A balanced diet is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle—especially if you want to lose weight. That means you should always try load up on fresh, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rather than processed options like frozen meals and salty snacks. One major type of processed food that experts say you should cut back on if you’re trying to shed a few pounds is canned foods, which are typically loaded with sodium and preservatives. While these may be popular pantry items that can last on the shelf for a long time without going bad, the health risks they pose typically aren’t worth it. This is especially true when it comes to canned meat.
To learn more about the dangers of canned meat and why it should be avoided by anyone looking to lose weight, we spoke to health expert Jesse Feder, RDN, CPT of My Chron’s and Colitis Team. He gave us the rundown on the downsides to this food; find all of his insight below!
While many canned foods are bad for you, and there’s no straightforward answer for which one is the absolute worst, Feder says that canned meats like spam are at the top of his list. This is because, as he explains, “They are very high in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium.” Additionally, “certain canned foods might also be high in fat/oils to add flavor which can really add on extra calories.” All of those ingredients can lead to a range of health issues, but they’re especially bad for anyone looking to lose weight or keep their heart healthy. “The increased calorie intake can lead to weight gain and cardiovascular diseases,” Feder says.
As far as heart health risks go, Feder tells us that “the high amount of saturated fat [in canned meats] can contribute to increased bad cholesterol levels which can clog your arteries” and “the high sodium content can cause water retention and increase your blood pressure.” Yikes! For this reason, you may want to consider leaving this food (and most canned foods) on the shelf next time you’re grocery shopping.
Alternatives to canned meat
So, if you’re watching your weight and/or your heart health, what are your best options when it comes to meat? Feder says that if possible, you should get your meats fresh from the grocery store, “or at the very least from the deli counter.” (Although, we should also warn that processed deli meats can also take a toll on your heath.)
And if you really can’t give up spam or other canned meat, he offers a bit of advice: “I highly recommend to opt for lite versions of available,” Feder says. “These are reduced fat, sodium, and calories.” Much better!