Keto dieters often find themselves asking what they can eat in order to sustain their state of ketosis, the state where the body primarily burns fats rather than the glucose in carbohydrates for energy.
The goal is to only consume foods that are low in net carbohydrates.
This can be surprisingly tricky, and sometimes keto followers will have to ask this question of some of their favorite childhood foods.
One such food is spam, which I’m sure many of us will have enjoyed at some point or other growing up.
So, is spam keto? You might think the answer is obvious, but it’s a little more complicated than some might think.
Before we get to that, though, we’ll have a brief word on spam first.
What Is Spam?
Most of us will be familiar with spam, but I’m sure there are a few who don’t. So what is it?
Spam is a canned lunch meat that has been around since 1937. It shot to popularity during WWII, and has been popular in the United States and the United Kingdom ever since.
Nobody really knows what Spam stands for, with some of the best guesses including ‘Spiced Ham’ and ‘Shoulders of Pork and Ham’.
Because Spam developed something of a reputation as a mystery meat, some cleverly joked that it might stand for ‘Specially Processed Artificial Meat’ or even ‘Something Posing as Meat’.
The reality, though, is that we know what goes into spam. It’s mostly ham and pork shoulder, and also contains water, salt, sugar, sodium nitrate, and potato starch.
But is it keto-friendly?
Is Spam Keto-Friendly?
There is what some would call a misconception that foods are either keto or not keto.
Obviously, the goal of a keto diet is to consume as few carbohydrates as possible in order to maintain the state of ketosis, but that doesn’t mean that foods higher in carbohydrates are ‘not keto’ and have to be completely off the menu.
The reality is that it’s not necessarily the food itself that is the problem, but the portion size.
Keto-friendly foods are those that can be eaten in relatively large quantities, because they are so low in net carbohydrates.
You’ll be pleased to know that both classic Spam and Spam lite fit squarely into this category, with just 1 gram of carbs per serving and just 6 grams in a whole can.
Some keto diet followers will have been alarmed to see the presence of potato starch in the recipe, but it’s such a minor ingredient that it has no real bearing on the product’s carbohydrate content.
The vast majority of spam flavors also contain no more than 1 or 2 grams of carbohydrates per serving, although certain flavors are significantly higher.
One such flavor is Spam Tocino, which has 7 grams of carbs per serving and 42 grams worth in a whole can.
That’s about the same amount of carbs in a whole can of Spam as in a single cup of cooked spaghetti, so it’s still not that carb-laden by comparison.
Therefore, you might think that this is an open and shut case- Spam is keto-friendly. Well. there’s a bit more to it than that…
Spam: ‘Dirty’ Keto?
Has it ever occurred to you that spam might not be the healthiest food around? After all, it’s processed meat, which doctors warn us not to eat too much of.
Whilst it might not be laden with carbohydrates, it’s also absolutely packed with relatively unhealthy ingredients like sugar, modified starch, and sodium nitrate.
The sodium nitrate is arguably the biggest culprit, with research suggesting that excessive consumption may be linked to heart disease and the development of certain kinds of cancer.
This has led to spam being classified by some keto diet adherents as ‘dirty keto’, a term used to describe foods that are keto-friendly in terms of carbohydrate content but still best avoided by keto dieters due to their unhealthy nature.
After all, the main reason people follow a keto diet is to lose weight, and there’s no point cutting out all the carbs just to pig out on fatty, salty foods like Spam.
Sure, you can still maintain a state of ketosis with dirty keto foods, and you can still lose weight this way, but you may find yourself with other health problems in the long run.
Ideally, you should stick to eating nutritious low-carb foods like fish, vegetables, and white meats to achieve healthy keto weight loss.
Spam: Totally Off The Menu?
No, spam doesn’t have to be totally off the menu, especially if you are taking a more laissez-faire approach to your keto diet.
It’s a great, surprisingly versatile low-carb snack. It’s also a good source of fats and protein.
It might not be the healthiest food in the world, but since when do most people, whether on keto diets or not, never eat unhealthy food?
The world would be a pretty boring place if we only ever ate foods that were perfectly nutritionally balanced.
As always, the key is to eat Spam in moderation. If you’re concerned about the unhealthiness of Spam, a great way to eat it is to balance it out in meals that also feature much healthier ingredients.
Healthy Keto-Friendly Spam Meal Ideas
Spam can be enjoyed in many different ways, even whilst following a keto diet.
One delicious way to eat your spam is to serve it with eggs (however you like them!) and a bowl of cauliflower rice.
This works great for either breakfast or lunch! You could also fry your spam up with a little cabbage as a quick lunch, or even make a full-on stir fry with your Spam by tossing it in a pan with a bunch of vegetables- a great option for a proper dinner.
Honestly, there’s no shortage of ways to combine Spam with healthy ingredients to make a nutritionally balanced, low-carb lunch. A quick google search and you’ll be on your way!
So what have we found out? Whilst Spam is keto-friendly, containing very few carbohydrates, some keto diet purists consider it ‘dirty keto’- unhealthy food best avoided.
Honestly, we think including a little Spam in your keto diet is fine, so long as you eat it in moderation, and there is no shortage of healthy ingredients you can pair it with to make some delicious, low-carb dishes.