Which is Worse – Spam or Bacon? A Thorough Comparison

Spam and bacon are two of the most popular processed meats But when it comes to health, which one is worse for you? Here’s a detailed comparison of spam vs bacon to help you decide

A Brief History of Spam and Bacon

First, let’s start with some background.

Spam – Spam is a canned cooked meat product made by Hormel Foods Corporation. It was first introduced in 1937 and gained popularity during World War II as a convenient and affordable protein source. The original Spam is made primarily from pork and ham.

Bacon – Bacon is a cured and smoked pork product. Humans have been curing pork for preservation for centuries. The modern bacon-making process was developed in the 1800s. Bacon became widely popular in the 1920s and 30s in North America.

Nutritional Content – Calories, Fat, Sodium

Spam and bacon have dramatically different nutrition profiles Here’s a breakdown


  • 2 slices of pan-fried Spam (56g) contains 153 calories
  • 2 slices of pan-fried bacon (28g) contains 153 calories

So in terms of calories, they’re nearly identical. However, bacon packs more calories per gram compared to spam.

Fat & Saturated Fat:

  • 2 slices of Spam have 10g total fat, 4g saturated fat
  • 2 slices of bacon have 12g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat

Bacon contains slightly more total and saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake, so bacon is worse in this regard.


  • 2 slices of Spam have 630mg sodium
  • 2 slices of bacon have 288mg sodium

Spam is shockingly higher in sodium. The daily recommended limit is 2300mg, so Spam provides over 1/4 of that in just 2 slices.

So while the calories are similar, Spam is clearly worse when it comes to sodium content. Let’s look at ingredients next.

Ingredients – Spam’s Added Nitrates

Spam and bacon have very different ingredient lists.

Spam ingredients: pork shoulder meat, ham meat, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.

Bacon ingredients: pork belly, water, sea salt, sugar, sodium phosphate, maple sugar, natural wood smoke flavoring.

The concerning ingredient in Spam is the sodium nitrite, which is added to processed meats as a preservative and color fixer. When exposed to high heat and our stomach acid, nitrites can form cancer-causing nitrosamines.

Studies link processed meat consumption to increased risk of colorectal cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen – the highest risk category.

So Spam’s added nitrites make it potentially more harmful than plain cured bacon.

How Are They Cooked? Frying Matters.

Both Spam and bacon are commonly pan-fried before eating. Frying meat at high heat can create harmful compounds like advanced glycation end products (AGEs), aldehydes, and lipid peroxidation products.

These compounds promote oxidative stress in the body and are linked to increased risk of chronic diseases. However, the frying factor likely impacts bacon more than Spam.

Why? Because bacon releases more fat during frying compared to the leaner Spam. This added fat splattering means more oxidized compounds are generated.

So the cooking method contributes to bacon being potentially more unhealthy overall.

Nutritional Pros and Cons Summary

Spam’s Pros:

  • Lower in total fat and saturated fat
  • Higher in protein per calorie

Spam’s Cons:

  • Extremely high in sodium
  • Contains potentially carcinogenic sodium nitrite
  • Still fried at high heat during cooking

Bacon’s Pros:

  • Lower in sodium
  • No chemical preservatives like nitrite

Bacon’s Cons:

  • Higher in saturated fat
  • Releases more fat when fried, creating more harmful compounds
  • Frying may damage the cholesterol in bacon

Based on the nutrition alone, Spam appears to be the unhealthier choice due to its astronomical sodium levels and nitrite content.

Health Conditions Impacted

Eating processed meats like spam and bacon frequently can negatively impact health over time and increase the risk of certain conditions.

Heart disease – The high sodium from Spam raises blood pressure, and the saturated fat in both spam and bacon raises LDL cholesterol – two risk factors for heart disease.

Type 2 diabetes – Nitrite-containing processed meats may impair insulin production and increase inflammation, contributing to diabetes development.

Cancer – As mentioned earlier, processed meats are classified as carcinogens by the WHO due to their links with colorectal cancer. The nitrites in Spam make it especially concerning.

Kidney problems – The high sodium in Spam places stress on the kidneys, which have to work harder to filter and excrete it. This can worsen conditions like chronic kidney disease over time.

So in terms of long-term health risks, regularly consuming either spam or bacon (but especially the former) is not a great idea. Moderation is key if you choose to eat them.

Cost Comparison

Beyond nutrition, cost is an important factor for many consumers. Here is how Spam and bacon compare price-wise:

  • 12 oz can of Spam: $2.50
  • 12 oz package of bacon: $4.29

Per serving:

  • 2 slices of Spam: $0.31
  • 2 slices of bacon: $0.27

So Spam is more economical overall per package, but per slice or serving bacon is a bit cheaper. However, Spam is often purchased in bulk on sale so prices vary.

Taste – It’s Subjective!

Lastly, let’s compare taste – although this is highly subjective. In my opinion:

Spam has a distinct salty, meaty, umami flavor. The texture is smooth and uniform. It’s softer than bacon.

Bacon has a smoky, savory taste and aroma. It has more texture variations due to the fat and meat layers. The crispiness when fried is satisfying.

Which tastes better comes down to personal preference. Some love Spam’s strong saltiness, while others prefer bacon’s smoky richness and crunch.

In terms of versatility, bacon can be used in more dishes and cuisines. But Spam has its ardent fans as well.

The Verdict: Which is Worse for You?

After reviewing all the factors – nutrition, ingredients, cost, taste and more – here is the final verdict:

Spam is worse for your health overall.

The extremely high sodium content plus the added nitrites make Spam the more harmful processed meat product. Bacon is no health food, but Spam has more cons by comparison.

However, both should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. The occasional serving of bacon or Spam is fine for most people, but regular consumption can negatively impact heart disease risk, cancer risk, kidney function and diabetes management. Always consume processed meats alongside plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole foods.

The Absolute Best And Worst Spam Flavors


Is Spam worse than ham?

So yes, there is a difference between ham and spam. Spam contains more calories, more fat, and less protein. But the difference isn’t as severe as expected, especially considering that you can get 340g of Spam for $3.48 before taxes and I paid the same amount yesterday for 100g of Black Forest ham at Choices.

How bad is Spam for you?

Though Spam is convenient, easy to use and has a long shelf-life, it’s also very high in fat, calories and sodium and low in important nutrients, such as protein, vitamins and minerals. Additionally, it’s highly processed and contains preservatives like sodium nitrite that may cause several adverse health effects.

Is Spam or hot dogs worse for you?

Scientists can’t determine which is more likely to cause issues more than the other (especially because people who eat processed meats tend to eat all sorts of processed meats), only that they’re all deleterious for the body, and in many cases, even carcinogenic.

When should you not eat Spam?

Avoid damaged cans and funky smelling Spam This is why FoodSafety.Gov recommends consuming shelf-stable canned meats within five years if left in the pantry. However, once opened and kept in the fridge, this figure shrinks to about only four days.

Does Spam bacon taste good?

Despite the fact that Spam Bacon had significantly less sodium than classic original Spam, it tasted incredibly salty. The sugar helped counteract a bit of the sodium. Overall, this product really did have genuine bacon flavor, though it lacked the crispness we expect from the breakfast staple.

Does spam have a smoke flavor?

Although no smoke or smoke flavoring was listed on the ingredients label, this Spam was made with ground-up bacon and rendered bacon fat, which brings a mild campfire presence. We also picked up a brown sugar-like flavor that we’d guess came from the bacon as well. That sweetness was necessary because this Spam variety was a salt bomb.

Who invented bacon & spam?

Soon, the process was adopted by Greeks and Romans. These days, you’ll find bacon the world over. Spam, meanwhile, is a canned lunch meat that was invented by Hormel Foods in Austin, Minnesota, in 1937.

Is spam a healthy food?

Spam is a popular canned meat product made with ground pork, ham and various flavoring agents and preservatives. Spam is high in sodium, fat and calories. It also provides a little protein and several micronutrients, such as zinc, potassium, iron and copper. One two-ounce (56-gram) serving of Spam contains ( 1 ):

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