Does Honey Baked Ham Have Nitrates? A Detailed Look

Honey Baked Ham is a popular pre-cooked ham product sold in grocery stores across America. It’s known for its delicious honey glaze and convenient ready-to-eat preparation. But some health-conscious consumers have questions about what goes into this processed meat. Specifically, they want to know – does Honey Baked Ham contain potentially harmful nitrates?

I decided to do some digging to find out the truth about nitrates in this iconic holiday ham. As a food blogger, I want to empower my readers to make informed choices about the foods they eat. In this article, I’ll walk through everything I learned in my research on Honey Baked Ham and nitrates.

First. let’s start with the basics – what are nitrates? And why are they used in some processed meats like ham?

Nitrates are chemical compounds that contain nitrogen. They are frequently used as preservatives and color-enhancing agents in cured meats like ham, bacon and hot dogs. Here’s a quick overview

  • Preservation – Nitrates have antimicrobial properties that prevent bacteria growth and food spoilage. This allows processed meats to have a longer shelf-life.

  • Color – Nitrates interact with the meat’s myoglobin to give cured meats their characteristic pink color. Without nitrates, the meats would turn brown.

  • Flavor – Nitrates influence flavor development during curing, imparting a distinct salty, smoky taste.

While nitrates serve functional purposes in processed meats, there have also been health concerns raised about their use Let’s explore that next

Potential Health Risks of Nitrates

There is some controversy around the safety of nitrates in foods. Here are a few of the potential health risks that have been associated with consuming high amounts of nitrates:

  • Formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines – Under certain conditions like high heat, nitrates can convert into compounds called nitrosamines which are linked to increased cancer risk.

  • Increased risk of gastrointestinal cancers – Some studies have found a correlation between high processed meat consumption and colorectal cancer. Nitrates may play a role.

  • Interference with thyroid function – High nitrate levels may impact thyroid hormone production and metabolism.

  • Increased risk of heart disease – There are concerns that nitrates may affect blood pressure and promote vascular inflammation.

However, it’s important to note that the health risks associated with nitrates often focus on highly processed meat intake. Eating nitrates in moderation, as part of a balanced diet, is unlikely to pose significant health concerns for most people. The jury is still out on whether nitrates themselves are the culprit.

Now let’s get back to answering our original question…

Does Honey Baked Ham Contain Nitrates?

After thoroughly researching manufacturing practices and product specifications, I can confirm that yes, Honey Baked Ham does contain added nitrates.

While the exact curing process is proprietary, Honey Baked states that their hams are slowly cured using a blend of salts, sugar, and sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is a salt closely related to sodium nitrate and serves a similar functional purpose in meat curing.

Most mass-produced hams sold in the U.S., including Honey Baked, use nitrates or nitrites in the curing mix. These additives give the ham its characteristic properties that consumers expect – a lengthy shelf-life, pink color, and smoked flavor.

Honey Baked Ham is not marked as “uncured” or “no nitrates/nitrites added”. This indicates added nitrates/nitrites are present.

Are There Any Nitrate-Free Alternatives?

For consumers trying to reduce nitrate intake from processed meats, there are a few alternative options:

  • Uncured hams – Some stores now sell “uncured”, “nitrate-free”, or “no nitrates added” hams that use natural curing methods without nitrates/nitrites. However, these may have a more irregular appearance and shorter shelf-life.

  • Prosciutto – Dry-cured prosciutto ham relies on salt, air-drying, and time rather than nitrates to preserve it. This yields a deliciously complex flavor.

  • Country ham – Like prosciutto, dry-cured country hams use traditional salt-based curing methods without added nitrates or nitrites.

  • Fresh pork – Opt for fresh cuts of pork like pork chops, tenderloin, or roast. These have no added preservatives.

While uncured or fresh pork requires a little more work, these alternatives let you enjoy real ham flavor without the nitrates.

Tips for Consuming Honey Baked Ham Safely

For those sticking with good ol’ Honey Baked Ham, there are some steps you can take to enjoy it safely:

  • Eat in moderation – Don’t overindulge. Stick to sensible portion sizes as part of an overall healthy diet.

  • Avoid charring – Cook at lower temperatures and don’t char the meat, which can increase nitrosamine formation.

  • Limit the skin – Much of the nitrate content accumulates in the outer ham skin. Trimming this can reduce nitrate levels.

  • Pair with antioxidants – Fruits and veggies rich in vitamin C and E can combat nitrosamine formation during digestion.

  • Store properly – Follow storage guidelines carefully to prevent microbial growth. Freeze for longer storage.

The Bottom Line

Like most mass-produced American hams, Honey Baked Ham does contain nitrates as part of its curing process. This gives the ham stability and iconic properties that many consumers love. However, dietary nitrates have come under scrutiny for potential health hazards.

By being mindful of portion sizes, cooking methods, and diet as a whole, nitrates in ham can be consumed responsibly as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. For those wishing to avoid added nitrates, naturally cured options are also available.

At the end of the day, the decision of whether or not to eat Honey Baked Ham comes down to each individual’s preferences and risk tolerance. My goal was simply to provide the facts so readers can make their own informed choice.

Honey Baked Ham Serving Instructions


Is Honey Baked Ham considered processed meat?

Yep. “Processed meat” is any meat that’s preserved by salting, smoking or curing, or by adding chemical preservatives. That means sausage, bacon, cold cuts like pastrami and salami, hot dogs and, yes, ham.

Is Honey Baked Ham safe to eat?

For serving, we recommend taking Ham or Turkey out of refrigeration for 30 minutes prior to serving. If you choose to refrigerate your products, Honey Baked Ham can be refrigerated for 7 to 10 days and Honey Baked Turkey Breast can be refrigerated for 5 to 7 days.

Is Honey Baked Ham cured or uncured?

Each Honey Baked Ham is cured for up to 24 hours using a signature process that enhances the flavor of the meat. Because we don’t add any extra water or juices, our hams weigh the same going into the curing process as they do coming out.

Can you buy ham without nitrates?

The label stating “natural, “uncured,” or “no nitrates or nitrites added” simply means that no sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite additives were added to cure the meat. Instead of sodium nitrite, these natural or uncured ham are preserved with a more natural ingredient, usually celery juice powder or celery extract.

Does HoneyBaked Ham have nitrates?

I have had many people coming to the site looking to find if the ham you buy from the HoneyBaked Ham Company contains nitrates. The answer is YES. So their hams are not uncured and if that is something that you want, you will need to stir clear of theirs. An uncured ham can be cooked the same way as one that has nitrates added.

Is honey baked ham as good as regular ham?

The addition of honey will affect the calorie content of the food. One tablespoon of honey contributes to approximately 64 calories. In addition, the use of heat when making baked ham will reduce the quality of the honey.

Do hams have sodium nitrates?

Hams that are labeled “uncured” have not had any sodium nitrates or nitrites added to it, this includes the spiral cut uncured hams. There may be some naturally occurring nitrates or nitrites but none are purposely added to as a preservative. There is research out there that indicates that excessive nitrates and nitrites can lead to cancer.

Are hams high in nitrites?

Ham is often the highest source of dietary nitrates. A single 100 g serving of cured ham has as much as 900 mcg of nitrites. This is the source of the iconic pink color of cured hams. Bacon has up to 380 mcg of nitrites per 100 g of weight. It’s also incredibly high in 5.5. mg nitrites.

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