Molokai Fitness: Spam

Community Contributed

By Ayda Ersoy

May 2 was the 13th annual Spam Jam Festival. Spam is one of Hawaii’s favorite foods, and the festival is a cultural celebration here in Hawaii. In 2014, they estimated that 25000 people attended the event.

Spam was originally introduced in 1937 by Hormel Foods. Now, almost seven million cans are eaten every year in Hawaii alone. So many things have changed since 1937, new food studies and different eating and living habits, but we’re still eating so much spam.

So what exactly is spam? It’s a highly processed meat, which is made by smoking, salting, adding preservatives and also nitrates, coloring and flavoring. Now remember, science has totally changed since 1937, and new scientific research has found a direct link between processed meat and cancer.

Do you think we should be concerned? And why are we celebrating a processed meat festival? Isn’t it just a sales strategy?

There was one study published in the journal BMC Medicine, done on almost 450,000 people, that showed an association between processed meat and a higher risk of heart disease and cancer. And a British Journal of Cancer study showed that people who eat an extra 100 grams of processed meat a day can raise the risk of cancer by 38 percent.

So when you eat processed meat, do you really think what you are putting in your body?

Hawaii consumes more spam per person than anywhere else in the U.S., and Molokai is no exception. The Spam brand product manager Jennifer Nolander recently said that the new flavor, Spam with Portuguese Sausage Seasoning, will only be released in Hawaii for now. She said the flavor is “very very favorable,” so let’s look at the ingredient list: pork, mechanically separated chicken, water, salt, modified potato starch, sugar, flavoring, sodium phosphates, spices, paprika, sodium diacetate, palm oil, sodium nitrite, oleoresin of paprika.

Do you really know what all these ingredients are? Let me explain just one, sodium nitrate. And no, it’s not regular sodium. Sodium nitrate is a preservative that’s used in some processed meats. It’s believed that sodium nitrate can damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes.

My advice: do a little research and watch a video showing how they make processed meat. If you see how they make it, you really don’t want to touch it again!

We have every option here to eat fresh Molokai grass fed beef or fresh fish. When we eat healthy, food it is not just about living longer, but so much about the quality of our lives. Try to really think about what you’re eating. If you eat better food you will feel better all the time, and you will be able to take care yourself and your ohana.


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