Ham Dietary information
The high sensorial quality takes nothing away from its nutritional value. Looking at its composition, there is an intramuscular fat content of around 6-8% which gives the meat increased juiciness and palatability after cooking. These characteristics make it ideal for grilling, barbecuing, roasting, soups and stews etc.
A healthy heart
The fatty acid profile of the infiltrated fat registers a high proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids, a small amount of saturated fatty acids and high “good” cholesterol, which makes it ideal for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Iron content is very significant - more than 3 or 4 times that found in white pigs -, which makes the Iberian pig a very important source of this mineral: this meat contains mainly heme iron (more than 1.5mg/kg), with a bioavailability level higher than that of plants.
Given that cured products are associated to three things (culture, pleasure and health), it is vital that consumers are aware of their dietary importance.
Paradoxically, given that iron is the most abundant mineral on the planet, it is the leading nutritional deficiency in developed countries. The red colour is a sign of a high content of heme products (myoglobin) which are accordingly easily absorbed. This means that the quantity of Iberian ham normally consumed (45-50g for a portion shared by two people or slices in a sandwich) provides us with more than 30% of the 50g of high quality protein and 10mg of iron needed daily for a healthy diet.
In general, Iberian pork products are also a great natural source of vitamins and minerals. The recognised importance of meat products for our daily intake of iron and other minerals particularly holds when it comes to the meat and derivatives of Iberian pork, whether eaten raw (as loin or ham) or cooked.
Iberian ham has total iron levels of 3 to 4mg/100g, practically double than the levels found in Parma, Serrano and Bayonne ham, which have 1.8mg/100g. However, it is particularly interesting that around 50% of the iron found in these meats and cured produce is in the form of hemo iron, which has a bioavailability level more than 10 times higher than that of non-hemo iron.
New findings show that cured Iberian pork products contain high levels of protein and amino acids. They could even be classified in the “high protein content” category, given that 100g of Iberian ham contains 225-291 kcal, 122 kcal (more than 40%) from proteins. The carbohydrate and calorific content of water is 0, therefore the calories only come from (4 kcal/g) and fats (9 kcal/g). It therefore has a much lower energy content than most foods where the fat is “hidden”, such as cheese from sheep or goats, bread, chips, etc.
Health and good looks
In recent years, the prevalence of obesity has generated increased interest in reducing the intake of high-energy foods and promoting the consumption of foods that suppress the appetite. A recent study showed that the presence of peptic satiety protein fragments plays an important role in suppressing the appetite, by stimulating the production of an intestinal hormone (cholecystokinin) that induces the feeling of fullness. So eating a few slices of cured products at the beginning of a meal can help reduce the intake of other higher energy products during said meal. When eaten for example, at breakfast or for an afternoon snack, it maintains your blood sugar levels constant, and thus removes your desire to “snack” before or in-between meals.
Iberian pork meat, the Jewel in the Crown of Spanish Gastronomy, is, in short, a source of fundamental nutrients. The nutrients it provides us with are difficult to find in such large quantities elsewhere and although you can live without them, you will almost certainly be worse off and what is more, you will not be able to enjoy the meat's excellent and exclusive flavours.
Not one single illness exists where the doctor, unless overcome with a fit of arrogance, can reasonably forbid ham [...] its nutritional effect and ease of digestion means that it is almost a beneficial medicine.
– Gregorio Marañón, Spanish doctor and humanist, 1887 – 1960
These “snippets of information” have been taken from the book "El Jamón Ibérico" whose author Mr. Jesús Ventanas Barroso, Professor from the Department of Food Technology at UEX