Pork meat is probably one that you avoid when you are looking for lean and nutritious sources of protein. Over the last fifty years, pork has fallen somewhat out of favor, with chicken, turkey, and even fish seen as the clean and healthy white proteins to consume. It’s easy to associate pork with some seriously unhealthy food choices, like processed meat products, hot dogs, sausages, and of course bacon.
We often think of pork meat in the context of recipes and foods that are high in sodium and fat. However, pork is making something of a comeback, and many now consider it to be the ‘other’ white meat. Pork can be good for you, and when you know the type of pork to look for you could start to explore new recipes and flavors with an extremely lean cut of protein.
The fact that pork meat is both delicious and versatile can make the choice that much easier.
Is Pork a White Meat?
Pork can be referred to as a white meat, but, in a technical sense, it’s still a red meat like beef and lamb.
Red meat refers to livestock like cattle and pigs and doesn’t have anything to do with the color of the meat. Pork meat has much more myoglobin than fish and poultry, which again still makes it a red meat in terms of the strict definition.
The reason that pork is called the ‘other’ white meat is because of its nutritional similarities to poultry and fish. When you want clean meat that is lean and nutrient-rich, you’ll find more in common between a pork cutlet and a chicken breast than you would if comparing a steak or leg of lamb.
Pork is One of the Best Sources of Protein
It’s important to make the distinction between lean pork and fatty pork. Unlike steak which is often heavily marbled with fat, pork cuts are mostly protein with the fat concentrated around the edge of certain cuts, as can be seen with pork belly. Pork loin and pork chops are the leanest cuts and are ideal for using in regular cooking.
Pork meat is an excellent source of protein and has fewer calories and more protein when compared ounce-for-ounce with chicken. Pork meat is low in sodium so is a good meat if you are on a low sodium diet or want a good source of protein that helps to keep blood pressure in check. If you suffer from kidney stones or other kidney problems, then the low sodium content will also be beneficial.
Modern pork meat is quite different to varieties that were sold as recently as two decades ago. The average cut of pork in 1991 had 16% more fat than today, with 27% more sodium.
A 3-ounce pork chop, the average recommended serving for an adult, contains 43% of the recommended daily protein intake for men, and 52% of the recommended intake for women. If you are following a low carbohydrate diet and want a protein source that is clean and low in fat, then pork is an obvious winner. Proteins are the building blocks of cells in the body, helping to maintain existing tissue and grow new tissue. Antibodies, some essential hormones, and digestive enzymes are made from protein, so a high protein diet can benefit your health in many ways.
Pork is a Rich Source of Zinc
Adolescents and adults are recommended to intake between 8 and 11 milligrams of zinc daily. People often take supplements to get zinc, however, by changing small aspects of your diet, you could get natural zinc that is more easily metabolized as food.
Foods high in protein are also high in zinc, so pork meat is an excellent source. A single serving of pork can provide 17% of the daily recommended zinc intake for males, and 23% for females. This can reduce the reliance on supplements when eating a balanced diet and getting additional zinc from other sources.
Vitamin B 12 in Pork
Another reason that pork meat is increasingly recommended as a healthy food choice is the high level of B vitamins. These vitamins are essential for the metabolization of energy that comes from food. Essentially, when you consume pork, the high B12 and B6 vitamin content will ensure that calories are not wasted. This can help to prevent weight gain while providing essential supportive functions to your body.
The B vitamins in pork meat can also promote good cardiovascular health. Niacin (Vitamin B3) can help to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. B vitamins also work to convert the amino acid homocysteine into useful compounds. A high level of homocysteine can cause cell damage, so pork is an excellent way to keep this amino acid at healthy levels.
Just as pork can provide a high level of your daily intake of protein, it also takes care of a significant amount of your B vitamin needs. 3 ounces of lean pork will provide up to 47% of B3, 38% of B6, and 25% of B12.
The Best Cuts to Choose When You Want to Incorporate More Pork Meat in Your Diet
Before you can start cooking with pork, you’ll need to know the leanest cuts.
Loin cuts are the leanest and the tenderest part of the pork, so are ideal as a chicken substitute in most recipes. Pork chops are also cut from the loin.
Shoulder, Leg, and Belly cuts are fattier, with shoulder and belly being the highest in terms of fat content. These can be eaten in moderation with no more than one serving per week. Cured pork, such as bacon and ham, should be consumed sparingly, as the high sodium and fat content can negate the nutritional benefits of pork.
Pork can help you to expand your home menu and will also give you more options when you are eating at restaurants. Aim for the leanest cuts for the greatest benefits and enjoy the ‘other’ white meat that is healthier and more beneficial today than at any time in the past.