Ham Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Ham, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Ham is the centerpiece of many holiday meals, but unfortunately, it's often high in sodium and other preservatives. If you're been watching your heart health, you may be wondering whether it's still OK to eat ham. By taking a few things into consideration, ham can be included as part of a balanced eating plan.

Ham Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 3 ounces of cured ham (84 grams).

  • Calories: 100
  • Fat: 4g
  • Sodium: 1050mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 1g
  • Protein: 14g

Carbs

Ham isn't usually high in carbohydrates. A 3 ounce serving of cured ham has 1 gram of carbohydrates coming from sugar, specifically, dextrose which is used as a preservative. Honey ham varieties are likely to be higher in sugar and as a result, carbohydrates.

Fats

Ham has about 4 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. Of the 4 grams of total fat, 1.4 grams are from saturated fats.

Protein

Ham is high in protein with 14 grams of per 3 ounce serving. Ham provides all of the essential amino acids.

Vitamins & Minerals

Most types of cured ham are high in sodium. The example above provides 44% of the daily limit for sodium in one 3 ounce serving.

Calories

One serving, roughly 3 ounces of cured ham, has about 100 calories.

Health Benefits

While processed meats tend to be high in sodium and should therefore be limited, there are some potential benefits to incorporating ham into your diet.

May Prevent High Blood Pressure

Previous studies have looked into the effects of incorporating ham — and specifically Spanish dry-cured ham — into your diet. A 2012 study found that ham, which is packed with peptides, also includes antioxidant and high blood pressure-preventing properties.

Improves Vascular Health

Regular consumption of Iberian cured ham has also been tied to improved endothelial function. As a 2017 study shows, adding this type of ham into your diet may improve vascular, or blood, health. The study monitored 102 adults over the course of six weeks and determined that a diet containing Iberian cured-ham improves endothelial function.

May Aid in Thyroid Function

Since has is rich in selenium (a mineral that helps regulate proper thyroid function), consuming this selenium-rich food could be beneficial to your overall health. A single serving of ham provides anywhere from 60% to 75% of your daily recommended selenium. Studies have found that consuming selenium helps prevent and slow the growth of thyroid disease.

Could Boost Satiety

As an an animal-based protein, a single serving of ham provides about 14 grams of protein. An essential part of your diet, protein is critical in the formation and repairing of cells. It also contributes to satiety, helping you feel full, and therefore can be a powerful weight loss tool. Diets high in dietary protein often help in weight loss by helping you feel fuller longer.

Helps Build & Maintain Muscle Mass

Along with weight loss and satiety benefits, another advantage of consuming protein is its contribution to building and maintaining muscle mass. Studies have shown that dietary protein boasts many muscle-related benefits and is critical in developing strength. By consuming healthy amounts of proteins (such as ham), you could potentially help in forming muscle.

Adverse Effects

While low in calories and high in protein, one serving of ham provides nearly 1050mg (roughly 43% of your daily recommended value). Too much sodium in your diet can contribute to heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

Varieties

Gammon is the hind leg of the pig. Ham is also from the hind leg of the pig, but gammon is sold raw, has been cured, and must be cooked before eating. Ham is sold cooked and ready to eat. Gammon nutrition is similar to ham nutrition. There are about 123 calories in a single serving of gammon, 5 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrate and 1023 milligrams of sodium.

Prosciutto is Italian ham that is dry-cured. Most people who enjoy prosciutto eat it very thinly sliced so you are likely to consume fewer calories with this ham variation. One slice of prosciutto only provides 18 calories.

Storage and Food Safety

Ham leftovers should be kept in the refrigerator. Usually, ham is good for 5-8 days. Ham can be frozen for up to four weeks.

How to Prepare

When you are buying a ham for the holidays, figure that each person will eat one-half pound or less. Then buy with the bone-in for a more flavorful taste or boneless for convenience and easier slicing.

To make the healthiest ham meal, try to pair the meat with foods that are lower in salt. They will help to balance out the high sodium content of the ham. Side dishes like baked sweet potatoes, artichokes, carrots, green beans or asparagus work well.

Having a ham sandwich? Choose a whole wheat bread that is lower in salt and high in fiber. Choosing another type of bread, such as a croissant, would provide less fiber and more calories from fat. To your healthier sandwich you can add crunchy low salt veggies to round out the meal. Sliced radishes or celery are perfect. You can also choose cucumber, cauliflower or cherry tomatoes.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ham. FoodData Central.

  2. Escudero E, Aristoy MC, Nishimura H, Arihara K, Toldrá F. Antihypertensive effect and antioxidant activity of peptide fractions extracted from Spanish dry-cured ham. Meat Sci. 2012;91(3):306-311. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2012.02.008

  3. Saban-Ruiz J, Fabregate-Fuente M, Fabregate-Fuente R, et al. Iberian cured-ham consumption improves endothelial function in healthy subjects. J Nutr Health Aging. 2017;21(10):1277-1283. doi:10.1007/s12603-016-0848-1

  4. Ventura M, Melo M, Carrilho F. Selenium and thyroid disease: from pathophysiology to treatment. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:1297658. doi:10.1155/2017/1297658

  5. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein - its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. Br J Nutr. 2012;108 Suppl 2:S105-112. doi:10.1017/S0007114512002589

  6. Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary protein and muscle mass: translating science to application and health benefit. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1136. doi:10.3390/nu11051136

By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.