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Ham vs. Turkey meat — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian by Jack Yacoubian | Last updated on July 01, 2023
Medically reviewed by Ani Harutyunyan Article author photo Ani Harutyunyan
Ham
vs
Turkey meat

Summary

Turkey meat is fresh meat, richer in vitamins, protein, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium. It is also higher in fat and cholesterol. In comparison, ham is richer in zinc, potassium, and iron. Ham has a high sodium content. Overall, turkey meat is a better alternative than ham.

Introduction

This article examines the differences between turkey meat and ham regarding general aspects, nutritional profile, and health impact.

Turkey meat is the world's second most popular poultry meat, and it is a cost-effective source of high-quality protein for human use. If you are interested in how turkey is different from the first popular poultry meat - chicken, visit here. Turkey meat was consumed in Central America in the 15th century. As Europeans started colonizing these lands, they took Turkey back to Europe. Turkey meat became part of European cuisine in the 16th century. As traditions progressed, turkey meat was an essential part of one of the most famous American holidays, Thanksgiving. As families gather together during Thanksgiving, the turkey is the center of all attention. Similar to Thanksgiving, during the Victorian era in Britain, turkey meat was served during Christmas dinner. This shows how important and prestigious turkey meat has been considered since the 15th century.

Ham has been part of the human diet since the 2nd century BC. There is a debate on the origin of ham; some claim that the Chinese were the first to process it, and some claim that the Gauls, which is the civilization that lived in France during those times, introduced cured ham. Similar to turkey meat, ham is also served during the Christmas holidays in Europe. 

General Aspects

Culinary World

Turkey meat is fresh white meat, usually oven-roasted with different herbs and spices. It is usually associated with cranberry sauce and some pies. However, another way turkey meat can be served is cold cuts. Turkey cold cuts can be eaten with fancy dry wine accompanied by a meat and cheese selection board. Smoked turkey breast cuts with wine are preferable. Turkey cold cuts can also be part of a healthy salad or a healthy sandwich.

Cured ham is mostly served as cold cuts; it is processed meat. They are mainly used as pizza toppings, the famous Croque Monsieur, and the Cubano. When they are part of sandwiches, they are mostly a couple of slices, even below the recommended moderate amounts. Thus, they do not cause any health problems. In addition to cold cuts, ham is served as a Christmas dinner in Europe. It is also part of a good charcuterie board that goes well with a dry red wine.

Shelf Life

Ham was part of the human diet in the 2nd century BC because it is cured, salted, and even smoked. A salted and cured pork leg becomes ham, and it can even stay unrefrigerated if kept in proper conditions. These conditions are humidity and direct sunlight, which prevents it from rotting and spoiling. Turkey meat, on the other hand, needs refrigeration and has a shorter shelf life.

Religious Aspect

In some religions, like the Jewish and Islamic religions, pork meat is forbidden and thus cannot be consumed. This affects many aspects of ham. For example, in the Arab world, it is hard to find ham, and if it is available, it is usually more expensive.

Price

Turkey meat is cheaper compared to ham. Ham, more often than usual, is considered a delicate cold cut. However, cheap cuts are also available in the market. As the quality of pork and the smokiness increase, it becomes more expensive if the ham is boneless.

Nutritional Data Comparison

In this comparative section, we will compare roasted turkey meat with skin with roasted and cured lean pork ham, which is approximately 5% fat. Data for 100g servings of each food are provided here. 

Macronutrients

While looking at the macronutrient comparison chart, it is clear that ham is slightly richer in water, while turkey meat is higher in protein and fats. Read more detailed information in the corresponding sections. 

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Carbs +2400%
Contains more Other +810.4%
Contains more Protein +36.4%
Contains more Fats +33.6%
Equal in Water - 63.52
21% 6% 68% 4%
Protein: 20.93 g
Fats: 5.53 g
Carbs: 1.5 g
Water: 67.67 g
Other: 4.37 g
29% 7% 64%
Protein: 28.55 g
Fats: 7.39 g
Carbs: 0.06 g
Water: 63.52 g
Other: 0.48 g
Contains more Carbs +2400%
Contains more Other +810.4%
Contains more Protein +36.4%
Contains more Fats +33.6%
Equal in Water - 63.52

Proteins

Turkey meat is richer in protein by nearly 1.5 times compared to ham. Turkey meat contains 28g of protein, whereas ham contains 20g.

When we dissect the protein profile of both turkey meat and ham, we find that they are rich in all the essential amino acids that we require daily to be consumed from the diet.

Fats

Turkey meat has a higher fat content compared to ham. Turkey meat contains 7.5g of fat, whereas ham contains 5.5g.

However, both are below the 10% required daily value threshold. They are mostly made of unsaturated fats. Turkey meat is mostly richer in polyunsaturated fats. 

Trans fat

Ham is higher in trans fats compared to turkey meat. Turkey meat has negligible amounts of trans fat.

Trans fat consumption has dietary relevance. It is important to monitor the trans fat intake. It should be in minimal amounts. If possible, avoiding it altogether is the healthiest approach.

Cholesterol

Turkey meat contains higher amounts of cholesterol compared to ham. Turkey meat contains 109 mg of cholesterol which is double the amount that ham contains. Taking into consideration the daily upper limit is 300mg.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -16%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +292.4%
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 2.647
36% 53% 11%
Saturated Fat: 1.81 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.62 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.54 g
31% 38% 31%
Saturated Fat: 2.155 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.647 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.119 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -16%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +292.4%
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 2.647

Carbs

Turkey meat contains nearly 0g of carbs, whereas ham contains 1.5g, which is still considered negligible.

Calories

Turkey meat is higher in calories compared to ham. Turkey meat contains 44 calories more than ham. They are classified as medium-calorie foods

Glycemic Index

Both turkey meat and ham have a glycemic index that is equal to 0.

Minerals

Turkey meat, compared to ham, is richer in phosphorus, copper, calcium, selenium, and magnesium. On the other hand, ham is richer in zinc, potassium, manganese, and iron. 

It is important to take into consideration the high amounts of sodium in ham. Ham contains 1200mg of sodium which is more than 50% of the daily recommended value. Hence, people with a risk of high blood pressure should reduce ham consumption.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Iron +35.8%
Contains more Potassium +20.1%
Contains more Zinc +16.1%
Contains more Manganese +285.7%
Contains more Calcium +75%
Contains more Magnesium +114.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +13.8%
Contains less Sodium -91.4%
Contains more Copper +17.7%
Contains more Selenium +52.8%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 3% 56% 10% 85% 26% 157% 79% 27% 8% 107%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 5% 41% 22% 96% 22% 14% 68% 31% 2% 163%
Contains more Iron +35.8%
Contains more Potassium +20.1%
Contains more Zinc +16.1%
Contains more Manganese +285.7%
Contains more Calcium +75%
Contains more Magnesium +114.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +13.8%
Contains less Sodium -91.4%
Contains more Copper +17.7%
Contains more Selenium +52.8%

Vitamins

Turkey meat is richer in vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12. In addition to the B complex vitamins, it is also richer in folate and vitamin A. However, the amount of folate is not highly relevant. In comparison, ham is richer in vitamins B1, E, and D.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Ham
3
:
Contains more Vitamin E +257.1%
Contains more Vitamin D +100%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1575.6%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +39.1%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +138%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +135.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +54%
Contains more Folate +200%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +56.9%
Equal in Choline - 87.4
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 0% 5% 24% 0% 189% 47% 76% 25% 93% 3% 82% 47% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 3% 2% 12% 0% 12% 65% 180% 57% 143% 7% 128% 48% 0%
Contains more Vitamin E +257.1%
Contains more Vitamin D +100%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1575.6%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +39.1%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +138%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +135.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +54%
Contains more Folate +200%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +56.9%
Equal in Choline - 87.4

Diets and Weight loss

Turkey meat and ham are low in carbs, high in proteins, and have rich vitamin and mineral profiles, although a difference exists between them. They are a good source of protein when consumed in moderation. For example, turkey meat is richer in proteins; however, it has a higher fat content and cholesterol. Moderate consumption of both is important, mainly due to the sodium when it comes to ham and cholesterol in turkey meat.

Turkey meat is a good alternative to fattier protein sources. It is a good option for bodybuilders as it provides adequate amounts of proteins, necessary polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Ham is also a good addition to everyday diets. Similar to turkey meat, they are also fit to be consumed when it comes to bodybuilding.

Keto

Turkey meat and ham are both suitable for the keto diet. Their glycemic index is 0, and their carb content is negligible. They are one of the most recommended sources of proteins to be consumed in the keto diet.

Vegan

Both turkey meat and ham are animal-source proteins that are not consumed in the vegan diet. If you are searching for vegan meat alternatives, please visit here

Health Impacts

Cardiovascular Health

Section reviewed by cardiologist Astghik Grigoryan Article author photo Astghik Grigoryan

Turkey meat is known for being lean and providing high-quality protein, essential vitamins (such as B vitamins), and minerals like iron, zinc, and potassium. It is notably lower in saturated fat and cholesterol compared to ham, making it a heart-friendlier option. Studies suggest that replacing higher-fat meats with lean alternatives like turkey may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Additionally, turkey meat contains selenium, an antioxidant that could potentially protect against the oxidative stress associated with CVD (1).

On the other hand, ham is a processed meat that has higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Regular consumption of processed meats, including ham, has been linked to an increased risk of CVD due to their content of unhealthy fats and sodium. These meats have also been associated with elevated levels of inflammatory markers and unfavorable changes in lipid profiles, both of which are risk factors for CVD (2, 3, 4). 

Incorporating lean meat into the diet, such as turkey, alongside a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, can contribute to a heart-healthy lifestyle and help reduce the risk of CVD.

Diabetes and obesity

The difference between turkey meat and ham is that turkey meat is fresh meat, whereas ham is processed cured meat. The levels of sodium and nitrates are higher in processed meat compared to fresh meat. All these factors contribute to diabetes and obesity. However, in moderation and in lower quantities, they shouldn't cause health problems for healthy individuals. Data shows that replacing the protein source in diets with fresh white meat reduces the risks of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, and obesity. When it comes to diabetes and obesity, turkey meat is a better option (5)(6)(7).

Cancer

Turkey meat has no direct relationship with increasing the risks of cancer. However, a study shows that consumption of poultry meat, in this case, turkey meat, has decreased the risk of developing lung cancer by 10%.

In comparison, ham high in sodium has a direct relationship with increased risks of developing gastric cancer (8)(9).

Concerning overall health impacts, turkey meat is a better alternative to ham. This is because turkey meat is white meat, whereas ham is cured processed red meat. Overall, turkey meat provides a healthier dietary profile regarding its health impacts and weight loss effects.

Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: July 01, 2023
Medically reviewed by Ani Harutyunyan

Infographic

Ham vs Turkey meat infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Ham Turkey meat
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 Turkey meat Opinion
Net carbs 1.5g 0.06g Ham
Protein 20.93g 28.55g Turkey meat
Fats 5.53g 7.39g Turkey meat
Carbs 1.5g 0.06g Ham
Calories 145kcal 189kcal Turkey meat
Calcium 8mg 14mg Turkey meat
Iron 1.48mg 1.09mg Ham
Magnesium 14mg 30mg Turkey meat
Phosphorus 196mg 223mg Turkey meat
Potassium 287mg 239mg Ham
Sodium 1203mg 103mg Turkey meat
Zinc 2.88mg 2.48mg Ham
Copper 0.079mg 0.093mg Turkey meat
Manganese 0.054mg 0.014mg Ham
Selenium 19.5µg 29.8µg Turkey meat
Vitamin A 0IU 39IU Turkey meat
Vitamin A RAE 0µg 12µg Turkey meat
Vitamin E 0.25mg 0.07mg Ham
Vitamin D 32IU 15IU Ham
Vitamin D 0.8µg 0.4µg Ham
Vitamin B1 0.754mg 0.045mg Ham
Vitamin B2 0.202mg 0.281mg Turkey meat
Vitamin B3 4.023mg 9.573mg Turkey meat
Vitamin B5 0.403mg 0.948mg Turkey meat
Vitamin B6 0.4mg 0.616mg Turkey meat
Folate 3µg 9µg Turkey meat
Vitamin B12 0.65µg 1.02µg Turkey meat
Choline 85.1mg 87.4mg Turkey meat
Tryptophan 0.251mg 0.291mg Turkey meat
Threonine 0.931mg 1.004mg Turkey meat
Isoleucine 0.918mg 0.796mg Ham
Leucine 1.661mg 1.925mg Turkey meat
Lysine 1.775mg 2.282mg Turkey meat
Methionine 0.553mg 0.724mg Turkey meat
Phenylalanine 0.904mg 0.903mg Ham
Valine 0.908mg 0.902mg Ham
Histidine 0.75mg 0.749mg Ham
Cholesterol 53mg 109mg Ham
Trans Fat 0.101g Ham
Saturated Fat 1.81g 2.155g Ham
Omega-3 - DHA 0g 0.005g Turkey meat
Omega-3 - EPA 0g 0.008g Turkey meat
Omega-3 - DPA 0g 0.008g Turkey meat
Monounsaturated Fat 2.62g 2.647g Turkey meat
Polyunsaturated fat 0.54g 2.119g Turkey meat
Omega-6 - Eicosadienoic acid 0.014g Turkey meat
Omega-6 - Linoleic acid 1.841g Turkey meat
Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid 0.003g Turkey meat
Omega-3 - ALA 0.105g Turkey meat
Omega-3 - Eicosatrienoic acid 0.001g Turkey meat
Omega-6 - Dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid 0.01g Turkey meat

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Ham Turkey meat
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet Equal

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
45%
Ham
50%
Turkey meat
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
55%
Ham
46%
Turkey meat

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Turkey meat
Turkey meat contains less Sodium (difference - 1100mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Turkey meat
Turkey meat is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Ham
Ham is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 56mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Ham
Ham is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.345g)
Which food is cheaper?
Ham
Ham is cheaper (difference - $1.5)
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

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Ham - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167871/nutrients
  2. Turkey meat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171479/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.