If the word "pork" brings to mind fatty indulgences like bacon and ham, think again. "The beauty of pork is that over the years farmers have bred it to be leaner and leaner," says Debra Krummel, PhD, RD, a University of Cincinnati nutrition researcher. "You can now find pork that is just as lean as chicken breast."
The leanest option is pork tenderloin, which has very little saturated fat and won't affect your blood cholesterol levels significantly, Krummel says.
Pork is one of the richest food sources of thiamine, a B vitamin that helps the body produce energy from food. It’s also a good source of zinc, a mineral needed for immune system function. Plus, protein (whether it's in pork or other foods) helps keep hunger at bay.
Pork tenderloin is versatile, so you can make it the main dish for an elegant dinner or grill it up at a tailgate party. But because it's so lean, prepare it with care.
"I think some people get turned off because they overcook it, or they don't marinate, or they don't use a moist cooking method, and then it tastes like shoe leather," Krummel says.
She recommends using an instant-read thermometer and cooking the meat just until the internal temperature reaches 160 F as a surefire way to keep the tender in your tenderloin.
This simple but elegant recipe takes pork tenderloin on a trip to Tuscany with the classic Italian flavors of olive oil, lemon, and capers.
Makes 4 servings
1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1 pound
3 Tbsp flour
2 tsp lemon pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 to 6 slices lemon, very thin
4 Tbsp capers, drained
1. Slice tenderloin into 8 equal pieces. Place pieces between sheets of plastic wrap; pound each piece to 1/8-inch thickness with a meat mallet or rolling pin.
2. Dust cutlets lightly with flour, and sprinkle with lemon pepper.
3. Add olive oil to nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Quickly saute cutlets, about 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
4. Add wine and lemon juice to skillet; shake pan gently and cook 2 minutes, until sauce is slightly thickened.
5. Garnish with lemon slices and capers, and serve.
Per serving: 194 calories, 24 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 73 mg cholesterol, 311 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 29%
Pork Tenderloin Mango Pitas
Pork in pita pockets is a natural for a lunch box treat or simple weeknight dinner. Packed with healthy veggies, the exotic taste of mango, and a kick of salsa, they are filling on their own but are great with a salad or bowl of soup.