Is Ham Keto-Friendly?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/02/2024

Deli meats such as ham are a convenient protein source on the go, but is ham keto?


While some types of ham are keto-friendly, many lunch meats can be loaded with preservatives, hidden carbs, and sugars that can knock your body out of ketosis.


Learn how to choose the best quality low-carb ham that won’t interfere with fat-burning.   

Sliced ham on a platter

How many carbs are in ham?


Both cured and uncured hams are nearly carb-free and contain around one gram of carbohydrates per three-ounce (85-gram) serving. 


However, other types of ham, such as honey or glazed ham, can contain as much as six grams of carbs in a single serving.


Ham nutrition facts

According to data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a three-ounce serving of cured ham contains:

  • 118 calories 

  • 4.3 g total fat

  • 18.9 g protein

  • 0.9 g total carbs

    • 0 g fiber

    • 0.9 g sugars

    • 0.9 g net carbs 

Ketogenic foods on a table

Is ham keto-friendly?


Whether or not sliced deli ham is a good choice for a nutritious high-fat diet such as Healthy Keto® largely depends on how it's made. 


Healthy Keto is a nutrient-focused meal plan that prioritizes quality ingredients from organic and non-GMO sources while providing the macronutrient requirements needed to maintain ketosis. 


Although they can be delicious, some ham options, such as glazed ham and honey ham, should be avoided as they often contain high amounts of added sugar and carbohydrates. 


Additionally, cured meats can be a source of synthetic preservatives and other additives. It’s critical to scrutinize the product label and avoid potentially harmful ingredients that aren’t keto-friendly. 


High-quality ham can be a great source of protein and essential minerals such as potassium, zinc, and selenium, all beneficial nutrients for a well-rounded, low-carb diet.


However, most hams are high in sodium, and moderation is key to maintaining balanced mineral levels and ensuring the body burns fat safely and efficiently without adverse health effects.


Watch this video to learn why organic meats are better on keto.

The Biggest Reason To Eat Organic Meats On Ketogenic Diet

Conventional vs. grass-fed 


When buying beef products, it’s recommended to choose grass-fed options as they generally contain a higher concentration of essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins.


However, unlike cows, pigs require a more diverse diet than just grass, which explains why you will rarely see grass-fed pork. Instead, ham labeled pasture-raised is the next best option for a healthy ketogenic diet. 


Pasture-raised animals have access to the outdoors, where they can forage and roam freely in their natural habitat. This farming method not only ensures the animals lead happier and healthier lives but also has positive effects on the nutrient quality and flavor of the meat.



Benefits of ham on keto


Eating quality ham while following a keto diet can offer several health benefits.


According to research published in Springer, many people are deficient in selenium, especially in Middle Eastern countries. 


Ham is a rich source of selenium, containing over 60 percent of the daily recommended value in a three-ounce serving, making it an excellent choice to maintain adequate body stores of this essential trace mineral. 


“Selenium protects the body against oxidative damage and is vital for lowering the risk of various chronic health problems," explains Dr. Berg. 


In addition, ham is a good source of sodium and potassium. Both are essential electrolytes needed to maintain the body’s fluid balance and nerve function, especially during ketosis. 


Furthermore, a study published in Nutrients found that bioactive peptides in certain types of dry-cured ham could potentially help improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. This may be especially useful for individuals with metabolic disorders.

Pasture-raised pigs in a field

How to choose high-quality ham


When looking for high-quality ham, it's essential to read the nutritional information.


Food manufacturers often add excessive amounts of preservatives, added sugars, and other unhealthy ingredients to maximize their products' shelf life and appearance.


Ideally, prioritize ham with organic and non-GMO certifications that are marked pasture-raised and opt for products with the shortest ingredient list possible.


Here’s a list of common ingredients to avoid:


It’s important to note that when buying cured meats, nitrates are often required to prevent dangerous bacterial growth.


However, some hams are now cured with natural nitrate sources such as celery, parsley, and Swiss chard powder. These options can be a healthier alternative and result in a lower residual nitrite concentration in the end product, according to research published in Foods.

Egg ham muffin

Keto ham recipes 


Once you know how to choose keto-safe ham, there are many ways to incorporate it into various low-carb recipes. 


Here are a few delicious keto-friendly recipe options to get you started:


Remember, while ham can be a good source of protein and minerals, it's essential to consume it in moderation and balance it with plenty of low-carb vegetables and healthy fats to lose weight effectively and maintain ketosis.

Quality fresh ham roll appetizer

Key takeaways


Is ham keto-friendly? Yes, ham can be suitable for a ketogenic diet if it’s low in carbs.


The best options are those that are organic, non-GMO, contain no added sugars, and are sourced from pasture-raised animals. 


Low-carb ham works well with various other keto foods and can be a great addition to a low-carb diet. However, ham is often high in sodium and should only be consumed in moderation. 



FAQ


1. Is ham keto-friendly? 

Yes, some kinds of ham can fit into a keto diet if they don’t contain added sugar or other hidden carbs.


2. Are there carbs in ham?

Regular cured ham is generally low in carbohydrates, typically containing around one gram of carbs per three-ounce (85-gram) serving. 


However, sweetened honey ham and glazed ham varieties can contain as much as six grams of carbs per three-ounce serving.


3. Can you eat honey-baked ham on keto?

While on a Healthy Keto® diet, hams that are marked as honey-baked, glazed, or sweetened should be avoided due to their high sugar content. 


4. Is cured ham keto-friendly? 

Cured ham can be keto-friendly if it’s low in carbs and free from added sugars. Always read the nutrition label and ingredient list to check for carbohydrate content and hidden sugars. 


5. How much ham can you eat on the keto diet?

How much ham you can eat on keto depends on the exact carb count of the ham product you choose and how many other carb-containing foods you may have consumed that day.  


However, due to ham’s high sodium content, it’s recommended to enjoy ham in moderation.  


6. What’s the best ham to eat on a ketogenic diet?

The best ham on keto is low in carbs, free of added sugars, certified non-GMO and organic, and labeled pasture-raised.


7. Are there homemade keto recipes for honey ham?

Low-carb ham works well with many other keto-friendly foods, and you can make honey ham at home using low-carb brown sugar substitutes.



Sources


  1. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168354/nutrients 

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8761138/ 

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8777827/ 

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9654915/ 

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