Here's How Much Sodium And Additives Are In Pre-Cooked Hams

A Smithfield spiral sliced ham
Paul Morigi via Getty Images
A Smithfield spiral sliced ham

After Christmas, Easter is the biggest time of year for ham. A look at the increased number of giant hams at the supermarket is a testament to this fact. If you’re planning on buying a ham this year, there’s something you should think about first: what exactly is in that pre-cooked, store-bought ham? The ingredient list is longer than you might expect.

We got to the bottom of this for you. Here are the lists of ingredients for three common store-bought brands of ham. They have varying lengths of ingredient lists. Take a look:

Ingredients: Water, Contains 2% or less Dextrose, Salt, Potassium Lactate, Corn Syrup, Sodium Phosphates, Brown Sugar, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite.

A 3-ounce serving contains 760 mg of sodium. That’s 32 percent of our daily intake value (DV). The DV sets limits and recommendations on what constitutes a healthy intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Ingredients: Cured with Water, Salt, Potassium Lactate, Dextrose, Modified Potato Starch, Dehydrated Pork Stock (Dehydrated Pork Stock, Natural Flavors), Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite.

A 3-ounce serving contains 820 mg of sodium. That’s 34 percent of our DV.

Ingredients: Glazed with water, brown sugar, yellow corn meal, xanthan gum, spices, caramel color. Cured with water, brown sugar, contains 2% or less of: salt, sodium lactate, sodium phosphate, sodium diacetate, natural flavors, modified corn starch, spice extractives, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite.

A 3-ounce serving contains 1,050 mg of sodium. That’s 44 percent of our DV and more than a Big Mac, which contains 950 mg.

Now that you’ve seen them all listed out, let’s get to the bottom of what’s what. The first three ingredients below are found in all of the hams listed above. The next four ingredients are found in one or more. You’ll notice that sodium shows up in more than one form.

1. Sodium Phosphate is a sodium salt of phosphoric acid and is a common additive in processed meat. It helps keep meat moist, which is one quality a lot of people want in their ham..
2. Sodium Erythorbate is the sodium salt of erythorbic acid. It is a food additive used to keep food fresh.
3. Sodium Nitrite is used as a preservative to fight the growth of harmful bacteria. Chances are you’ve probably heard about sodium nitrite and how you’re supposed to stay away from them. Nitrites have been linked to cancer.

4. Potassium Lactate is a mineral salt that is used as a flavoring agent and a humectant, which means it helps food retain moisture.
5. Sodium Diacetate is a salt of acetic acid. It is food preservative used as an antimicrobial agent.
6. Dextrose is a simple sugar derived from corn. It is used widely in packaged foods as a sweetener.
7. Corn Syrup. Yup, it shows up in our hams, too.
8. Xanthan Gum, which also aids the bacteria that grows on broccoli, is a very popular food additive. It’s often used as a thickening and emulsifying agent.

Here’s the biggest takeaway you can glean from all this: There is a lot of sodium in your store-bought ham. And there are also a lot of preservatives. And sugar. If you don’t want all those extra ingredients in your holiday ham, you might want to consider making your own and controlling the amount that you add. We have a lot of recipes that are completely feasible for even the novice cook. Check them out below.

Garlic Honey Mustard Ham
Oh Sweet Basil
Get the Garlic Honey Mustard Ham recipe from Oh Sweet Basil
Slow Cooker Holiday Ham
Damn Delicious
Get the Slow Cooker Holiday Ham recipe from Damn Delicious
Sticky Glazed Asian Ham
Foodie Crush
Get the Sticky Glazed Asian Ham recipe from Foodie Crush
Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar Ham
Damn Delicious
Get the Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar Ham recipe from Damn Delicious
Cranberry Glazed Ham
Simply Recipes
Get the Cranberry Glazed Ham recipe from Simply Recipes
Chipotle Pineapple Jerk Glazed Ham
Half Baked Harvest
Get the Chipotle Pineapple Jerk Glazed Ham recipe from Half Baked Harvest
Slow Cooker Ham
Oh Sweet Basil
Get the Slow Cooker Ham recipe from Oh Sweet Basil
Rosemary Citrus Glazed Ham
Creme de la Crumb
Get the Rosemary Citrus Glazed Ham recipe from Creme de la Crumb
Baked Ham With Brown Sugar Ham Glaze
A Spicy Perspective
Get the Baked Ham with Brown Sugar Ham Glaze recipe from A Spicy Perspective
Cola-Pineapple Glazed Ham
Steamy Kitchen
Get the Cola-Pineapple Glazed Ham recipe from Steamy Kitchen
Glazed Baked Ham
Simply Recipes
Get the Glazed Baked Ham recipe from Simply Recipes
Farmhouse Ham With Honey, Fennel And Mustard Glaze
Tom Hirschfeld/ Bona Fide Farm Food
New Year's Day Fresh Ham
Get the New Year's Day Fresh Ham recipe from wssmom via Food52
Lime-Glazed Ham
Fat Mum Slim
Get the Lime-Glazed Ham recipe from Fat Mum Slim

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