Ham vs. Pork — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
Ham refers to a specific cut from the pig that comes from the thighs, while pork refers to any cut from the pig.
Broiled pork loin contains more fats and 100 more calories than cured roasted ham. However, ham contains about 19 times more sodium.
Both pork loin and ham contain high levels of B complex vitamins, but pork loin contains slightly higher amounts. It also contains 2 times more selenium than ham.
Table of contents
Whereas both pork and ham come from the pig, ham refers to a specific cut from the thighs. On the other hand, pork refers to any cut of the pig.
In this article, we will provide an overview of the differences between pork and ham, as well as provide a comprehensive nutritional and health impact comparison.
What are the Actual Differences?
Types and Taste
There are different types of ham, which include fresh or uncured and cured ham.
Fresh ham is usually a type of ham that has not been cured or cooked. It may be treated for trichinae, but it still requires additional cooking. In contrast, cured ham is usually what we refer to when we talk about ham in our daily lives. This type of ham is usually preserved by dry or wet-curing, with or without smoking. It is usually salted, has nitrates and nitrites added to it, and is sold in a ready-to-eat form. Cured ham usually has a smoky, rich flavor.
On the other hand, pork is usually sold raw and always requires cooking before consumption. It has a rich flavor with a fatty profile.
The shelf life for ham varies by the type of meat. For example, fresh (uncooked and uncured) ham can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days, and in the freezer, for 6 months. This is similar to fresh pork (roast, steak, chops, or ribs), which also lasts in the fridge for 3 to 5 days and between 4 to 6 months in the freezer (1).
However, Italian or Spanish-type hams such as prosciutto, parma, or serrano may last in the fridge for up to 3 months and in the freezer for a month (2).
Availability and Religion
Pork consumption is forbidden in certain religions. For example, those who follow the Jewish dietary law “Kashrut” avoid pork consumption altogether because pigs are not ruminants. Moreover, pork consumption is also banned in Islam. Thus, pork and hence, ham are unavailable in some regions or countries.
Usage in the Culinary World
Cured ham is often served cold. They are primarily used as pizza toppings and in the famous Croque Monsieur and Cubano. When included in sandwiches, ham is usually served as a couple of slices, which are even less than the suggested moderate quantity to consume. This means ham does not pose any health risks. It’s also a nice addition to a charcuterie platter that pairs well with a dry red wine. On the other hand, one popular way to serve fresh ham is a slow roast. In many European countries, cooked fresh ham is eaten as part of the Christmas meal.
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 usually cooked, grilled, and even made into stews. In addition, pork meat can be made into further processing to produce hot dogs and canned, processed meats. A highlight of pork meat is bacon, derived from pork meat.
You can also read about different cuts of pork, such as pork jowl vs. pork belly, as a comparative text.
In order to compare ham to pork, we will be referring to cured, roasted, boneless, extra-lean (5% fat) ham and broiled pork loin.
To compare the ham with the pork, we will be using 100g of serving each. Keep in mind that many graphics below are provided for 300 grams of serving for better visual comparisons.
Pork loin contains 100 more calories than ham.
Per 100 grams of serving, broiled pork loin provides 242 calories, while roasted ham provides only 145 calories.
Broiled pork loin contains higher amounts of fats compared to the extra lean, roasted ham we are considering in this article. Other types of ham may have higher fat content.
Per 100 grams of serving, the extra lean, roasted ham contains 5.53 grams of total lipid fats, while the broiled pork loin contains more than twice as much, 13.9 grams.
It is also important to explore the amount of different fats contained in these foods. If we look at the saturated fats only, pork contains almost 3 times more compared to ham. The saturated fat in 100g of broiled pork loin covers nearly 25% of the maximal daily allowed saturated fat intake.
Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Pork loin is richer in monounsaturated fats by almost 2.5 times when compared to ham. Similarly, polyunsaturated fats are twice as high in pork loin than in ham.
Moreover, both pork loin and ham contain cholesterol. Per 100 grams of serving, roasted ham contains 53 milligrams of cholesterol, while pork contains 80 milligrams.
Since fat is a concern while comparing pork meat, you can read about bacon vs. Canadian bacon, which is a pork derivative, but their fat composition differs.
Both these foods are rich in proteins, but pork loin is slightly richer compared to ham. Pork loin contains 27.3 grams of protein, while ham contains 20.9 grams.
Although both ham and pork contain adequate amounts of various vitamins, when comparing the two, pork loin has a slightly richer vitamin profile.
Both pork loin and ham contain high levels of B complex vitamins, including Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12, but again, pork loin contains slightly higher contents of each. Although a single 100-gram serving is not enough to cover the daily need for any of these vitamins, they are still a great addition to fill up the daily vitamin need.
This chart will help you visualize the vitamin content comparison.
Pork loin is very rich in selenium, and although ham also contains selenium, its levels are about 2 times lower. While the daily recommended dietary intake of selenium is 55 micrograms, a 100-gram serving of pork loin is able to provide 45.3 micrograms, almost filling up the daily need.
Both ham and pork loin also contain adequate amounts of phosphorus, zinc, and iron, but the difference in content between the two meats is not large.
It is also important to discuss that ham is much higher in sodium than pork loin. Per 100 grams of serving, the sodium content in ham is 1200mg, while in pork loin, it is only 62mg. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans sets a limit of 2300mg of sodium per day, which means the 100-gram serving of pork loin fills up half of the daily limit.
This chart will help you visualize the mineral content comparison.
The glycemic index is a rating system used for foods containing carbohydrates. As both contain very few carbohydrates, their glycemic index is 0, which is considered low and means their consumption has minimal effect on blood sugar levels.
One way to understand the acidity of foods is through their potential renal acid load (PRAL) value, which shows how much acid or base the given food produces inside the organism.
Based on our calculations, the PRAL values of broiled pork loin and roasted ham are 13.2 and 11, respectively, which means that broiled pork loin has a slightly higher potential to acidify the body compared to roasted ham.
Weight Loss and Diets
Although there are various nutritional differences between these two types of meats, both are generally low in carbohydrates, high in protein and have good vitamin and mineral profiles. However, they also have downsides, such as a higher fat and cholesterol profile in pork loin and high sodium levels in ham.
As part of a weight loss diet, both should be consumed in moderation, owing to the salt in ham and the cholesterol in pork loin.
Moreover, ham and pork can be part of a bodybuilder’s diet. They are rich in proteins and 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 and ham contain 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.
Pork meat and ham are both keto-friendly proteins. They are one of the keto diet’s most highly suggested protein options. Their glycemic index is zero, and their carbohydrate content is insignificant.
Consumption of both pork loin and ham, which are considered red meat, is associated with increased risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, coronary vessel atherosclerosis, and stroke. In turn, increased mortality due to cardiovascular diseases (3).
However, it is important to consider the additional negative impacts of ham attributed to its high sodium content. Prolonged exposure to excessive quantities of salt can harm one’s general health. Furthermore, if the individual is hypertensive, the ham should be avoided or consumed in moderation while checking salt consumption (4).
Diabetes and Obesity
Red meat consumption and the increased risk of developing diabetes have also been studied (3).
When compared to fresh meat, processed meat, such as cured ham, contains more salt and nitrates. All of these contribute to diabetes and obesity development. However, if used in moderation and little quantities, they should not pose a health risk to healthy people. (3, 5)
Consumption of ham, high in sodium and nitrates, is also positively associated with increased risks of gastric cancer (6).
However, pork meat with higher amounts of monounsaturated fats is associated with decreased risks of developing endometrial cancer (7).
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in Glycemic Index||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||2µg||0µg|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|