Health Benefits of Eating Pork

By Jennifer Novabos - May 31, 2022
Health Benefits of Eating Pork

Pork is also a good source of vitamins and minerals like phosphorus, selenium, and thiamine. Pork is actually richer in thiamine, a B vitamin required for a range of bodily functions, than other red meats like beef and lamb.

Pork is the meat of the domestic pig. It’s the most commonly consumed red meat worldwide, especially in eastern Asia, but its consumption is forbidden in certain religions, such as Islam and Judaism. For this reason, pork is illegal in many Islamic countries.

It is often eaten unprocessed, but cured (preserved) pork products are also very common. These include smoked pork, ham, bacon, and sausages.

Being high in protein and rich in many vitamins and minerals, lean pork can be an excellent addition to a healthy diet.

This article tells you everything you need to know about pork.

Nutrition facts

Pork is a high-protein food and contains varying amounts of fat.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked, ground pork provides the following nutrients (1Trusted Source):

-Calories: 297

-Water: 53%

-Protein: 25.7 grams

-Carbs: 0 grams

-Sugar: 0 grams

-Fiber: 0 grams

-Fat: 20.8 grams

Pork protein

Like all meat, pork is mostly made up of protein. The protein content of lean, cooked pork is around 26% by fresh weight.

When dry, the protein content of lean pork can be as high as 89% — making it one of the richest dietary sources of protein.

It contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for your body’s growth and maintenance. In fact, meat is one of the most complete dietary sources of protein.

For this reason, eating pork — or other types of meat — may be particularly beneficial for bodybuilders, recovering athletes, people post-surgery, or others who need to build up or repair muscles.

Pork fat

Pork contains varying amounts of fat. The proportion of fat in pork usually ranges from 10–16% (2) but can be much higher depending on the level of trimming and other factors.

Clarified pig fat — called lard — is sometimes used as a cooking fat. Like other types of red meat, pork is mainly composed of saturated fats and unsaturated fats — present in approximately equal amounts.

For example, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked, ground pork packs about 7.7 grams of saturated, 9.3 grams of monounsaturated, and 1.9 grams of polyunsaturated fat.

The fatty acid composition of pork is slightly different from the meat of ruminant animals, such as beef and lamb. It’s low in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and slightly richer in unsaturated fats.

Vitamins and minerals

Pork is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals, including:

Thiamine. Unlike other types of red meat, such as beef and lamb, pork is particularly rich in thiamine — one of the B vitamins that plays an essential role in various bodily functions.

Selenium. Pork is rich in selenium. The best sources of this essential mineral are animal-derived foods, such as meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy products.

Zinc. An important mineral, abundant in pork, zinc is essential for a healthy brain and immune system.

Vitamin B12. Almost exclusively found in foods of animal origin, vitamin B12 is important for blood formation and brain function. Deficiency in this vitamin may cause anemia and damage to neurons.

Vitamin B6. A group of several related vitamins, vitamin B6 is important for the formation of red blood cells.

Niacin. One of the B vitamins, niacin — or vitamin B3 — serves a variety of functions in your body and is important for growth and metabolism.

Phosphorus. Abundant and common in most foods, phosphorus is usually a large component of people’s diets. It’s essential for body growth and maintenance.

Iron. Pork contains less iron than lamb or beef. However, the absorption of meat iron (heme-iron) from your digestive tract is very efficient, and pork can be considered an outstanding source of iron.

Pork contains good amounts of many other vitamins and minerals. Additionally, processed, cured pork products, such as ham and bacon, contain high amounts of salt (sodium).

Health benefits of pork

Pork is high in various healthy vitamins and minerals, as well as high-quality protein. Adequately cooked pork can make an excellent part of a healthy diet.

Maintenance of muscle mass

Like most animal foods, pork is an excellent source of high-quality protein. With age, maintaining muscle mass is an important health consideration.

Without exercise and proper diet, muscle mass naturally degenerates as you get older — an adverse change that is associated with many age-related health problems.

In the most severe cases, muscle wasting leads to a condition called sarcopenia, which is characterized by very low levels of muscle mass and decreased quality of life. Sarcopenia is most common among older adults.

Inadequate intake of high-quality protein may accelerate age-related muscle degeneration — increasing your risk of sarcopenia.

Eating pork — or other protein-rich foods — is an excellent way to ensure sufficient dietary intake of high-quality protein that may help preserve muscle mass.

Improved exercise performance

Meat consumption is not only beneficial for maintaining muscle mass but may also improve muscle function and physical performance.

Aside from being rich in high-quality protein, pork contains a variety of healthy nutrients that are beneficial for your muscles. These include taurine, creatine, and beta-alanine.

Beta-alanine is an amino acid your body uses to produce carnosine, which is important for muscle function.

In fact, high levels of carnosine in human muscles have been linked to reduced fatigue and improved physical performance.

Following vegetarian or vegan diets which are low in beta-alanine  reduces the amount of carnosine in muscles over time.

In contrast, high dietary intake of beta-alanine including from supplements increases muscle carnosine levels.

As a result, eating pork — or other rich sources of beta-alanine — may be beneficial for those who want to maximize their physical performance.

Pork and heart disease

Heart disease is the main cause of premature death worldwide. It includes adverse conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

Observational studies on red meat and heart disease have found mixed results. Some studies show an increased risk for both processed and unprocessed red meat, many an increased risk for processed meat only, while others have not found any significant link.

Pork is the world’s most popular type of meat. It’s a rich source of high-quality protein, as well as various vitamins and minerals.

Therefore, it may improve exercise performance and promote muscle growth and maintenance. On the negative side, consumption of both undercooked and overcooked pork should be avoided.

Overcooked pork may contain carcinogenic substances, and undercooked (or raw) pork may harbor parasites. Though not exactly a health food, moderate consumption of properly prepared pork can be an acceptable part of a healthy diet.