Spam was made popular during World War II, due to its basic ingredients, long shelf life, and portability. But has it stood the test of time, and is it still standing in the day of low-carb, high-fat keto eating? Read on to find out more!
The name “spam” comes from a military acronym for ‘Special Project Army Material’. It refers to canned meat that was developed by the US government as an alternative to regular beef or pork products during WWII.
The first cans were filled with ground-up pig intestines mixed with salt and water. This mixture would then be cooked into patties which could be used as food rations.
Fast forward to the present day, some don’t like spam because of the stigma it has attached to having been rationed during the war, also some are not keen due to it being a processed meat, we will discuss this in further detail below. If you want to know more about the history of spam, check out this article, otherwise, we’ll get into it and answer the question, can I eat spam on keto?
A Brief Recap on Keto
If you have been eating keto for any time you will know the whole focus of a keto diet is to keep your macros to 70% Fat, 25% Protein, and 5% Carbohydrates (Carbs).
This 5% of carbs should not exceed 20 grams for a traditional keto diet. Depending on whether you are doing lazy, dirty, or strict (aka clean) keto, will depend on how you track these macros. In order to keep your carb content under 20 grams, you need to be conscious of what you are eating and stick to low carbs foods.
These low-carb foods also need to be low on the glycemic index, so as not to spike your blood sugar and knock you out of ketosis. If keto is new to you, why not check out our Keto Starters Guide. Now, let’s get into the detail of the nutritional value of spam to decide whether they are appropriate for a keto lifestyle.
What is the Nutritional Value of Spam?
Before we look at what is in spam, let’s first look at the ingredients of spam.
Ingredients in spam;
- Potato starch (to preserve moisture and bind the ingredients)
- Sodium nitrate (preservative)
Having looked at this list, there are probably some alarm bells ringing, potato starch and sugar are not considered keto ingredients.
The nutritional values for original spam per 100 grams are;
- Carbs: 3.2 grams.
- Protein: 15 grams.
- Fat: 24.3 grams.
- Sugar: 1.3 grams.
- Calories: 292 cal
Spam provides small amounts of vitamin C, magnesium, folate, and calcium.
Spam is quite high in protein, this will need to be factored into your daily macros. It also has a high number of grams of fat, which is perfect for a keto diet.
These days there are over 14 different types of spam that are produced, so check the label of spam variety you are purchasing.
How many Net Carbs are there in Spam?
Net carbs are calculated by deducting the amount of fiber from the total number of carbs. These values have been taken off the back of a spam tin in the UK, therefore the net carbs have already been calculated.
An average, single serving of spam is around 50 grams, so that would equate to 1.6 net carbs per serving.
As discussed above, if you are eating a traditional keto diet, your primary aim is to stay below 20 grams of carbs in a day.
So, Is Spam Keto Diet Friendly?
We have established that spam does not have a high carb count and that it is high in fat, and moderate in protein, but is spam keto diet friendly?
How is Spam Made?
Spam is made by the,
- Grinding up the pork shoulder and ham
- Other ingredients are then added and mixed
- Vaccume sealed into cans
- The cans are then cooked for around 3 hours
As we have discussed above, spam contains sugar and potato starch, which are not ingredients that we would advocate on a keto diet, especially if you are eating clean/strict keto.
If you are eating a dirty keto diet, spam is fine IIFYM (if it fits your macros). Check out this article for more keto abbreviations.
There is very little potato starch used in spam. It is used to bind all of the ingredients together. As long as you are not eating the full can of spam, this should not spike your blood sugar in any way.
The second ingredient that may cause concern is sugar itself.
Sugar is avoided at all costs on a keto diet over concerns that it will cause a spike in insulin levels. A spike in insulin levels can knock you out of ketosis.
The reality is there there is so little sugar used in the production of spam that, again, as long as you are not eating the full can, this will not kick you out of ketosis.
However, remember that there are different spam varieties, to always check out how much sugar is in the different types.
List of the different flavors of Spam
- SPAM Classic
SPAM Less Sodium
SPAM with Real Hormel Bacon
SPAM Oven Roasted Turkey
SPAM Hickory Smoke
SPAM Hot and Spicy
SPAM Black Pepper
SPAM with Chorizo Seasoning
SPAM with Portuguese Sausage Seasoning
SPAM with Tocino Seasoning
SPAM with Cheese
Spam is such a popular dish and convenient food that I wouldn’t be surprised if before long there are making a fully keto friendly version of this classic, replacing the potato starch for a keto alternative and sugar for a keto-friendly sugar alternative. Then spam would be truly a keto food!
This is by no means a ‘health food’ that we would advocate eating daily if you are living a keto lifestyle, however, now and again, to mix things up a bit spam is an ok option.
Is it ok to Eat Spam on a Low Carb Diet?
Yes, spam can be eaten on a low carb diet.
Why not enjoy a breakfast of spam and eggs or even slicing it into fries and pan frying it to repace your potato fries? The Hawaiians have found no end of inventive ways to incorporate spam into their diets.
There are hundreds of keto, low carb meals you can make with spam.
Do you have a favourite low carb, keto way to eat spam? Let us know in the comments below. ???
Final Thoughts: Is Spam Allowed on Keto?
As we have discussed above, spam contains sugar and potato starch, which are not ingredients that we would advocate on a keto diet, especially if you are eating clean/strict keto. The only thing stopping people from enjoying spam is their perception of what foods should be allowed on a ketogenic diet. However, with the rise in popularity of keto diets, spam may soon become one of those ‘keto approved’ food items.