Is Spam Bad for You? Uncovering the Health Impact

Spam, a popular canned meat, has long been a staple in many households due to its convenience and long shelf life. However, you might have wondered whether this processed food is truly harmful to your health. In this article, we aim to address your concerns about the nutritional value and potential unwanted effects of consuming Spam.

On one hand, Spam does contain essential nutrients, such as B vitamins, choline, sodium, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. On the other hand, its high levels of fat, sodium, and calories, paired with its low concentration of essential nutrients like protein, minerals, and vitamins, can raise cause for concern.

Additionally, the fact that Spam is highly processed and contains preservatives like sodium nitrite may contribute to its potential negative health impacts.

As you continue reading, you’ll become more informed about the different aspects of Spam’s nutritional profile and how it might affect your well-being, ultimately providing you with the knowledge needed to make a well-informed decision on whether or not to include this canned meat in your diet.

What Is Spam?

Is Spam Bad for You

Spam is a canned meat product that consists of processed pork, water, salt, sugar, and sodium nitrite. It was first introduced by Hormel Foods Corporation during World War II as a convenient and long-lasting source of protein for soldiers. The name “Spam” is derived from the words ‘spiced’ and ‘ham,’ reflecting its flavor and texture.

These canned meats typically contain high amounts of sodium, which helps extend the shelf life and improve the taste of the product. Spam is a processed meat, similar to bacon and ham, which may be of concern for their potential health effects.

Just like bacon and ham, Spam contains sodium nitrite, a substance used as a preservative and to enhance the color of the meat. This ingredient has been linked to potential health risks when consumed in large quantities, especially when it comes to processed meats.

When it comes to preparation, you can cook Spam in various ways, such as baking it in the oven or frying it. This versatility adds to its convenience and appeal. 


Let’s begin by discussing the ingredients you’ll find in Spam. It might surprise you to learn that this processed meat product contains only six primary components:

  1. Pork with ham meat added (counted as one ingredient)
  2. Salt
  3. Water
  4. Potato starch
  5. Sugar
  6. Sodium nitrite

These ingredients play different roles in creating Spam’s unique flavor, texture, and shelf-life. For instance, the combination of pork shoulder and ham meat results in a balanced taste and texture.

The salt in Spam not only enhances the flavor but also acts as a preservative. Along with salt, water is added to retain moisture and keep the canned meat product from drying out. Besides these, potato starch is used as a binding agent to maintain the meat’s moistness and consistently tender texture.

Now, one might notice sugar as an ingredient in Spam – but don’t worry. It’s added in small quantities, mainly to balance out the flavors within the meat.

Lastly, sodium nitrite has an essential role as a preservative. It helps to keep Spam safe for consumption by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. However, this ingredient can be controversial, as high levels of sodium nitrite consumption have been associated with potential health risks.

Overall, when it comes to the ingredients in Spam, it’s essential to consider how they contribute to the product’s overall flavor, texture, and shelf life. 

Nutrition Information

 While SPAM may not be considered the healthiest food option, it does provide a decent amount of nutrition. Let’s take a closer look at the nutrition facts of SPAM.

  • Calories: 180
  • Total Fat: 16g
  • Saturated Fat: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 40mg
  • Sodium: 790mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 1g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Vitamin A: 0%
  • Vitamin C: 0%
  • Calcium: 0%
  • Iron: 2%

It’s important to note that SPAM contains some additives and preservatives, such as sodium nitrite and modified potato starch. These ingredients may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with dietary restrictions or sensitivities.

Health Benefits

Though Spam is not considered a healthy option due to its high sodium, calories, and saturated fat content, it does provide some nutritional value that may contribute to your diet.

While SPAM may not be the healthiest food option, there are some potential health benefits to consuming it in moderation. Here are a few health benefits of eating SPAM:

Provides a source of protein 

Protein is important for building and repairing tissues in the body. SPAM contains 7g of protein per serving. 

Convenient and shelf-stable

SPAM is a convenient and shelf-stable food option that can be stored for a long time without refrigeration. This can be helpful for those who may not have access to fresh food or who need a quick meal option.

Can be fortified with nutrients

Some varieties of SPAM, such as SPAM with Cheese, contain added vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin D.

Pros and Cons of Spam

When considering the inclusion of Spam in your diet, it’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to make the best decision for your preferences and dietary needs.


  • Taste: Many people enjoy the taste of Spam, which can add flavor to various dishes.
  • Long shelf life: Spam has a long shelf life, making it a convenient pantry staple that doesn’t require refrigeration until opened.
  • Convenience: Due to its precooked and canned nature, Spam is easy to prepare, making it great for quick meals.
  • Versatile: Spam can be used in various dishes, such as sandwiches, stir-fries, and even breakfast options like omelets.


  • Saturated fat: Spam is high in saturated fat, which could contribute to an increased risk of heart disease if consumed in excess.
  • Calories: Spam is relatively high in calories, which might not be ideal for those monitoring their caloric intake.
  • Processed meat: Spam is a processed meat, and studies have suggested that processed meats might have detrimental health effects when consumed regularly.
  • High sodium content: The high sodium content in Spam may not be suitable for those with high blood pressure or sensitivity to salt.

When deciding whether to include Spam in your meals, remember to take these pros and cons into account. You can balance your diet by incorporating a variety of other nutritious foods and considering your unique tastes and dietary requirements.

Scientific Studies

When trying to determine if Spam is bad for you, it’s essential to base your opinions on scientific research. There have been numerous studies related to processed meats, which can help you understand the potential health effects of consuming Spam.

One of the primary concerns with Spam is its high sodium content. Excessive sodium intake can harm people with high blood pressure or sensitivity to salt. Moreover, high sodium consumption has been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer.

Another aspect to consider is that Spam is a processed meat. According to various studies, processed meats can have negative health consequences. For example, they have been linked to a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. However, it’s essential to note that these findings apply to processed meats in general and not specifically to Spam.

By keeping this information in mind, you can make informed decisions about incorporating Spam into your diet.

What Do Health Experts Say?

Health experts have expressed concerns about SPAM’s nutritional content. One reason is that SPAM is relatively low in naturally-occurring nutrients. It’s important for you to consume a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. Unfortunately, SPAM may not contribute much to meeting your nutritional needs.

Another concern is the high sodium content in SPAM. It is high in sodium, which can be an issue for people with sensitivity to salt or those with high blood pressure. Consuming too much sodium might also increase your risk of stomach problems.

In addition, SPAM is made primarily of processed meat. Processed meats are often linked to various health issues, such as an increased risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Incorporating more fresh and unprocessed protein sources, like lean meats, fish, and plant-based proteins, in your diet could be a healthier choice.

Furthermore, SPAM contains preservatives, which help extend its shelf life but may not be the best for your health. Preservatives are typically used to inhibit the growth of bacteria and mold. However, consuming large amounts of such additives could have potential negative impacts on your health.

Although SPAM might be convenient and taste appealing, it’s essential to consider its nutritional content and potential health risks before including it as a staple in your diet.

Who Should Avoid It?

While Spam might be a convenient and tasty option for some, there are certain individuals who should be cautious about including it in their diet.

If you have hypertension or sensitivity to salt 

Firstly, if you have high blood pressure or a sensitivity to salt, you may want to avoid Spam due to its high sodium content. Consuming too much sodium can further elevate your blood pressure and may lead to other health issues over time.

If you are conscious about preservatives

Secondly, if you’re striving to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet, you should be cautious about consuming processed meat products like Spam. They are low in naturally-occurring nutrients and may contain potentially harmful preservatives.

If you are vegetarian/vegan or if it is not allowed in your religion 

Lastly, if you have dietary restrictions or preferences such as being vegetarian or vegan, or if you follow a religious or personal diet that prohibits the consumption of pork, then you should avoid Spam as it is made primarily from processed pork.

Hence, if you have health concerns tied to sodium, are focused on a nutritious diet, or need to avoid certain types of meat, you should opt for alternative, healthier food choices instead of Spam.


If you’re looking for healthier alternatives to Spam, there are several options available. One popular choice is opting for a pork roll, which can offer similar high protein content without many unhealthy ingredients. Some other traditional substitutes include potted meat, scrapple, and jambon.

For a more diverse range of flavors and textures, consider these alternatives:

  • Roasted Turkey or Chicken: These lean meats can provide high-quality protein and essential vitamins while being lower in fat and sodium compared to Spam.
  • Tofu: A plant-based alternative that can be seasoned and prepared in various ways, making it a versatile substitute for Spam in your recipes.

For those leaning toward vegetarian or vegan options, there are a few meat-free alternatives that may satisfy your cravings:

  • Grilled Portobello Mushrooms: These can mimic the texture of meat when grilled and marinated, making them an excellent meat substitute.
  • Roasted Red Peppers: Adding roasted red peppers to a sandwich or salad, for example, can provide a burst of flavor and essential nutrients.
  • Hummus: A flavorful and nutritious alternative made from chickpeas, which can be used as a spread, dip or topping in various dishes.

While Spam might be an easy and convenient option, you can find healthier alternatives that offer better nutritional benefits without sacrificing taste. Choose from the suggestions above or get creative with other protein sources to maintain a balanced and flavorful diet.


Consuming Spam can have some negative impacts on your health. Due to its high sodium content and the presence of preservatives like sodium nitrite, it’s not the healthiest option for your diet.

When evaluating the nutritional value of Spam, it is important to consider that it is relatively low in naturally-occurring nutrients and it is primarily made with processed meat. As a result, it may lack essential nutrients, such as protein, minerals, and vitamins that your body needs to function optimally.

Additionally, consuming processed meats like Spam may potentially increase the risk of certain health issues, including stomach problems and potential carcinogenic effects.

Pay attention to your overall dietary intake and strive to consume a varied and balanced diet. While it’s true that no single food product is inherently bad, it’s crucial to understand the potential consequences and long-term effects of consuming high amounts of processed foods like Spam.

In light of the information provided, consider limiting your intake of Spam and opt for healthier alternatives, such as lean meats, fish, and plant-based protein sources. This will help you maintain a well-rounded diet and promote better long-term health outcomes.


Is SPAM unhealthy for you?

Yes, SPAM can be considered unhealthy for you due to its high content of fat, sodium, and calories, while at the same time it is low in essential nutrients such as protein, minerals, and vitamins. Since it is a highly processed food, it contains preservatives like sodium nitrite that may have adverse effects on your health.

What are some of the short-term side effects of consuming SPAM?

Consuming SPAM might cause short-term side effects such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, water retention, dehydration, swelling, edema, and dizziness. It may also cause stomach cramps.

What are the possible long-term side effects of consuming SPAM regularly?

If you consume SPAM regularly, you may face long-term side effects such as inflammation, weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, increased blood pressure, heart disease, and even cancer.


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  • Marixie Manarang, MT, undergrad MD

    Marixie Manarang is licensed Medical Laboratory Scientist and an undergraduate of Doctor of Medicine (MD). For one year, she completed her internship training in a government hospital, primarily catering to retired veterans and their dependents. Through her preceptorships in medical school, she gained exposure to patients from various medical departments. Marixie’s passion for writing stems from her excellent medical background, being a mother, and a strong desire to assist the elderly and others in need. Education: Our Lady of Fatima University Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Medicine (2012-2015), Angeles University Foundation Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Medicine (2009-2011), Angeles University Foundation Bachelors, Medical Technology (2004-2009)






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