Turkey meat vs. Ham — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
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 high sodium content. Overall, turkey meat is a better alternative than ham.
Table of contents
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 the 15th century in Central America. As Europeans started colonizing these lands, they took turkey back with them 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. During Thanksgiving, as families gather together, the turkey is the center of all attention during this holiday. Similar to Thanksgiving, during the Victorian era in Britain, turkey meat was served during Christmas dinner. This shows how important and prestigious turkey meat can be 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.
Turkey meat is fresh white meat, usually oven-roasted with different herbs and spices. They are usually associated with cranberry sauce and some pies. However, another way turkey meat can be served is by cold cuts. Turkey cold cuts can be eaten with fancy dry wine accompanied by a meat and cheese selection board. It is preferable to have smoked turkey breast cuts with wine. 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 which are 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.
There is a reason that ham was part of the human diet in the 2nd century BC because it is cured, salted, and even smoked. A pork leg that is salted and cured becomes ham, and this can even stay unrefrigerated if kept in proper conditions. These conditions are humidity and direct sunlight. This prevents it from rotting and spoiling. Turkey meat, on the other hand, needs refrigeration and has a shorter shelf life.
In some religions, like the Jewish and Islamic religions, pork meat is forbidden and thus cannot be consumed. This affects a lot of 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 than it is usually.
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. Here are provided data for 100g servings for each food.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Turkey meat contains nearly 0g of carbs, whereas ham contains 1.5g, which is still considered negligible.
Turkey meat is higher in calories compared to ham. Turkey meat contains 44 calories more than ham. They are classified as medium-calorie foods.
Both turkey meat and ham have a glycemic index that is equal to 0.
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.
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 of high relevance. In comparison, ham is richer in vitamins B1, E, and D.
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.
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.
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.
Consumption of turkey meat is linked with reduced risks of developing cardiovascular diseases. It is positively associated with longevity and survival. Risks of developing cardiovascular disease were decreased by 19% when red meat was replaced by turkey meat and mostly white meat. This shows that turkey meat is a good alternative to red meat to reduce cardiovascular diseases and maintain a healthy balanced diet (1)(2)(3).
There is no association between moderate amounts of cured ham and the development of cardiovascular diseases. However, an important aspect of ham is the content of sodium, which needs to be taken into consideration. Prolonged exposure to high levels of sodium can cause negative effects on overall health. In addition to that, if the individual is hypertensive, the ham should be avoided or eaten in less than moderate amounts keeping track of the sodium intake (4).
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 have a factor in 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).
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.
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||12µg||0µg|
|Omega-3 - DHA||0.005g||0g|
|Omega-3 - EPA||0.008g||0g|
|Omega-3 - DPA||0.008g||0g|
|Omega-6 - Eicosadienoic acid||0.014g|
|Omega-6 - Linoleic acid||1.841g|
|Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid||0.003g|
|Omega-3 - ALA||0.105g|
|Omega-3 - Eicosatrienoic acid||0.001g|
|Omega-6 - Dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid||0.01g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
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.
- Turkey meat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171479/nutrients
- Ham - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167871/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.