Consider risks before eating pork

Published 3:59 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2023

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A few weeks ago, we learned valuable information regarding beef. Today’s comfort food is pork, which is thought by some to be one of the worst foods for human consumption, while others believe it would be a welcomed addition to any health-conscious diet. Let’s cut through some of the confusion. 

Often referred to as “the other white meat,” pork is actually classified as red meat because it contains more myoglobin (a protein found in muscle) than chicken or fish. Myoglobin looks red because its iron content turns red in the presence of oxygen. However, culinary tradition classifies pork as white meat since several cuts carry a pale color before and after cooking. 

Let’s examine the potential risks associated with pork. Some pork products can be high in sodium and saturated fats, two things that should be avoided as part of a healthy diet regimen. Excess sodium in the diet can lead to elevated blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It can also cause calcium losses, some of which may be pulled from the bone. 

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If you’re on a low-sodium diet, or if you are sodium sensitive, I recommend choosing the leanest varieties of pork you can find. 

Know that the way in which you prepare pork products will impact their fat content. Instead of frying, opt for grilling, roasting, baking, or broiling. Certain cured pork products like bacon and deli meats contain nitrates and nitrites. These are added to processed meats to prevent spoilage and to preserve color. The problem is, when added to processed foods, both nitrates and nitrites can form substances called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are known carcinogens. 

United States law requires that five parts ascorbate be added to each part nitrite or nitrate to help prevent the conversion of these substances into nitrosamines. I recommend when consuming processed pork or any meat product such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, or deli meat, do so while drinking a glass of vitamin C-rich orange juice or take a vitamin C supplement, since vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a type of ascorbate. 

Remember too, that these preservatives are found even in high-quality meats. You can obtain preservative (nitrite and nitrate) free meats from your local health food store, like Nature’s Storehouse in Tryon. Also, choose salt-cured or uncured options. 

Eating undercooked or raw pork can result in parasite infestation. Taenia solium, or pork tapeworm, is an intestinal parasite that is generally harmless, but occasionally can cause a disease called cysticercosis, which leads to epilepsy. Consuming raw or uncooked pork could also result in trichinosis, an infection of parasitic roundworms. The number of trichinosis cases decreased beginning in the mid-20th century because of commercial and home freezing of pork.

Here are some fun facts about pork. Pigs were domesticated over 9000 years ago, and pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, while poultry meat and eggs are second. Salt pork was a key staple food for Washington’s troops at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776 to 1777. 

A pig’s squeal can range from 110-115 decibels. To put that in perspective, a normal conversation comes in at 60 decibels, a power mower 90 dB, a jet take-off (at 305 meters) 100 dB, and a  thunderclap 120 dB. 

There are twice as many pigs as there are people in Denmark. 

Ever heard the term “sweating like a pig?” Guess what…they don’t sweat because they don’t have sweat glands. That’s why pigs do indeed wallow in the mud. 

Next week, we’ll learn about some of the healthful benefits derived from pork products, and from pigs themselves.    

David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at or text to 864-494-6215.