Q: I try to buy low-fat/low-salt ham, but is ‘off the bone’ less processed or have less preservatives? Is ham still ‘fatty’ if you cut off the visible fat?
Susie, via email
A: Accredited Practising Dietitian Jessica Lewis says:
Ham isn’t a particularly ‘fatty’ meat, but its poor reputation comes from the preservatives added during processing to extend its shelf life and enhance its colour and flavour. A diet high in these preservatives is dangerous – excessive salt can increase your blood pressure, while sodium nitrates have been associated with a risk of developing colorectal cancer. For more about the link between cancer and processed meat, see our article Supermarket sleuth: Choosing pork.
Ham ‘off the bone’ is generally healthier than sliced or packaged ham because fewer preservatives are added. If you buy packaged ham, check the ingredient list for preservatives. Plus, don’t forget to look for ham with low fat, saturated fat and sodium levels.