If you think you know pork, think again. Seven cuts of pork – from tenderloin to a ribeye pork chop – meet the USDA guidelines for lean. In fact, pork tenderloin is just as lean as a skinless chicken breast, and many cuts of pork from the loin are leaner than a skinless chicken thigh. Surprised? We thought you might be.
The pork industry has responded to the consumer’s desire for lean pork products. Through efforts in feeding and management practices by pork farmers, seven of the most common cuts of pork have, on average, 16% less fat and 27% less saturated fat than 20 years ago.
One of the easiest ways to remember lean cuts of pork is to look for the word “loin” in the name, such as pork tenderloin. Any kind of pork chop is also a lean choice, from sirloin chop to porterhouse chop.
High-quality protein provides all of the essential amino acids needed by the body for growth and maintenance. Your body can’t make essential amino acids, so you must get them from the foods you eat. Pork is a high-quality protein food.
Research suggests that evenly distributing protein at meals and snacks throughout the day – about 20 to 30 grams per eating occasion, depending on your individual protein needs – may benefit health.
During stages of life when growth and development needs are high, such as during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy, eating animal foods such as pork will provide both greater quantity and quality of protein than the protein found in plant foods. Getting enough protein is important for adults, too. A growing body of research shows that eating a moderate amount of protein, combined with physical activity, is key to help lower risk of sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the gradual loss of muscle mass and function that begins in middle age and can lead to frailty, increased risk of falls and difficulty doing everyday tasks as we get older.
Need another reason to include adequate protein in your diet? Studies have shown that higher protein diets – including those with lean meats such as lean pork cuts – can help with both weight loss and ongoing weight maintenance by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing the amount of calories used. Research has also shown that when people who were obese and overweight switched to a high-protein diet with 25 percent of total calories coming from lean pork and other proteins, they reported an increased feeling of fullness throughout the day.
Pork is a nutrient-rich food. A 3-ounce serving of pork is a good source of potassium, riboflavin and zinc, and is an excellent source of vitamin B6, thiamin, phosphorus, niacin and protein. Pork is naturally low in sodium, too.
PotassiumMineral. Balances body fluids and is needed for muscle contractions. Helps send nerve impulses and maintain a steady heartbeat. May help lower blood pressure.
|Protein||Macronutrient. Provides essential amino acids. Building block for bone, muscles, skin and blood. Important for growth and development. Key component to help the body repair cells and make new cells. Plays a role in the immune system and in making enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals.|
|Selenium||Mineral/Trace Element. Helps protect the body cells from damage. Plays a role in regulating thyroid hormone metabolism.|
|Niacin||B Vitamin. Helps convert food into energy. Essential for healthy skin, blood cells, brain and nervous system. Helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.|
|Phosphorus||Mineral. Helps build and protect strong bones and teeth. Key to maintaining normal pH in the body. Plays a role in shuttling nutrients in and out of body cells.|
|Thiamin||B Vitamin. Helps convert food into energy. Critical for growth, development and function of body cells. Helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.|
|Vitamin B6||B Vitamin. Needed for enzyme reactions involved in metabolism. Important for brain development during pregnancy and infancy. Plays a role in immune function.|
|Riboflavin||B Vitamin. Important for the growth, development and function of body cells. Helps convert food into energy. Important in maintaining normal vision and in preventing cataracts.|
|Zinc||Mineral/Trace Element. Found in all body cells. Critical for proper growth, development and reproduction and helps wounds heal. Needed to make proteins and DNA. Helps immune system fight off bacteria and viruses.|