Pork is a popular meat. It comes in many forms and can be found at any meal. It can even be eaten for dessert in foods like chocolate-covered bacon and bacon cupcakes. But is pork healthy?
Keep reading to learn more about the effects pork may have on your cholesterol levels.
The pork-cholesterol relationship
A 2015 report found that eating 50 grams, or about 2 ounces, of processed meat daily will increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Processed meat is any meat that’s been modified to extend its shelf life, which includes meat that’s been salted, cured, or smoked. Sliced ham from the deli counter, sausage, or bacon are three examples of processed pork.
Another study published by the American Heart Association found that men who eat moderate amounts of processed red meat, like bacon and ham, may increase their risk of heart failure and death from heart failure. Researchers recommend avoiding processed meat and eating only one or two servings or less of unprocessed red meat per week.
A 2013 study published in BMC Medicine analyzed data from half a million men and women and found a link between processed meat, which includes ham, bacon, and sausage, and cardiovascular disease and cancer. In addition, researchers found that the more processed meat you eat, the more likely you are to die young.
But what about pork that isn’t processed?
Is white meat healthier than dark meat?
Try switching from bacon, ham, and sausage to white pork for a healthier alternative. You should look for lean cuts of pork. Ask your butcher or look on the label for the following:
- boneless loin roast
- boneless loin chops
Here are some tips for healthier ways to enjoy pork:
- Trim all excess fat before cooking. You can do this yourself by sliding a sharp knife between the pork and the fat, or ask your butcher to do it.
- White pork can dry out. To keep it moist, marinate it not long after purchasing. For a healthier alternative, make your own marinades. Most of the store-bought ones contain sugar and sodium. You can keep pork marinating in the fridge for up to five days. You can freeze it too. Be sure to eat frozen pork within four months.
- Skip the fry pan. Instead, try grilling, baking, or broiling the meat. Slow cooking, steaming, and braising are also healthier methods of cooking.
Tips for eating pork
- Look for lean cuts of meat and trim excess fat before cooking.
- Limit or avoid processed versions of pork, such as lunch meat or bacon.
- Make your own marinade to keep pork moist without the extra additives found in store-bought marinades.
- Experiment with cooking techniques. Instead of panfrying, try putting the pork on the grill or baking it in the oven.
Known as “meat candy,” bacon remains a staple of breakfasts around the world and an ingredient in various sandwiches, like a club or BLT. As with any meat, you should watch your intake.
A cooked slice of bacon is 8 to 16 grams of meat. Since consuming 50 grams of processed meat a day can increase your risk for cancer, you’ll want to limit the bacon you consume, especially if you eat processed meats at other times throughout the day.
Additionally, about 40 percent of bacon contains saturated fat. Saturated fat may contribute to raising your cholesterol level, though recent research calls into question the association between increased heart disease risk and saturated fat intake.
If you enjoy bacon, consider reserving it for a special treat, and watch your processed meat consumption for the rest of the day. Or look for alternative things you can eat. For example, a side of berries at breakfast is filling and healthy. For your lunch sandwich, try grilling pork the night before and then slicing it up to put on your sandwich. Alternatively, if you enjoy the crunch of bacon, add fresh lettuce to your sandwich or try toasting the bread before building your sandwich.
Fats and cholesterol
Everyone needs some fat. What’s important is to know which fats are healthy, and which may have a negative impact on your health. Some experts recommend limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7 percent of your total calories, or about 15 grams per day. Replace the extra saturated fats with plant-based unsaturated fats, not carbohydrates or sugar, to lower heart disease risk. For example, if you follow a 2,000 calorie per day diet, stick to around 3 ounces of white pork to reach your maximum daily allowance.
It’s possible to include pork as part of a healthy diet. Just remember the adage “everything in moderation.” Pork provides protein and, above all, flavor. You can continue to enjoy this meat, just keep track of how much you’re eating and what other foods you’re eating that contain saturated fat. Aim to swap many of your animal-based saturated fats with plant-based unsaturated fats to enjoy a healthier heart. It’s also important to include ample amounts of vegetables at all meals to improve your overall health and reduce disease risk.