These days, eating low-carb is all the rage. Several popular diet plans on the market emphasize serving up lean protein over carbohydrates and sugar. Pork is on the menu for all of them – just as it can be for your individual diet, to help you realize those weight-loss goals.
Today’s pork is leaner than ever, thanks to farmers and livestock researchers who have cut saturated fat by 27 percent over the past two decades, making it perfect for diet plans calling for lean protein at every meal. Pork tenderloin has the same amount of fat as a skinless chicken breast, and a 2017 Duke University study found that including pork in balanced diet helped lead to significant weight loss and improved mobility in women.
To those in the pork industry, that’s not a surprise. “Pork is a lean protein, and it has all of the amino acids. There’s really no reason not to eat it if you’re trying to eat healthy,” says Jenny Jackson of the Illinois Pork Producers Association.
Protein takes longer to digest and leaves people feeling fuller longer, making it a staple of low-carb diets, according to Hope Danielson, Director of Health and Wellness for Niemann Foods/County Market in Springfield, Illinois. Pork is also an excellent source of several vitamins, minerals and amino acids that contribute to overall good health.
“A lot of diets these days are always going to look at protein,” Danielson says. “If you’re looking at some of the healthier diets I would recommend, protein is always going to be on the plate. It’s a good idea to have those 3-4 ounces of protein at your meal, because that’s going to help keep you feeling full. Pork fits right into that, because it is such a lean protein. You can get ground pork, pork loin, pork chops, you can do a lot of different things with it.”
How does pork fit into more popular low-carb diet plans? Let’s see:
Atkins: A low-carb diet that says it maintains steady blood-sugar levels and leads to less fat storage and hunger, Atkins calls for three 4-6 ounce servings of protein a day. Pork is on the list of approved foods, and this recipe for Simply Saucy Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin fits the plan.
Keto: Similar to Atkins, the “ketogenic” diet reduces carb intake inducing a metabolic state called ketosis that makes the body more efficient at burning fat. This meat-rich diet calls for getting 25 percent of calories from protein, and this delicious recipe for Boneless Pork Loin Roast with Herbed Pepper Rub is one Keto enthusiast can turn to time and again.
Paleo: Based on foods similar to what humans would have eaten during the Paleolithic Era (10,000-2.5 million years ago), Paleo is limited to items that would have been available during this time period. The goal is to eat like the early humans did, and lean meat is a big part. Add The Other Burger to your meal list for a juicy alternative to the standard burger fare.
Zone: With a goal of losing fat while keeping muscle, the Zone diet also reduces carb intake, and calls for 30 percent of calories from protein at every meal. The diet’s official site says pork “is as lean as chicken and contains vital nutrients such as iron and potassium. Cooked with a light glaze, pork can be appetizing and good for you.” Many recipes will fit the bill, including this sure-to-please recipe for Pork Tenderloin Diane.
South Beach: Also a high-protein, low-carb diet, South Beach requires dieters to order most of their primary food items, augmented by fresh groceries and a few “do it yourself” meals or restaurant outings each week. Pork items are available on the diet’s delivery menu.
“Protein is going to keep you feeing fuller longer compared to something like a bag of chips,” Danielson says. “I always recommend people have a healthy diet with fruit, veggies and whole grains. But you definitely want that protein side of it, too. Protein helps stabilize blood sugar, helps keep you feeling full, and can help with weight loss.”
Packed with protein and nutrients, lean protein is ready-made for any diet plan that limits carbohydrates and emphasizes protein for better nutrition. It helps that there are so many ways to prepare it, from grilling to roasting to baking, although dieters will want to avoid any heavy sauces or thick breading that can ratchet up the calorie count.
“Anytime you’re adding anything to food, that’s going to matter,” Danielson says. “If you’re putting a high-sodium seasoning or sauce on there, that could definitely negate some of the nutritional value. But roasting, grilling and crock pots can be a healthy options.”
“Pork in general is the No. 1 protein in the world. It’s so versatile,” adds Jackson of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. “You can marinate it, it takes flavor so well, and there are just so many ways to incorporate it into existing meals.”
Want to learn more about the nutritional benefits of lean pork, how to fit it into your diet plan, and find recipes for how to cook it? Visit the Illinois Pork Producers Association at their website, www.ILpork.com.