Healthy benefits of SPAM

Healthy benefits of SPAM

Doctors making mistakes

A bum rap for a classic of American "cuisine"

Last month, I wrote to you - somewhat gleefully, I'll admit - about the impending extinction of the Hostess Twinkie and it's deadly cousins, the Ding-dong and the Ho-ho (how did they come up with these names?). Paradoxically, these chemical-loaded, nearly nutrition-less sugar-bombs have long been considered HARMLESS by the mainstream. Right now, they're stacked high in convenience stores, lined up in rows in school vending machines and nestled on the kitchen-cabinet shelves of countless American households.

And if the Hostess Bakery does indeed go belly-up (as I'm hoping), many may even shed a nostalgic tear as the Twinkie and friends fade into history. I'm certain the mainstream media will have a field day over it, anyway. What's even more ironic is the fact that while deadly, diabetes-causing Twinkies have been getting a free pass for decades, another classic American foodstuff that's actually good for you has been getting horribly maligned for years

Of course, I'm talking about SPAM.

Yes, instead of being exalted as the healthy, simple, and affordable food it is, Spam has gotten the "Rodney Dangerfield" treatment in the mainstream - especially in the last 5 years, as the venerable brand has been co-opted by the digerati as another name for Internet junk mail!

But junk mail or not, Spam's definitely not junk FOOD. In fact, it's as close to perfect as a processed, indefinite-shelf-life food can be. Unlike the Twinkie's list of 27 ingredients (most of which aren't found in nature) Spam's got only 5 all-natural ingredients:

1) Chopped pork shoulder and ham meat

2) Salt

3) Water

4) Sugar (must be only a smidge - the nutritional info lists 0
grams of sugars)

5) Sodium Nitrite

Lest you're wondering about that last one - yes, it's a preservative. But unlike other preservatives (like a lot of the ones in Hostess Bakery's bag of tricks), Sodium Nitrite is produced by your own body at a far greater rate than what you likely consume in food. It is vital in controlling bacteria in the stomach - and on the shelf. The Sodium Nitrite in Spam (and in other packaged meats) guards against such bacterial nasties as botulism.

But as great as Spam is as a healthy, economical food, the truly American success story of this historic meat product is even greater. Keep reading

The True Hollywood Story: SPAM

When most people think of a canned food, they probably don't think about its place in American (and world) history. Yet just like people and places, foods have a story behind them. The hamburger has a story. The Sloppy Joe has a story. Oreo cookies have a story (albeit a fattening one)

And Spam has a story, too - one that'll bring a patriotic tear to the eye. According to various Spam-friendly Web sites (there are several), here are some of the high points in that story:

  • The U.S. military continues to rely on Spam as a staplefoodstuff for mess halls nationwide - over 3 millionpounds of the meat were purchased by the armed forces in 1989 alone.
  • Nikita Kruschev himself (our Cold War arch-enemy, but our ally in WWII) credited the millions of rations of cheap, hardy, and easy-to-cook Spam the U.S. supplied for the survival of the Russian Army in the Second World War.
  • Spam is trademarked and sold in at least 93 countries worldwide. In some (like Korea), it's marketed as gourmet food and sold in stylish presentation boxes.
  • An average of nearly 4 cans of Spam per second are consumed in the U.S alone.
  • If every can of Spam ever eaten were aligned end-to-end, that line would encircle the Earth more than ten times.
  • The simple name SPAM came from a contraction of "spiced ham," and was the winning entry in a 1937 contest to re-brand the Hormel-made lunchmeat - then 11 years old and failing in the marketplace. The name was a hit, and Spam has dominated its market segment ever since.

More than all this, though, Spam is delicious. Sliced medium-thin and pan-fried over a stove (or even better, over a campfire), there's no tastier accompaniment for nature's perfect food, eggs. If you don't have any of it on your shelves, maybe you should stop at the corner store and buy some. There's simply no better nostalgia trip you can take.

Always nostalgic for what's best in our healthy history,

William Campbell Douglass II, MD