Nutritional Properties of Iberian Ham

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    Jul 08, 2014
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Nutritional Properties of Iberian Ham Photo by Jake Adams

Without a doubt, the main reason for the success of Iberian ham in Spain and the rest of the world is its taste and the pleasure derived from eating it. Yet we mustn’t forget that the nutritional values of Iberian ham are exceptional, which is why it is recommended by nutritionists as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

The exclusive nutritional properties of Iberian ham
The first thing you need to understand is that not all types of ham have the same characteristics when it comes to nutritional content. Due to the fact that the pigs have been fattened on a “mountain diet,” in which they are fed exclusively on acorns and pastureland resources, such as roots and grass, the nutritional properties of Iberian ham are substantially different from those of hams produced from white pigs.
Iberian ham is especially rich in protein and fat, as well as minerals and fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin E and the B vitamins. Furthermore, it is recommendable because of its high level of digestibility. Let’s look at it in detail.

Rich in protein and lipids
Both Serrano ham and Iberian ham have high protein content, although that of the latter is of better quality. This is because of the elevated level of amino acids per gram of protein, which increases the nutritional value of Iberian ham ounce for ounce. Moreover, the curing process produces a chemical reaction called proteolysis, which facilitates digestion of the ham. This is significant because its digestibility index, ranging from 85% to 100%, results in higher absorption of nutrients.

The high intramuscular fat content is an important source of unsaturated fatty acids and also means that the level of saturated fat is much lower than that of ham produced from white pigs. These parameters demonstrate that regular consumption of Iberian ham raises “good” cholesterol and lowers “bad” cholesterol, which is why, for several decades now, nutritionists have included it in the “Mediterranean Diet” as a significant source of calories and other nutritional benefits.

Nutritional differences between Iberian and Serrano hams
In addition to the notable differences from one to the other in terms of organoleptic properties, each type of ham is quite different in terms of the breed and diet of the pig and specific factors related to the way the ham is prepared. Both the breed and the feeding regimen determine the level and quality of the fat content. In this regard, as we’ve already explained, the nutritional properties of Iberian ham are far superior to those of hams produced from white pigs.

Iberian Ham Nutrition Facts Per serving (100 grams)
Calcium                                   27.08 mg
Carbohydrates                       0.10 g
Calories                                  375
Phosphorus                           157.5 mg
Fat                                            22.4 g
Iron                                          3.35 mg
Magnesium                           157.5 mg
Potassium                              153
Protein                                    43.2 g
Sodium                                   1,110 mg
Vitamin B12                          15.68 µg
Vitamin E                               11 µg

It’s also worth mentioning the importance of the mountain diet, as the acorns contribute to the high Vitamin E content found in Iberian ham. This is significant because Vitamin E plays an important role in the ham’s maturation and oxidation process, which is shorter than that of Serrano ham, resulting in meat that’s less salty. In addition to these excellent properties, we mustn’t forget the high mineral content, including magnesium, phosphorus and iron, as well as Vitamins B1 and B12.

Iberian ham: a food that’s beneficial to your health
All of the above factors lead us to the conclusion that the nutritional properties of Iberian ham are ideal for maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and contribute specific benefits. For one thing, the high protein content aids in muscular development, which is why nutritionists recommend it during the growing years and pregnancy.

For another thing, the considerable quantities of B vitamins aid in overcoming depression and stress and speed recovery during periods of convalescence due to illness or surgery. Stomach problems can also be a good reason for consuming Iberian ham, owing to its high level of digestibility.

This is not a rosy view of the virtues of Iberian ham, but rather the conclusion that has been reached based on the numerous scientific studies that have been conducted in recent decades, which have more than demonstrated the health benefits of consuming Iberian ham in moderation.

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Author loves to share informative articles and blogs on various delicious recipes around the world. Currently, he is writing content about delicious Spanish recipes, including iberian jamon , Iberian pork & ham.

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