By Omodolapo Familusi, RN MSN ANP-C and Michele Lubin, MS RD CDN
Over the years, pork has built something of a bad reputation. Perhaps that’s because the most popular products are all very fatty and loaded with sodium. So, you may ask yourself, is pork healthy? But maybe you shouldn’t write off this versatile food just yet. Perhaps, it deserves a spot in your diet after all. Consider this: in comparison to other meats, lean cuts of pork are high in protein, low in fat and have more B- vitamins like thiamine and vitamin B12. These vitamins play an important role in a range of body function including energy production and metabolism.
Myoglobin is an oxygen-carrying protein in animal muscle that determines the color of meat. Pork contains less myoglobin than beef, but it contains more than chicken or fish. Any livestock product like beef, lamb and veal is classified as red meat. Pork is a livestock product therefore it is categorized as a red meat although, when cooked it lightens in color.
According to the USDA definition of lean, the meat product must contain less than 10 grams of fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per three ounce serving. To be classified as extra lean, the meat product must contain less than 5 grams of fat and less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.
If you are looking for the healthiest pork options, you want the lean cuts. Examples include tenderloin, loin chops and sirloin roast. Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meats are not only high in saturated fats and cholesterol but contain nitrates and nitrites as well. These give foods their reddish hue. Processed meats have been linked to a higher cancer risk in several studies. So remember, pork is still a red meat but the leaner cuts can be a great source of satisfying protein.