Is it fatter? No vitamins? See 7 myths about pork – 07/09/2022

Brazilians are eating pork like never before: in 2021, the average consumption per person was estimated at 16.7 kg by the ABPA (Brazilian Association of Animal Protein) – six years ago, in 2015, this number did not reach 15 kg. The price of the product helps to explain the growth of the sector, which continues to expand.

The “cheapest meat on the market” is considered a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Its moderate consumption, depending on the meat cut, can be included in a healthy diet. Some myths, however, still surround the imagination when it comes to pork: is it more fatty? Does it interfere with the healing process? Does it transmit diseases?

Here’s why seven popular ideas about pork are not true:

Myth #1. Pork lacks nutrients or vitamins

Pork is mostly protein — like all other meats — but it’s also rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly thiamine (vitamin B1).

This compound, also found in whole grains (wheat, rice), works by transforming nutrients into energy for the tissues of the body and, therefore, is important for the maintenance of energy metabolism, in addition to favoring the health of the nerves.

Phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins B6 and B12 are other nutrients present in pork. “Selenium is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid. A 170 g pork chop has more than 100% of the recommended daily dose of selenium”, says Delfim Mohana, nutritionist and scientific director of Abran (Brazilian Association of Nutrology) in the Northeast .

This goes for pork in natura, as the scenario changes when it comes to processed pork products: bacon, ham and smoked pork, for example. These options have large amounts of salt (sodium) in their composition, in addition to chemical preservatives that are harmful to health. The recommendation is that they are completely avoided or consumed in small amounts.

Loin - iStock - iStock

Sirloin is the leanest cut of pork.

Image: iStock

Myth #2. Pork is very fatty

As the pigs’ diet is more balanced than in the past and the animals have undergone genetic alterations, pigs are currently considered to be much leaner, having lost, on average, 31% of fat, 14% of calories and 10% of cholesterol, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply.

But it is important to remember that all meats have their fattier cuts and leaner cuts. Sirloin is considered the leanest pork. Other options that have a lower amount of fat in their composition are steak, sirloin steak and pork filet mignon. On the other hand, the fattest parts of the animal include the bacon, the ham and the ribs.

The way pork is prepared also affects its fat content. Instead of frying, it is recommended to cook or bake.

Myth #3. People with heart problems can’t eat pork

It is considered unlikely that moderate consumption of beef lean pork, as part of a healthy diet, increases the risk of heart disease. According to Luis Gustavo Mota, nutritionist at Hcora referral hospital in cardiology, in São Paulo, those who have heart problems can, yes, consume pork.

The Brazilian Cardioprotective Diet, developed by Hcor in partnership with the Ministry of Health, brings together nutritional recommendations for people who have some cardiovascular risk factor. Among the foods mentioned by the manual as “more cardioprotective”, are fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, milk and skimmed yogurt, for example.

All meats, not just pork, include the “blue group” of the diet, which includes foods whose consumption should be reduced. “It is necessary to control and balance meat consumption, due to the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol, nutrients that, when consumed in exaggerated amounts, can increase cardiovascular risk”, says Mota.

In the past, it was common for pig herds to be raised in precarious hygiene situations, but today the reality is different - Wenderson Araújo/Press Release - Wenderson Araújo/Press Release

In the past, it was common for herds of pigs to be raised in precarious hygiene situations, but today the reality is different.

Image: Wenderson Araújo/Disclosure

Myth #4. Pork transmits disease

Professor Marise Aparecida Rodrigues Pollonio, from the Faculty of Food Engineering at Unicamp (State University of Campinas), explains that, in the past, it was common for pig herds to be raised in precarious hygiene situations, with accumulation of moisture, feces and other debris, as well as feeders in inappropriate places and contact of animals with contaminated environments. “This created conditions for the occurrence of several diseases transmitted by pork”, says the specialist.

With the modernization of the production chain, advances in health surveillance and improvements in the animal’s diet, however, Pollonio says that there has been a drastic reduction in the risk of disease transmission through pork consumption.

“When the production of pork takes place under sanitary supervision, these practices are prohibited and the entire production system is controlled by hygiene standards, from obtaining the piglets to the slaughterhouse and throughout the slaughter”, he emphasizes.

It is worth remembering that any type of meat (pork or not) that is produced in precarious situations of hygiene and inspection runs the risk of containing bacteria and viruses – hence the importance of verifying the origin of the meat. Those sold in markets and butcher shops are usually certified by the SIF (Federal Inspection Service) of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Another important aspect is to properly prepare, clean and cook the meat. The consumption of contaminated meat may be associated with the transmission of diseases such as taeniasis.

Myth #5. Pork interferes with the healing process

“We don’t have studies in the scientific literature that support this great myth between pork consumption and non-healing”, says Mota.

The nutritionist at Hcor explains that red meats, in general, are sources of iron, a nutrient that acts in the formation of hemoglobin and in the synthesis of collagen and zinc, two compounds that are involved in the modulation of the immune response and are important throughout the healing process. “Therefore, pork can be consumed after surgery”, he concludes.

Mohan adds that current scientific evidence only indicates that hypercaloric diets rich in chronic saturated fat would be unfavorable to the inflammatory healing process.

In addition to fat, processed pork products - such as bacon, ham and smoked pork - can contain large amounts of sodium and chemical preservatives and should therefore be avoided - Gresei/Getty Images/iStockphoto - Gresei/Getty Images/ iStockphoto

In addition to fat, processed pork products — such as bacon, ham and smoked pork — can contain high amounts of sodium and chemical preservatives and should therefore be avoided.

Image: Gresei/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Myth #6. Does pork raise “bad” cholesterol?

Studies suggest that lean red meats—beef, veal, and pork—are not hypercholesterolemic (causing high levels of “bad” cholesterol, or LDL) when compared to lean white meats such as poultry and fish. “When consumption is associated with healthy eating, regardless of whether it is lean red meat or lean white meat, it can produce a similar reduction in total and LDL cholesterol,” says Mota.

The leanest pork cut, the loin, is equivalent to the beef filet mignon in terms of fat, cholesterol and calories, and is below the chicken thigh, for example. While 100 g of roast beef has 210 kcal, 6.4 g of fat and 103 mg of cholesterol, the same amount of grilled beef tenderloin has 220 kcal, 8.8 g of fat and 103 mg of cholesterol. The same portion of roasted chicken thighs with skin has 260 kcal, 15.2 g of fat and 158 mg of cholesterol.

Myth #7. Pregnant women cannot eat pork

There are no specific restrictions on pork consumption during pregnancy. “As long as it comes from a good source and is prepared correctly, a pregnant woman can eat pork”, says the scientific director of Open in the Northeast.

Sources: dolphin mohananutritionist and scientific director of the open (Brazilian Association of Nutrology) in the Northeast; Luis Gustavo Motanutritionist of Hcorreferral hospital in cardiology, in São Paulo; Marise Aparecida Rodrigues Pollonioprofessor at the Faculty of Food Engineering at Unicamp (State University of Campinas).

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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