The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new 2010 Dietary Guidelines offer good news for pork, since the recommendations reaffirm lean meat’s nutrient value and role in a healthy diet.
“Pork is a quality protein that provides many under-consumed vitamins and minerals, and we have a good story to tell about pork’s nutritional content,” says Adria Sheil-Brown, a registered dietitian and manager of nutrition communication and research for the Pork Checkoff. “We are working to ensure that USDA is aware of the importance of quality protein in a balanced diet and does not deemphasize the importance of lean meat, such as pork.”
In the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the Meat & Beans Group recommendation for the base USDA food grouping remains the same. The National Pork Board believes the current dietary guideline of an average of 5.5 ounce equivalents in the meat and beans group (based on a 2,000 calories/day diet) remains appropriate, based on the preponderance of scientific evidence.
Additional dietary recommendations include vegetarian versions of eating patterns, but the USDA report supports lean meat in the context of a healthful lifestyle. Red meat provides many under-consumed nutrients such as potassium, phosphorous and vitamin B12, says Sheil-Brown, who notes that vital nutrients such as iron and zinc are more easily absorbed when they come from meat rather than vegetables.
As expected, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines focus on reducing sodium and controlling weight, which supports lean pork’s inclusion in the diet. While Americans currently consume two to three times more sodium than the recommended daily level, the good news is that fresh pork is naturally low in sodium, Sheil-Brown says.
Including lean pork in the diet can also help people lose weight while maintaining more lean tissue (including muscle), adds Sheil-Brown, who notes that pork tenderloin contains the same amount of fat and slightly less calories than the same size serving of skinless chicken breast. Recent research shows that on average, the six most common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent.
“We will definitely be driving home the nutritional message and healthiness of pork in the months ahead,” Sheil-Brown says. “We want to find new ways to remain a credible, trusted resource on health and nutrition information for all things pork.”
For more information, contact Adria Sheil-Brown, ABrown@pork.org, 515-223-2632.