Pork Up Close – Nutrition and Culinary Possibilities
October is National Pork Month! I am writing this post in partnership with Illinois Farm Families to hone in on the latest in pork nutrition and how it can fit into a healthy lifestyle.I recently visited a pig farm in Iowa sponsored by the National Pork Board (Iowa and Illinois are the #1 and #2 states for raising pigs). I walked away with a wealth of knowledge on pork nutrition, as well as the care, feeding and breeding of pigs. The health of their pigs, whether piglet, sow (female) or boar (male), is of utmost importance to pig farmers.Immediately, I was struck by the sanitary procedures for visitors – as you enter a pig farm you have to shower on the way in and on the way out to ensure that no pathogens from humans are spread to the pigs. Since pigs are susceptible to diseases, they are treated with special care during their life span to ensure a safe food supply.I was happy to hear from the farmers that pigs are not typically given antibiotics – unless they are ill, and hormone treatment is never used on pig farms (artificial hormones for pigs and poultry don’t even exist!), therefore you can rest assured that you are getting pork without added hormones at the grocery store regardless of the label.
GO LEAN WITH PORK
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I encourage people to eat lean protein, especially when it comes to animal protein since saturated fat is a consideration – depending on the type and cut of the meat. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your daily calories. The good news is, according to USDA data, pork is leaner today than 20 years ago with 16% less fat and 27% less saturated fat. Did you know that pork loin cuts are considered “extra lean” by government standards and are just as lean as skinless chicken breast? Plus, when you eat pork you get a myriad of other key nutrients like potassium, zinc, iron, as well as essential B-vitamins like B12 and thiamine.
When shopping for lean pork, look for the words “loin” or “chop” as these are used to describe the leanest cuts. For example:
- pork tenderloin
- pork top loin roast
- pork boneless top loin chop
- pork center loin chop
- pork sirloin roast
- pork rib chop
CULINARY PORK CREATIONS
As with preparing all meat, be sure to use a trusty digital cooking thermometer to ensure that it’s cooked thoroughly. According to the USDA, cook pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F (medium rare) or 160 degrees F (well done) and allow it to rest for three minutes before serving. Ground pork should reach 160 degrees F.
Enjoy these tasty ways to serve pork:
- Slice pork tenderloin over a mixed greens salad bowl with garbanzo beans, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, black olives dolloped with plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle of chopped cilantro on top.
- Dice pork tenderloin into black bean and veggie chili topped with shredded cheese and diced scallions.
- Guava-Citrus Marinated Pork Chops
- Make pulled pork in the slow cooker and serve on a whole grain bun with coleslaw.
- Lightly bread pork chops and bake them.Serve it with apple sauce and roasted potatoes.
- Roast pork in the oven with baby carrots, asparagus and pearl onions.
- Pile slices of cooked pork tenderloin into a whole grain wrap or sandwich with a smear of avocado, lettuce and tomato.
Image courtesy of the National Pork Board and Pork Checkoff.