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Ham vs Pork - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian by Jack Yacoubian | Last updated on October 14, 2021
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Ham
vs
Pork

Summary

First of all, ham is just a type of pork. Specific cut from thighs of the pig that is also cured. This is the fundamental difference point between them. So comparing pork and ham is the same as comparing different cuts of pork, In this article, we compared “Pork, cured, ham, boneless, extra lean (approximately 5% fat), roasted” with “Pork, fresh, loin, whole, separable lean and fat, cooked, broiled”. 

The results are following.

Pork meat is richer in most vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. It is cheaper, associated with higher health downsides than benefits. On the other hand, ham is a pork meat derivative, lower in proteins and fats, specifically cholesterol, trans fat, and saturated fats, but higher in sodium.

Introduction

Since the 2nd century BC, ham has been a staple of the human diet. There is some disagreement over the origins of ham; some believe that the Chinese were the first to process it, while others claim that the Gaul, the culture that existed in France at the time, brought cured ham.

Pork meat is one of the most commonly used meats around the world. Even ham is made from pork meat. However, further processing is done to cure it. Pork meat has been consumed since 5000 BC. Pork meat is mostly consumed in central Europe, Asia mostly China.

What are the actual differences?

Their difference is based on many variables like taste and flavor, shelf life, price and availability and religion, and culinary world usage.

Taste and flavor

Ham is a processed form of pork meat that can be readily eaten raw (although it is not raw because it is cured and smoked) or cooked in different types of food. Mostly it is eaten as part of a charcuterie board. Ham is cured and smoked, which gives a smokey, rich flavor to it. On the other hand, pork meat cannot be eaten raw. It has a rich flavor which has a fatty profile as compared to other types of meat.

Shelf life

Ham has a longer shelf life due to its processing. It is usually cured and salted, so it has a longer shelf life. Aged and smoked ham with a salted surface can remain even in unrefrigerated conditions for weeks. However, pork meat has to be refrigerated, and unless frozen, it cannot stay for more than 2-3 days.

Price

Pork meat is cheaper than ham since ham is actually pork meat and undergoes processing. Sometimes ham is processed in ways that it becomes one of the highlights of a charcuterie board, and those are even more expensive than the average ham.

Availability and religion

Pork consumption is forbidden in certain religions; thus, ham and/or pork meat are not available in some regions or countries. Or they are available, but they are very expensive.

Usage in the culinary world

Cured ham is often served cold; it is processed meat. They are primarily used as pizza toppings, as well as in the famous Croque Monsieur and Cubano. When they are included in sandwiches, they are usually a couple of slices, which are even less than the suggested moderate quantity, so do not pose any health risks. In Europe, ham is eaten alongside cold cuts as part of the Christmas meal. It's also a nice addition to a charcuterie platter that pairs well with a dry red wine.

Pork meat is one of the most common types of meat around the world. They are part of Asian, mostly Chinese, and central European cuisines. Pork meat is not eaten raw, and it is usually cooked, grilled, and even made into stews. Also, pork meat is the main food that ham is made from. In addition, pork meat can be made into further processing to produce hot dogs and canned, processed meats. A highlight for pork meat is bacon, and bacon is derived from pork meat.

Nutritional data comparison

This section will cover the difference in nutritional content between ham and pork. The ham taken into consideration is lean and cured. Whereas the pork taken into consideration is cooked pork loin. 100g of each are taken into consideration unless said otherwise.

Glycemic index

Ham and pork have a glycemic index that is equal to 0.

Calories

Pork meat has higher calories than ham. Pork meat is higher by 100 calories for the same amount of ham.

Carbs

Pork meat contains 0g of carbs, whereas ham contains 1.5g of carbs per 100g. However, this amount is negligible.

Fats

Pork meat contains higher amounts of fats compared to ham. It is important to discuss the different contents of fat in both these foods. These will be discussed in detail in the following paragraphs.

Saturated fats

Pork contains almost three times more saturated fats compared to ham. The saturated fat in 100g of pork covers nearly 25% of the maximal daily allowed saturated fat intake. This is a value to be taken into consideration.

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and these will be discussed further.

Monounsaturated fats are higher in pork meat compared to ham. Pork meat is almost richer in monounsaturated fats by 2.5 times compared to ham.

Polyunsaturated fats are twice as high in pork meat compared to ham.

Cholesterol and trans fats

Both foods contain cholesterol below 100 mg. Pork meat has a slightly higher cholesterol content compared to ham. The trans fat content of both these foods is to be considered, specifically in pork meat which is higher than that of ham.

Protein

Both these foods are rich in proteins, but it is important to note that pork meat is richer in proteins compared to ham. Pork meat contains 1.5 times more protein than ham.

Vitamins

Pork meat is richer in all vitamins compared to ham. Pork meat is richer in B complex vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12. Pork meat is also richer in Vitamin D.

Although it is important to mention that ham is not poor in vitamins, it has a richer B complex profile. However, relatively pork meat is richer.

This chart will help you visualize the vitamin content comparison

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Ham
0
:
11
Pork
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +16%
Contains more Vitamin D +62.5%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +16.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +58.9%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +25.2%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +73.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +16%
Contains more Folate +66.7%
Equal in Vitamin B12 - 0.7
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 5% 24% 0% 189% 47% 76% 25% 93% 3% 82% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 6% 39% 2% 220% 75% 95% 42% 108% 4% 88% 0%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +16%
Contains more Vitamin D +62.5%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +16.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +58.9%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +25.2%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +73.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +16%
Contains more Folate +66.7%
Equal in Vitamin B12 - 0.7

Minerals

Ham is richer in zinc and iron, and it is higher in sodium which is discussed in detail in the following paragraph. On the other hand, pork meat is richer in phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. It is also important to mention that pork meat is very low in sodium.

Sodium

The sodium content is important when it comes to cured and processed foods. Ham is high in sodium and relatively much higher than pork meat. The amount of sodium surpasses 157% of the maximal daily allowance; however, this is the consumption of 300g of ham.

This chart will help you visualize the mineral content comparison

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Ham
3
:
5
Pork
Contains more Iron +70.1%
Contains more Zinc +20.5%
Contains more Calcium +137.5%
Contains more Magnesium +100%
Contains more Phosphorus +25.5%
Contains more Potassium +47.4%
Contains less Sodium -94.8%
Equal in Copper - 0.073
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 3% 56% 10% 85% 26% 157% 79% 27%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 6% 33% 20% 106% 38% 9% 66% 25%
Contains more Iron +70.1%
Contains more Zinc +20.5%
Contains more Calcium +137.5%
Contains more Magnesium +100%
Contains more Phosphorus +25.5%
Contains more Potassium +47.4%
Contains less Sodium -94.8%
Equal in Copper - 0.073

Weight loss and diets

Although there is a distinction, pork meat and ham are low in carbohydrates, high in protein, and have excellent vitamin and mineral profiles. Pork meat, for example, has a higher protein level and a higher fat and cholesterol content. When taken in moderation, they are a rich source of protein. Both should be consumed in moderation, owing to the salt in ham and the cholesterol in pork meat.

Keto

Pork meat and ham are both keto-friendly proteins. Their glycemic index is zero, and their carbohydrate content is insignificant. They are one of the most highly suggested protein options for the keto diet.

Vegan

Pork meat and ham are animal source proteins that are not included in a vegan diet.

Bodybuilding

Ham and pork meat can be part of a bodybuilder's diet. They are rich in proteins, and they have a good amount of L-carnitine, which helps in fat mobilization and metabolism. However, it is important to select lean pork cuts for this purpose. In addition to that, pork meat and, in turn, ham contains certain amounts of creatine. Although these amounts are not similar to creatine supplementation, they provide advantages in muscle gaining, increasing endurance, and increasing strength in bodybuilding.

Health impacts

Cardiovascular health

Consumption of pork meat, which is considered red meat, is associated with increased risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, coronary vessel atherosclerosis, and stroke development. In turn, increasing mortality due to cardiovascular diseases. (1)

When it comes to ham, there is no link between moderate consumption of cured ham and the development of cardiovascular disease, although ham is considered red meat. However, one essential element of ham is salt concentration, which must be considered. Prolonged exposure to excessive quantities of salt can be harmful to one's general health. Furthermore, if the individual is hypertensive, the ham should be avoided or consumed in moderation while checking salt consumption. (2)

Diabetes and obesity

Pork meat consumption and the development of diabetes are positively associated. However, this is in the case of high amounts of red meat consumption. It is always advised to reduce the amount of red meat consumption. (1)

When compared to fresh meat, processed meat contains more salt and nitrates. All of them contribute to diabetes and obesity. However, if used in moderation and little quantities, they should not pose a health risk to healthy people. (3)

Cancer

Consumption of ham, which is high in sodium and nitrates, is positively associated with increased risks of gastric cancer. (4)(5)

Pork meat which is relatively higher in monounsaturated fats, is associated with decreased risks of developing endometrial cancer. (6)

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23001745/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19811792/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23858089/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20099187/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22855553/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27399120/
Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: October 14, 2021

Infographic

Ham vs Pork infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Ham Pork
Lower in Sodium ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Ham Pork Opinion
Net carbs 1.5g 0g Ham
Protein 20.93g 27.32g Pork
Fats 5.53g 13.92g Pork
Carbs 1.5g 0g Ham
Calories 145kcal 242kcal Pork
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 0g 0g
Fiber 0g 0g
Calcium 8mg 19mg Pork
Iron 1.48mg 0.87mg Ham
Magnesium 14mg 28mg Pork
Phosphorus 196mg 246mg Pork
Potassium 287mg 423mg Pork
Sodium 1203mg 62mg Pork
Zinc 2.88mg 2.39mg Ham
Copper 0.079mg 0.073mg Ham
Vitamin A 0IU 7IU Pork
Vitamin E 0.25mg 0.29mg Pork
Vitamin D 32IU 53IU Pork
Vitamin D 0.8µg 1.3µg Pork
Vitamin C 0mg 0.6mg Pork
Vitamin B1 0.754mg 0.877mg Pork
Vitamin B2 0.202mg 0.321mg Pork
Vitamin B3 4.023mg 5.037mg Pork
Vitamin B5 0.403mg 0.698mg Pork
Vitamin B6 0.4mg 0.464mg Pork
Folate 3µg 5µg Pork
Vitamin B12 0.65µg 0.7µg Pork
Vitamin K 0µg 0µg
Tryptophan 0.251mg 0.338mg Pork
Threonine 0.931mg 1.234mg Pork
Isoleucine 0.918mg 1.26mg Pork
Leucine 1.661mg 2.177mg Pork
Lysine 1.775mg 2.446mg Pork
Methionine 0.553mg 0.712mg Pork
Phenylalanine 0.904mg 1.086mg Pork
Valine 0.908mg 1.473mg Pork
Histidine 0.75mg 1.067mg Pork
Cholesterol 53mg 80mg Ham
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 1.81g 5.23g Ham
Monounsaturated Fat 2.62g 6.19g Pork
Polyunsaturated fat 0.54g 1.2g Pork

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Ham Pork
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet Equal

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
45
Ham
56
Pork
Mineral Summary Score
55
Ham
37
Pork

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
126%
Ham
164%
Pork
Carbohydrates
2%
Ham
0%
Pork
Fats
26%
Ham
64%
Pork

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Pork
Pork contains less Sodium (difference - 1141mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Pork
Pork is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Ham
Ham is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 27mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Ham
Ham is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 3.42g)
Which food is cheaper?
Ham
Ham is cheaper (difference - $0.3)
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar (0 g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Ham - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167871/nutrients
  2. Pork - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167820/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.