The Role of Ham in a Child's Growth and Develeopment

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A child's diet is modified progressively with their development. In the first six months of their life, exclusive breastfeeding should be the norm, as it provides the baby with all the necessary nutrients. Afterwards, the diet should begin to incorporate formula milk, baby food made of fruit and vegetables, in addition to white and red meat prepared in ways that the baby can handle, who still doesn't have any teeth to chew the food with.

When they turn one, foods such as eggs, cured meats and cold cuts can be introduced into the child's diet. The recommendation is to start them on a diet that is similar to the rest of the family, opting for soft foods that provide enough nutrients.  

If we focus on ham, different questions arise regarding the role of this food in growth and development, the moment in which it can be introduced into the diet, and the properties that make it beneficial. 

Cured meats or cold cuts?

Cured meats are prepared from pieces of raw meat and fat that are introduced into natural or artificial casings or skin to then be cured. Chorizo or salami, for example, are both types of cured meat. On the other hand, cold cuts are pieces of salted and cooked meat; in this group, ham and turkey are of the highest quality. 

In the case of a child's diet, cold cuts are more highly recommended, especially ham because it contains less fat and calories than other cold cuts or cured meats. The ham should be cut into very thin slices or small pieces, and should be eaten with moderation. 

When to introduce ham?

One of the questions that parents may ask themselves when discussing what to feed their baby is related to ham. There is a common idea that ham is difficult to eat because of its consistency and that children could choke on it, thus the question that arises is whether or not it is a good idea to introduce it into their diet. 
The ideal thing to do is to introduce the ham starting at one year old, taking the added precaution of cutting it into very thin slices or shredding it so that it's easy to eat. In addition, the ham has high nutritional value and is a great food for the baby's first few years, since it also has many beneficial nutrients that help with proper growth and development.  

It is important to introduce this food into the diet, since special care should be taken to prevent malnutrition during the infant stage. Both short-term and long-term repercussions can occur during this stage, as both good and bad habits often remain throughout the child's life. It is therefore very important to gradually add all of the food into the child's diet so that their body gets used to it and can learn to distinguish when there is something it does not like.  

Which is better: Serrano ham, York ham or Iberian ham?

Another common question is about what type of cured meat or cold cut is best to introduce into the child's diet. In this sense, both types of food have clear differences. Specifically, York ham contains a considerably higher amount of sugar in comparison to Serrano ham and, therefore, it should be introduced to the child's diet after the Serrano ham. 

Iberian ham provides more higher-quality proteins than Serrano ham, however the latter contains less fat and calories. Additionally, Iberian ham contains more salt, but it is a 100% natural food and does not contain any additives. 

Unlike Iberian ham, Serrano ham also provides more phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. Both Iberian and Serrano ham are healthy products that are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, but if we take into account the characteristics and nutritional content of both products, Serrano ham is more appropriate for a child's diet. 

What does ham provide?

To sum up, as we previously described, ham has a high nutritional value: it provides larges amounts of iron and zinc, it is rich in high-quality proteins (with all the basic amino acids) and omega fatty acids, in addition to being a food that is rich in vitamins, including the B vitamins. 

The high iron content in ham helps the child to remain in a good physical condition. Potassium is an element that benefits both the brain cells and muscle development, in addition to helping improve the immune system. 

Iberian ham contains a significant amount of B vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, which directly affects the child's health and growth. In addition, acorn-fed ham contains good amounts of oleic acid, which helps to control cholesterol and the balance of fats in the body.  

Does ham prevent obesity?

It's true that among all the beneficial properties of ham, it also helps to prevent obesity, as long as the child receives a balanced diet with nutritious foods for proper development. It is common knowledge that moderation is always the key, but in the case of a food as nutritious as ham, it can be a more common part of a child's healthy diet. 

With all the above, we can safely conclude that ham, in particular Serrano or Iberian ham, is highly recommended to be included in a child's diet and should be eaten frequently by both children and adolescents. 


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