 grams in each three-ounce serving. Ham is a good source for several nutrients, including thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin. It also delivers B vitamins essential for the skin, hair, eyes, and liver. Ham contains potassium as well, which is an important nutrient for heart health.
Healthier Alternatives to Traditional Ham
If ham is a holiday tradition in your home but you have concerns about ham health facts, consider switching to a nitrate-free, preservative-free brand. Or you can mix up the holiday menu this year by serving another main course. Try one of these healthy holiday recipes:
Discover more tasty ideas for your holiday table—check out these side dishes, entrées, and desserts at SkinnyMs. Holiday Recipes.
Do you have a favorite ? We’d love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments section below.
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 PLOS Medicine