As one of the most polarizing foods on the planet, people tend to have a strong opinion when it comes to Spam.
While some love it for its distinct flavor and versatility, others dismiss it as an unappetizing mystery meat.
This article looks at the nutritional profile of Spam and determines whether it’s good for your health.
Spam is a canned cooked meat product made from ground pork and processed ham.
The meat mixture is combined with preservatives and flavoring agents, such as sugar, salt, potato starch and sodium nitrite, and then canned, closed and vacuum-sealed.
The product originally gained traction during World War II as a cheap and convenient food to feed soldiers overseas.
Today, Spam is sold around the world and has become a household ingredient favored for its versatility, ease of preparation, long shelf life and convenience.
Summary Spam is a popular canned meat product made with ground pork, ham and various flavoring agents and preservatives.
Spam is high in sodium, fat and calories.
It also provides a little protein and several micronutrients, such as zinc, potassium, iron and copper.
One two-ounce (56-gram) serving of Spam contains (1):
- Calories: 174
- Protein: 7 grams
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fat: 15 grams
- Sodium: 32% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Zinc: 7% of the RDI
- Potassium: 4% of the RDI
- Iron: 3% of the RDI
- Copper: 3% of the RDI
In addition to these nutrients, Spam provides small amounts of vitamin C, magnesium, folate and calcium.
Summary Spam is high in calories, fat and sodium but also contains some protein, zinc, potassium, iron and copper.
Processed meat is any type of meat that has been cured, canned, smoked or dried to increase its shelf life and enhance its taste and texture.
Spam is a type of processed meat, alongside, for example, hot dogs, bacon, salami, beef jerky and corned beef.
Eating processed meats has been associated with a long list of adverse health conditions.
In fact, one study in 448,568 adults showed that eating processed meat was linked to a higher risk of both diabetes and coronary heart disease (2).
Summary Spam is a type of processed meat, and thus eating it may be associated with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, COPD, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.
Spam contains sodium nitrite, a common food additive that is used to prevent the growth of bacteria and improve the flavor and appearance of the final product.
However, when exposed to high heat and in the presence of amino acids, nitrites can be converted into nitrosamine, a dangerous compound associated with a number of negative health effects.
For example, one review of 61 studies linked a high intake of nitrites and nitrosamine to a higher risk of stomach cancer (9).
Meanwhile, another large review tied nitrite intake to a higher risk of both thyroid cancer and brain tumor formation (10).
Other research has found that there may be a link between nitrite exposure and an increased risk of type 1 diabetes — though results have been mixed (11).
Summary Spam contains sodium nitrite, a food additive that may be associated with a higher risk of certain types of cancer and type 1 diabetes.
Some research shows that some people may be more sensitive to the effects of salt (12).
High salt intake may also impair the blood flow in salt-sensitive individuals, which can cause issues like bloating and swelling (15).
What’s more, a review of 10 studies in over 268,000 people associated a higher intake of sodium with a higher risk of stomach cancer over a period of 6–15 years (16).
Summary Spam is high in sodium, which may be an issue for people with a sensitivity to salt and for those with high blood pressure. High sodium intake may also be linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer.
Spam is very high in fat, with about 15 grams in a single two-ounce (56-gram) serving (1).
Fat is significantly higher in calories than protein or carbs, with each gram of fat containing about nine calories (17).
Compared to other sources of protein like meat, poultry, fish or legumes, Spam is significantly higher in fat and calories but offers little else in terms of nutrition.
Frequently indulging in high-fat foods like Spam without making adjustments to other parts of your diet could potentially increase your overall calorie intake and contribute to weight gain in the long run.
Summary Compared to other protein sources, Spam is high in fat and calories but low in protein. Frequently eating Spam without adjusting your diet and calorie intake could cause weight gain.
One of the biggest benefits of Spam is that it’s convenient and easy to prepare when running short on time or with limited ingredients available.
It’s also shelf-stable, which makes it simpler to stock up on compared to perishable protein foods like chicken or beef.
Because Spam is already cooked, it can be eaten straight from the can and requires minimal preparation prior to eating.
It’s also highly versatile and can be added to a wide variety of recipes.
Some of the most popular ways to enjoy Spam include adding it to sliders, sandwiches, pasta dishes and rice.
Summary Spam is convenient, shelf-stable, highly versatile and can be added to a variety of dishes.
Though Spam is convenient, easy to use and has a long shelf-life, it’s also very high in fat, calories and sodium and low in important nutrients, such as protein, vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, it’s highly processed and contains preservatives like sodium nitrite that may cause several adverse health effects.
Therefore, it’s best to minimize your intake of Spam.
Instead, opt for healthier protein foods like meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products and legumes as part of a nutritious and balanced diet.