Your Favorite Meat Might Just Save Your Life

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Two pieces of grilled pork tenderloin on top of vegetables

According to the American Heart Association, more than 40 percent of blacks have high blood pressure (HBP).Though doctors aren’t 100% sure why this is, they believe it may be linked to African Americans also having higher rates of obesity and diabetes.

Researchers have also found that there may be a gene that makes African-Americans much more salt sensitive. This trait increases the risk of developing HBP.

How can you lower your blood pressure?

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is absolutely possible to improve your blood pressure. Some of the most important steps you can take include:

  • Getting your blood pressure checked at least once every six to 12 months
  • Losing weight if you need to
  • Lowering your sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day or less
  • Exercising
  • Following the DASH diet

What is the DASH diet?

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet (more commonly known as the DASH diet) emphasizes reducing your sodium and red meat intake, while eating more:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Pork

Umm…pork?

Yes!

Purdue University researchers found that when adults ate lean pork, instead of chicken and fish as their main protein source, they had the same healthy blood pressure benefits. Plus, pork also contains thiamin, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Oh yes…and it’s low in sodium, which is pretty much the whole point of following the DASH diet in the first place.

“The DASH diet has been recognized by government and health organizations as an eating pattern that can promote health and help decrease the risk to chronic diseases,” said study lead author Dr. Wayne W. Campbell, Nutrition Science Professor at Purdue University. “While the traditional DASH diet includes chicken and fish, our research suggests that lean pork may also be a part of this healthy eating pattern.”

So, how is the pork at the grocery store better than it used to be?

According to Adria Sheil-Brown, a registered  and licensed dietitian, as well as a nutrition communications manager for the National Pork Board, today’s pork is a prime example of how farmers do more with less while raising healthier food, providing better care for their animals and protecting the environment.

“Today, modern hog farms combine the best of traditional farming practices with the benefits of modern technology and agriculture science to provide a pork supply that has 16% less fat and 27% less saturated fat than 21 years ago,” says Sheil-Brown.

Is pork really healthy for blacks to eat?

Some believe that pork is an unsuitable meat for African Americans due to their genetic makeup. But is this really the case?

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death among African Americans, and pork can fit into eating patterns that promote health, like the DASH diet,” says Sheil-Brown.

To make sure you’re eating the healthiest variety, look for the American Heart Association’s heart-check mark on the label.

Which pork is the best pork?

Sheil-Brown explained that nearly half of Americans don’t realize that pork can be as lean as a skinless chicken breast. Pork tenderloin meets the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for “extra lean,” which means that it has less than 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat and 95 mg cholesterol per serving.

In addition to this, six other port cuts meet USDA’s guidelines for “lean,” which means that it has less than 10 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat and 95 mg cholesterol per serving.

These cuts include:

  • Sirloin pork chop
  • New York pork chop
  • 96% lean ground pork
  • Porterhouse pork chop
  • Ribeye pork chop
  • New York pork roast

What about servings sizes and frequency?

A serving size of pork is three ounces, which is about the same size as a deck of cards. In a typical DASH eating plan, 6 ounces or less of lean meats, poultry and fish can be eaten every day.

How can I cook pork and follow the DASH diet?

  • Choose fresh lean cuts – look for the word “loin” on the label.
  • Trim all visible fat and avoid adding large quantities of oil or fat in preparation.
  • Use cooking methods that don’t add fat, like grilling or roasting.
  • Use low sodium marinates and rubs.
  • Use spices instead of salt, flavor foods with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends.
  • For tender, juicy and delicious pork, cook to medium rare (145 degrees F) to medium (160 degrees F) followed a 3 – minute rest.

For the latest pork nutrition information, recipes and more, visit porkandhealth.org.

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