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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Healthy Eating arrow Is Spam Healthy? Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

Is Spam Healthy? Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
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Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: June 13, 2023
8 min read 1120 Views 0 Comments
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The great Spam debate: our team is decoding its impact on your health

is spam healthy

Spam is a popular meat product that many people enjoy. You can eat it straight from the can, add it to sandwiches, fry it for dinner, and include it in various recipes. While some people are happy to keep it a regular food in their diet, others quickly dismiss Spam as junk food.

With a growing consciousness of health and nutrition, it’s important that people are aware of what they eat. Sit back as we guide you through the nutritional facts of Spam to determine if it’s healthy.

Is Spam Healthy? Unraveling the Truth

No, the original Spam canned meat is not healthy. It is a processed meat product, high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. A diet with frequent intake of these properties has negative effects on health. It’s better to keep your Spam consumption to a minimum.

Additionally, Spam contains unhealthy and potentially harmful preservatives, like sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is a preservative used in cured and processed meats, such as bacon, ham, and hot dogs. While it helps retain freshness, too much sodium nitrite can be harmful.

Nitrites are thought to contain cancer-causing substances. Their consumption is linked to an increased risk of cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

There are now 10 varieties of Spam with different flavors and ingredients. Spam Lite might be a healthier alternative to the traditional kind, as it promises fewer calories, less sodium, and half the fat content. Still, Spam is not a healthy food in any way.

What Is Spam?

Spam is the brand name for a canned meat product manufactured by Hormel Foods Corporation. It is a highly-processed food made from ground pork, ham, and a few other ingredients. Spam first hit the shelves in 1937 and gained popularity during and after World War II.

Spam receives mixed reviews. Some people love eating Spam because of its unique flavor. It’s salty, slightly spicy, and similar in texture to bologna. On the other hand, lots of people consider Spam an unappetizing processed meat containing unknown and unhealthy ingredients.

How Is Spam Made?

Confusion often arises when discussing Spam, as people often think of Spam as some kind of mystery meat and are unsure of what is in it. However, Hormel Foods uses a clear recipe to make this product. Surprisingly for many, the recipe has only 6 ingredients.

Spam is made by combining the meat mixture of pork shoulder and ham with the other ingredients, which we’ll get to in a moment. After mixing for 20 minutes and reaching the desired temperature, the mixture is filled into cans. These cans are then vacuum sealed.

The sealed cans of Spam are then cooked and cooled for 3 hours. The final step is to apply the nutritional labels, ready for sale. It’s a fairly simple process that the manufacturing company has mastered over the years, making Spam the product it is today.

What Ingredients Does Spam Contain?

The classic Spam has a simple set of ingredients and follows a conventional process. According to their official website, these are pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.

The pork with ham ingredient refers to a combination of ground pork shoulder with added ham. Potato starch is the starch extracted from mashed potatoes.

3 Benefits of Spam

People like Spam for a reason. Despite the controversy surrounding the consumption of preserved meat, Spam does offer some good qualities. Aside from the taste, these qualities lead people to buy these products again and again.

Here are 3 benefits of eating Spam.

#1 Versatile and easy to prepare

Spam comes already cooked. Open the can, and you’re ready to go!

Some people eat Spam straight out of the can, but there are several ways to serve it. You can slice it and add it to sandwiches and Cobb salads, or get creative with dishes like BBQ glazed Spam burgers.

#2 Long shelf life

The convenient thing about Spam is that you can easily store it without missing the expiration date. The sodium and preservatives give it a long shelf life. The “best by” date is usually a few years later, and you can be sure it won’t spoil or lose its freshness in the meantime.

#3 Contains some nutrients

Spam is not entirely void of essential nutrients. It has very small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including 2% of the daily iron recommendation. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to all body parts.

2 Downsides of Spam

Spam contains ingredients that are less than ideal for a healthy diet. The way that it is made also makes this product bad for you. If you still need to figure out where you stand on Spam, consider the following concerns before making it a part of your meals.

#1 Highly processed product

Spam is a type of processed meat. Unlike whole foods, which are minimally processed and full of natural vitamins and minerals, Spam has undergone certain manufacturing processes. Processed meat consumption can contribute to obesity, higher BMI, and increased cancer risk.

Eating processed foods, in general, can cause you to unknowingly consume large quantities of sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. They also tend to be higher in calories due to added ingredients that preserve their shelf life. It’s better to limit these kinds of foods in your diet.

#2 May cause weight gain

Consuming this canned food regularly without altering your diet and calorie intake can lead to unwanted weight gain. Spam contains a fair few calories per serving. When you eat too many calories, the body stores the excess fat. So, you might find yourself putting on a few pounds.

Nutrition Facts of Spam

Looking at the nutritional elements of Spam helps you determine if it is suitable for your current diet. Keep reading as we detail the nutrition facts and what these factors mean for your health.

Nutritional value per 100g

Here is the nutritional value of 100g of classic Spam.

Spam
Meat
Is SPAM keto
Lazy Keto
Key nutritional facts (per 100g):
Net carbs
4.6g
Total carbs
4.6g
Fats
26.6g
Protein
13.4g
Calories
315
Glycemic Index
1
Fiber
Sugars

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1927473/nutrients 

Moderate amount of calories

Spam has a moderate amount of calories. It’s best to avoid eating Spam if you are following a low-calorie diet to lose noticeable weight. Instead of this canned food, eat more fresh meat products like lean beef, pork tenderloin, and turkey breast as they have fewer calories and higher nutritional value.

Moderate amount of proteins

Protein is essential for weight maintenance, muscle building, and cellular repair. Spam can be a quick source of protein, but it does not have the same high protein content as other meat products. In addition, it is not the same high-quality protein found in lean meats.

High in saturated fats

Spam is higher in saturated fats than fresh meat products. 100g contains 10.7g of saturated fat. Unfortunately, this is the type of fat that can increase your risk of heart disease. Try to limit your intake and opt for a lower-fat substitute if you want to eat processed meat.

Low in carbs

Low-carb foods are ideal for diets like keto, where you push the body into burning stubborn fat. However, Spam is a lazy keto food because it contains harmful ingredients like sodium nitrite. Feel free to eat it on a low-carb diet, but remember that it is an unhealthy processed meat.

High in sodium

We don’t recommend eating Spam on a daily basis, and you should keep your intake as low as possible. It’s high in sodium, and it’s easy to overeat.

The daily recommended limit for sodium consumption is 2,300mg. One can of Spam, 57g per serving, will make up a third of your daily recommended amount.

Pork Roll vs. Spam

Below, we compare Spam with Pork Roll.

ProductPork RollSpam
OriginTrenton, New JerseyAustin, Minnesota 
DescriptionProcessed meat product made from porkProcessed meat product made from pork and ham
Calories (per 100g)312321
Net carbs (per 100g)1.561.79
Fiber (per 100g)00
Sugar (per 100g)00
Sodium (per 100g)1,020mg1,410mg
Total fats (per 100g)28.128.6
Protein (per 100g)15.612.5
Cholesterol (per 100g)62mg71mg

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/407937/nutrients 

Spam Tacos Recipe

You can include Spam in many dishes, from Spam musubi to Spam fried rice. If you’re going to eat this processed meat, it’s a good idea to create meal options that include healthy, fresh ingredients. That way, you can enjoy Spam as part of a more balanced meal.

Here is a healthy recipe for Spam tacos you can try at home.

Ingredients

For Spam:

  • 200g can of Spam, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 100g low-fat sour cream
  • 20g fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to season

To assemble:

  • 6 wholemeal tortillas
  • 2 avocados, smashed
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to season

Directions

  1. Start by making the cilantro and lemon sauce. In a food processor, combine all sauce ingredients until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, mash the avocados with a fork and add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Spam cubes and cook until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Heat the tortillas in the microwave according to the package directions. Lay them flat and top with the avocado mixture and cooked Spam. Feel free to add other fresh ingredients, such as spinach or lettuce leaves. Drizzle with lemon sauce and serve!

To learn more about healthy recipes, you can use nutrition apps to assist you with recipe variety. These apps make excellent tools for tracking your caloric and macronutrient intake.

FAQs

What meat is Spam?

Spam is a canned pork product made from pork shoulder and ham. The meat is combined with preservatives and flavorings, including salt, sugar, potato starch, and sodium nitrite.

Can you eat Spam raw?

You cannot buy raw Spam. It is a precooked meat product that is ready to eat straight from the container. However, many people prefer to recook Spam and serve it hot to improve the flavor and texture. Cooked Spam has a seasoned ham flavor.

Is Spam considered ham?

You might consider Spam as ham because it contains pork ham. However, it differs from regular ham because it is a brand with a unique recipe. It also has less protein than ham but more fat and calories.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Spam is a versatile, processed meat with a ton of flavor. It has small amounts of nutrients like protein and iron to support your health. However, processed foods like Spam, bacon, sausages, and pastrami are linked to adverse health conditions when eaten in excess.

Like other processed food products, Spam is suitable to eat in moderation. Try pairing it with whole foods to ensure you get enough nutrients from your meals. Brown rice, stir-fried vegetables, and eggs are vitamin-packed sources to fuel your body with good nutrition.

If you want to cut back on how much Spam you eat, replace this processed meat with lean cuts of meat. Skinless chicken and turkey are lower in fat and full of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Beef and pork loin medallions are red meats that can form a balanced diet.

Conclusion

Although Spam is a convenient luncheon meat, it has several adverse health effects and is not recommended for a healthy diet.

If you’re a meat lover, there are healthier alternatives that don’t rely on heavy processing. You can fill your diet with lean protein sources like steak, ground pork, and poultry.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: June 13, 2023
8 min read 1120 Views 0 Comments
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