The health benefits of ham depend on its type. Lean deli ham is low in fat but it is high in sodium, while cured ham steaks are sources for calcium and potassium but also saturated fats. Most hams contain nitrates, which have been linked to cancer.
Ham is high in protein, packing about 19 grams in a 3-ounce serving. However, in March 2013, BBC News reported a link between processed meats and cardiovascular disease, cancer and early death. Even when differences in exercise and lifestyle were accounted for, researchers stated that the link can be attributed to the salts and chemicals used to preserve the meats, which included ham.
The study concluded that eating no more than 20 grams of processed meat per day drastically reduces the risk of illness. However, a 2007 study, which was confirmed in 2011, recommended an even smaller amount of 10 grams or less, citing a link between bowel cancer and processed meats.
Hams are cured with 200 parts per milliliter of ingoing nitrite and 550 parts per milliliter of ascorbates or erythorbates, followed by a thermal processing at 144 degrees Fahrenheit, before the addition of liquid smoke flavoring or actual physical smoking for flavor.