You might have thought we were full of it when you clicked the link, but science now says that pork fat can be part of a nutritious diet. According to some researchers, pork fat ranks as one of the top health foods that you can eat.
A recent report analyzed the nutrition content of certain foods and ranked them according to their nutritional value. Each food was assigned a score which helped the researchers compile the list.
The point of this list was to find foods that come the closest to meeting (but not exceeding) our nutritional needs. Eating these foods would provide optimal nutrition for the body and help to balance health.
Pork fat ranked in the top ten in the study. Coming in #8, with a score of 76, pork fat is just under swiss chard and ahead of beet greens and snapper. Clarified pork fat is called lard. It is sometimes used as fat for cooking.
Among most livestock meats, pork has an excellent fatty acid (FA) profile. It has less saturated fats compared to beef or lamb, its high in oleic acid (an Omega 9 FA), and also contains linoleic acid (an Omega 6 FA). The most abundant type of fat found in lard is oleic acid, the healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil.
According to research, oleic acid consumption can help reduce the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and may even help reduced cancer risk. According to Nick Bellissimo, an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s Department of Nutrition, lard has double the amount of oleic acid found in butter.
Its high content of B vitamins and minerals are another reason it ranks so high. It also has a higher smoke point, 370 F, which can be ideal for frying foods and other high heat cooking.
The Top Ten list
Here are some of the other, arguably more famous, health foods that made the top ten.
- Almonds, 97
- Cherimoya (a type of fruit), 96
- Ocean perch (a deep-water fish), 89
- Flatfish, 88
- Chia seeds, 85
- Pumpkin seeds, 84
- Swiss chard, 78
- Pork fat, 73
- Beet greens, 70
- Snapper, 69
While the focus of this study was on pork fat, we’ll give you the nutritional break down of pork in general.
The protein content of pork can vary depending on how it’s prepared. 100 grams of cooked pork has about 25.7 grams and by dry weight, the protein content can be as much as 89%. This makes it one of the richest dietary sources of protein. Like most animal protein, pork is a complete source, containing all the essential amino acids.
Pork has differing amounts of fat. It can range from 10-16% by weight, but depending on the cut and how much trimming this can vary.
Pork has many vitamins and minerals. It is particularly high in vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. In fact, pork has one of the highest naturally occurring sources thiamine.
Pork contains selenium, which can help protect the body from oxidative damage. Another mineral that pork has is zinc. Zinc is essential for the immune system and for a healthy brain. A serving of pork has 20% of your daily value of phosphorus, which is essential for maintenance and body growth.
Pork contains several B-vitamins including, B1, B12, B6, and B3
B1: Pork is particularly high in vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. In fact, pork is one of the highest naturally occurring sources thiamine.
B12: It also contains vitamin B12, which important for brain function and blood formation. B12 deficiency symptoms can include anemia, weakness, or fatigue.
B6: Pork also has Vitamin B6, which is part of the B vitamin group and important for the formation of red blood cells.
B3: The final B vitamin group found in pork is niacin, also known as vitamin B3. It has many functions in the body, and it is important energy production, brain, and heart health.
With as many health benefits that pork fat (and pork meat) has, it might be the time to consider switching from cooking spray or shortening to this top-ranked nutritional food. If you have any dietary restrictions that don’t allow for pork products, of course, this advice will fall on deaf ears. For everyone else? Enjoy some bacon from time to time.
- Kim, Seunghyeon, et al. “Uncovering the Nutritional Landscape of Food.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118697#abstract0.
- “Pork Fat Ranked among Top 10 Most Nutritious Foods: Report.” Sixteen Schools Do Away with Primary 1 Exams, AsiaOne, 1 Mar. 2018, www.asiaone.com/health/pork-fat-ranked-among-top-10-most-nutritious-foods-report.
- Henry, Michele. “Why Lard’s Healthier than You Think.” Thestar.com, Toronto Star, 14 May 2013, www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/nutrition/2013/05/14/why_lards_healthier_than_you_think.html.
- “Future – The World’s Most Nutritious Foods.” BBC News, BBC, 29 Jan. 2018, www.bbc.com/future/story/20180126-the-100-most-nutritious-foods.
- Oleic Acid – The Anticancer Component in Olive Oil. www.journal.au.edu/au_techno/2005/oct05/vol9num2_article02.pdf.
- “Vitamins and Minerals.” Pork Checkoff, www.pork.org/cooking/nutrition/vitamins-and-minerals/.
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