Lifestyle | Food Features

Is Ham Low FODMAP? – All About Ham

When you first hear about the low FODMAP diet once of the wonderful things we learn is that proteins are A-O-K. But, the specific thing to pay attention to here is that plain, raw protein is what we are talking about. So ground beef, a hunk of raw steak, fish filets and a whole chicken ready to be roasted are all great, however, once we start adding other ingredients, all bets are off. For instance, studding your leg of lamb with garlic cloves would be a no-no. Ham? It depends.

overhead black and white shot of sliced ham on a board with a carving knife and fork

First, a definition: Ham, according to the FDA, is a cured pork leg. Curing takes place when “salt, sodium or potassium nitrate (or saltpeter), nitrites, and sometimes sugar, seasonings, phosphates and cure accelerators” are added to the raw pork leg.

Are Processed Meats Low FODMAP?

When you go to the deli case and are gazing at the selection, ready to be sliced, you will encounter roast turkey, smoked turkey, roast beef, ham and smoked ham to name a few. There is no clear-cut answer as to whether these are low FODMAP or not. Each and every brand processes these meats differently, so you have to read labels and ask questions. Same goes for the meats pre-sliced in packages.

Even the turkey and roast beef that are prepared in-house might be seasoned with garlic powder or some other high FODMAP ingredient. Don’t be shy to engage in a conversation with the person at the deli counter. (Robin and I used to be those people, and we loved talking about the food we were selling- so speak up!).

Buying processed meats is all about self-education and becoming familiar with what your local stores have to offer.

Ham! Ham & More Ham!

Easter is coming and many folks like a nice ham on the table, but can you eat one safely if following a low FODMAP diet? Let’s first talk about what ham actually is.

There are many kinds of ham, which by definition is the rear leg of the pig; let’s discuss, as you will see a variety of terms on labels:

Fresh Ham: I truly wish people would just call this what it is, which is raw pork. This is an uncooked, uncured hunk of meat that must be cooked or cured before eating.

City Ham: Perhaps you have never heard this term, which is ironic, because most of the ham we eat is of this type. City Hams are cured through brining and sold fully cooked, ready to eat. They can be smoked or unsmoked. They can be sold boneless or spiral sliced, on the bone. Our recipe for Brown Sugar Baked Ham uses this type.

Country Hams: These hams are treated with a dry rub and hung to dry for an extended period of time, typically 6 to 12 months. Examples of this style are Westphalian Ham and Black Forest Ham. They can be smoked or un-smoked and tend to have a dry-ish texture and intense flavor. They can also be uncooked or cooked. If they are uncooked they need to be soaked at least overnight if not longer before cooking and recipes will dictate the approach, often provided by the manufacturer. Some might even have mold on them from their extended dry storage; do not throw the ham out! This is a natural occurrence and the ham is not ruined. Again, directions will explain how to handle this but usually it is removed with a stiff brush. Country hams are intensely salty and a drier texture.

Cured Ham: By definition, all are cured – as you learned above – but you will see this term on occasion. It simply refers to a piece of raw pork that has been treated with a brine or a dry rub in which case it will also be dry cured for a length of time (see City and Country hams above). The confusing thing to note is that cured hams can sort of look alike, sporting a rosy-pink hue, but they might be deemed “fully cooked”, or they might still need to be cooked, in which case the label will clearly state that and even offer cooking instructions.

Cured & Smoked: These hams are the same as above with the addition of also being smoked.

Canned Ham: These are bits of ham pressed together into a solid (can) shape. They are stored in brine, are exceedingly salty and best avoided.

Which Hams Are Low FODMAP? Read Labels & Ask Questions!

It depends. You will have to read labels. Our recipe for Baked Ham starts with a cured, full cooked, city-type ham. We are able to find one with a very simple ingredient label. We took some cues from bacon, which is approved by Monash, however, again, you have to read labels. You don’t want bacon or ham that is cured with honey or high fructose corn syrup or includes celery powder or celery juice in the processing, as it has not been tested by Monash. Read more in our article, Is Bacon Low FODMAP ? Celery powder, however, is used in a lot of bacon processing.

As usual, you need to be a bit of a detective, but it is possible to find ham that is low FODMAP.

Also, avoid hams that are processed with water or saline solutions. These plump up the ham, you pay for water weight, and they do not improve the texture or flavor. In fact, they dilute the wonderful natural hammy flavors and textures.

For a classic dish, check out our low FODMAP Brown Sugar Baked Ham!

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