Not all pork cuts are created equal, but they can all be part of a heart-healthy diet. Here’s what you need to know.
The Lean Side
According to the National Pork Board, the pork that’s available today is 16 percent leaner and 27 percent lower in saturated fat than it was 25-plus years ago. In fact, many cuts are now comparable to lean, skinless chicken. There are seven cuts of pork that meet the USDA guidelines for “lean,” which is defined as having fewer than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. Examples include pork tenderloin, boneless top loin chops, pork top loin roast, center loin chops, sirloin roast, and rib chops. A good rule of thumb when shopping for pork is to look for the words “loin” or “chop.”
P is for Protein
A 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has about 24 grams of protein and as few as 122 calories. Protein is not only important for muscle building and muscle maintenance, it also helps you feel full. Getting an optimal amount of protein can help offset the 3 to 8 percent of muscle mass that we lose per decade after the age of 30.
Vitamins & Minerals
Pork is rich in the B vitamin thiamin. This key vitamin helps metabolize carbohydrates, protein and fat, and pork is one of the best food sources. A 3-ounce serving contains 54 percent of the Daily Value. It’s also an excellent source of phosphorous, niacin and B6, which all play a role in maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Heart Health & Blood Pressure
The strict Heart-Check Food Certification Program includes criteria for sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and accounts for beneficial nutrients found in pork. Because pork tenderloin and pork sirloin are naturally low in sodium, they’re a smart choice if you’re trying to lower blood pressure.
What About Bacon?
While bacon is higher in saturated fat than most cuts of pork, it can still be part of a healthy diet. Think of it more like a flavoring agent than a side dish, and remember that a little goes a long way. Use small amounts to add a smoky flavor to nutrient-rich foods, such as sautéed greens, beans, soups or salads.