The skinny on pork: Is it safe to eat?

The skinny on pork: Is it safe to eat?

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

In the South we love our BBQ.

One of the hottest sellers pit at the Pig-n-Chik restaurant in Northeast Atlanta is pork.

Fresh out of the pit - it's smoked, and pulled, chopped... and, too many diners, deliciously good.

But is it really good for you?

That may depend on what type of pork you eat, what kind of cut it is, and how it's prepared.

Lena Beal, a therapeutic dietitian at the Fuqua Heart Center at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, says, "Pork gets a bad rap because the stars of the show typically that are out there are bacon and ribs, right?" But, Beal says,

"It actually has been recently certified by the American Heart Association as an "extra lean meat."

When it comes to pork, Beal says "lean" means "loin." Tenderloin is the healthiest choice of the cuts. Beal explains, "The tenderloin is going to be the most lean. And then the (other) loin cuts, including some roasts, are going to be lean as well. And then, pork chops are also considered lean."

Pork shank, ribs, and belly are much fattier. So is bacon. And many "cured" meats like ham and bacon come packed with preservatives. Beal says limit those, and the fatty cuts. Keep your pork portion size to about 5 ounces a serving, a few times a week. The palm of your hand holds about three ounces of meat. So, use that as a guide.

If you're cooking pork at home, Beal says trim the visible fat, and sauté, broil or grill it with a marinade to juice in moisture.

Make sure you cook pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pork, she says, tends to dry out easily, so marinade is key. She says experiment with new flavors and seasoning, and try to cut back on salt.

The bottom line, a small piece of pork tenderloin – is about equal to a small piece of grilled chicken, in terms of calories, fat and protein. So pick your pork cut carefully, prepare it as "lightly" as possible and watch your portion size.

Think of your favorite BBQ pork joint – or that breakfast with bacon – as weekly treat… rather than a daily indulgence.

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