Pork is a popular type of meat that is consumed worldwide. The domestic pig was first domesticated about 9,000 years ago and originated from the Eurasian wild boar. Domesticated pigs were first brought to the U.S. as food by settlers and explorers in the early 1500s. Today there are more than 67,000 hog farms in the U.S. What are the pros and cons of eating pork, and is it worth it?
Pork contains protein, vitamins, and nutrients that benefit our bodies. Pork is low in sodium and saturated fat, and scientists agree that pork, eaten in moderation, is a healthy dietary option and is worth it. However, the chemicals used in processed pork like bacon or ham, are not healthy options.
The world’s most popular type of meat is pork. Read on to learn more about the benefits of pork and why this meat is good for us.
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What Are The Pros And Cons Of Eating Pork?
Pork is sometimes called white meat, but it is actually red meat. This means pork has more protein (myoglobin) than other white meats such as fish and poultry. Myoglobin supplies extra oxygen to our muscles, especially during physical activity. Below are the pros and cons of eating pork.
The Pros Of Eating Pork
The pork we buy today is much lower in fat than it was a few decades ago. Farmers breed leaner pork to keep up with consumer demand. Today’s pigs have 16% body fat compared to 20% in pork 20 years ago.
The cuts of pork that are lowest in fat are the loin. Pork tenderloin and sirloin have been approved by the American Heart Association.
Pork is commended for being low in saturated fat and sodium. It also contains nutrients that are beneficial to our bodies. The nutrients found in pork are protein, vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, and iron. The protein in pork helps the body manage blood sugar levels, improves the immune system, and strengthens muscle.
Through research and studies, scientists agree that consuming pork can be included as part of a healthy diet.
The Cons Of Eating Pork
The downside to pork is eating the meat that has been processed. Processed pork includes bacon, sausage, ham, and hot dogs. The World Health Organization classifies these meats as increasing the risk of stomach and bowel cancer. This is caused by the chemicals used to process these meats and when the meats are consumed.
Is Pork A Healthy Meat To Eat?
Pork contains many minerals and vitamins and is high in protein. Here is why pork is a healthy meat to eat.
Nutritional Facts About Pork
A 3.5-ounce or 100g of cooked, ground pork provides your body with the following nutrients.
The Protein In Pork
Pork is mainly made up of protein. The fresh weight of lean cooked pork can have 26% of protein. When dry, the protein content is about 89%, so pork is one of the richest sources of dietary protein.
Pork also contains nine of the vital amino acids we need for our bodies to grow and remain healthy. Bodybuilders, those recovering from surgery, recovery athletes or people who need to repair or build muscle should include pork in their diet.
The Fat In Pork
Pork mainly consists of saturated (unhealthy fat) and unsaturated fats (healthier fats). A 3.5-ounce or 100-gram of cooked pork has approximately 7.7 grams of saturated, 9.3 grams of monounsaturated, and 1.9 grams of polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good fats that help to lower cholesterol levels.
Vitamins And Minerals In Pork
Here are the vitamins and minerals that are found in pork.
Thiamine is one of the B vitamins found in pork. It helps turn food into energy and keeps the nervous system healthy. The body does not make Thiamine; the only source is to eat food that contains this vitamin.
This important mineral is rich in pork meat. It helps to keep the brain and immune system healthy and is essential to our bodies.
Pork is a rich source of Selenium. Made of various enzymes and proteins, the Selenium found in pork is vital to a properly functioning thyroid.
Another one of the B vitamins, Niacin, helps to keep the nervous system, skin, and digestive system healthy.
Vitamins B6 And B12
These vitamins, found in pork, help in blood formation and red blood cells, as well as helping with brain function. A deficiency in vitamin B12 leads to anemia and neuron damage.
Although pork contains less iron than lamb or beef, the iron in pork will still help to transport oxygen throughout the body.
Phosphorus found in pork is essential for maintaining the body and for body growth.
Other Meat Compounds Found In Pork
There are several other bioactive substances found in pork that are good for your health. They are:
- Creatine – This compound is an excellent energy source for maintaining and building muscles.
- Glutathione is an anti-toxin found in pork. It helps to prevent cell damage and to detoxify the liver from chemicals.
- Taurine is an antioxidant amino acid that benefits the body’s muscle function and the heart.
- Dietary cholesterol – eating moderate amounts of pork will not have a negative effect on your cholesterol levels.
The Heath Benefits Of Eating Pork
When we look at the nutritional facts about pork, we can say that eating leaner portions is a healthy option. Below is a summary of the health benefits of eating pork.
|High-Quality Protein||Helps to preserve the body’s muscles|
|Rich In Beta-Alanine (an amino acid)||To maximize physical performance|
|Dietary Cholesterol||Does not have an effect on cholesterol levels|
|Overcooked Pork||Limit consumption to eliminate the risk of cancer|
|Undercooked or Raw Pork||Avoid ingesting tapeworms or roundworms|
How To Safely Cook Pork
Pork is prone to infections, so pork should be cooked at a specific temperature. This is to ensure that no parasitic infections can cause harm to your body. The easiest way to measure the temperature of cooked pork is by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the pork.
This part of the meat will be the coolest as it takes longer to cook. Do not insert the thermometer into the bone. Let the meat rest for at least 3 minutes once it is out of the oven. Proper cooking is the best way to prevent any infections. The correct temperatures for pork meat are as follows:
- Pork chops, roasts, hams, and steaks – 145°F (63°C)
- Organ meats and mixtures using pork such as sausage and ground pork – 160°F (71°C)
- Pork ribs and pork shoulder – 145°C (63°F)
- Pork loin and pork tenderloin – 155°F (68°C)
Other Safety Tips Regarding Pork
Raw and cooked pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days at a temperature below 40°F (4°C). Wrap the pork tightly so that it does not dry out. Store raw meat on the refrigerator’s bottom shelf to avoid the meat contacting other foods.
Separate the utensils and cutting boards you use for pork if you are also cooking other foods. Be careful not to let other foods come into contact with raw pork. Leftover pork should not be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Always keep leftover pork in the fridge as soon as the meat cools down.
The best pork to buy in the supermarket is grass-fed pork, where the pigs are raised in pastures and forage for their food. Organic meat is also a good source of pork. These pigs are 100% organic-fed and are raised where they can graze and do natural things that pigs usually do.
Pigs that are grass-fed and organic-raised are not fed antibiotics or hormones. These pigs are raised healthy and produce healthy meat.
The pork that we find in supermarkets has much less fat than the pork of 20 years ago. The lean cuts of pork like sirloin and tenderloin are good options and can be included in a healthy diet. Pork contains a lot of protein, vitamins, and nutrients and is low in sodium and saturated fats.
Eating very little processed pork, such as bacon, ham, and sausage, is best for your health. Adding pork to your diet has many benefits that are worth it.