You probably know Spam as that curious box of meat sitting on the shelf at supermarkets. But what is it made of and how should it be eaten? Is Spam even healthy for you?
The good news is that if you love to eat hot dogs, you should have no problem eating Spam. The ingredients for are similar; both are made from parts of the pig that were difficult to sell — don’t ask.
There are only six ingredients: pork with ham meat, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.
History of Spam
This canned meat was first invented during World War II as a type of cheap meat during a meat shortage. Homemakers and soldiers alike added it to their everyday dishes, just like they would regular meat. And today, the tradition lives on.
Many places like Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam — where the US military from that period heavily influenced the local culture — still use Spam regularly in their dishes. Indeed, fancy restaurants in Maui and other Hawaiian islands integrate it into their menus as an exotic dish for visitors and a comfortable flavor for locals.
“It doesn’t check any of the boxes of ethically sourced, local, healthy, or organic,” says Kamala Saxton of Seattle’s Korean-Hawaiian restaurant chain Marination told Esquire. “It’s made in Minnesota by a big food conglomerate, and it has the highest amount of sodium of any meat you’ve ever had.”
That said, it’s on the menu.
There are an endless number of dishes that you can make with Spam. Basically, anything that’s enhanced by salted meat is a dish that invites the addition. You can use it to enhance everything from stew, fried rice, and ramen, to hot pot and even sushi, thanks to the Hawaiians!
“Spam is a staple in my household, cooked six ways till Sunday,” Filipino-American chef Dale Talde told Esquire, “but my favorite is when it’s cooked crispy like bacon.”
But is Spam healthy for you? Again, use the hot dog analogy. You shouldn’t eat hot dogs every day, and you shouldn’t eat this all the time, either.
Spam is very high in fat, calories, and sodium, but it’s also low in important nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. And like Saxton stated, it’s highly processed and contains preservatives like sodium nitrite that may cause several adverse health effects. (Sodium nitrite gives some people headaches.)
However, add it to dishes that are rich with fresh vegetables and complex carbohydrates, and you’re not too bad off. The high fat and high salt content mean that it’s probably a good idea to limit your intake to a few times a week. It’s great as a treat or for a barbeque every now and then, but making it the main staple of your diet, with no other nutritious foods, is probably a bad idea.
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Think Spam is the only oddball? Check this out.