October is National Pork Month. And while we seem to have a lot of months devoted to food, it’s good to celebrate what our farmers raise and grow.
I’ve always been a fan of cuts from a pork loin. The pork tenderloin is lean and full of protein, zinc and B vitamins, including B12, which is only supplied by animal protein. And most of all, it tastes good. You can stuff lean pork chops with apples for a great fall dish or grill a pork tenderloin with a spice rub.
Today’s pork is 16% leaner and 27% lower in saturated fat than it was 25 years ago, according to the National Pork Board. There are several cuts that meet the USDA guidelines for “lean,” which is defined as having fewer than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. Examples include boneless top loin chops, center loin chops and rib chops. A good rule of thumb when shopping for pork is to look for the words “loin” or “chop.”
Here’s a look at the differences in the loin and chops:
Loin chops are cut near the center of the loin and have a T-shape bone that divides loin meat from tenderloin muscle. Top loin chops contain the same bone but no tenderloin. Both chops are lean with mild flavor. They can be grilled, oven-roasted or broiled.
Boneless top loin chops are loin chops or rib chops that have the bone removed. Absence of the bone makes it easier to cook and eat, but it may have less flavor. It can be used in stir-fries or added to pasta.
A rib chop is cut from the rib section of the loin (the rib bones attached to these are baby back ribs). Because they contain more fat than loin chops, they’re more flavorful, but with more fat.
A boneless butterfly chop is cut from the center of the loin with a small “hinge” in the center to open like a book. The two halves look like the wings of a butterfly.
And then there’s the tenderloin — a lean, boneless roast and one of the most tender cuts of pork. It contains about the same amount of fat as a boneless, skinless chicken breast.
Hy-Vee, where I work as a dietitian, works with 450 family farms throughout Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin to source the pork sold under its Midwest pork label.
Today, there’s a big push toward plant-based eating. I’m not a dietitian who believes in the value of cutting out any one food group. Instead, I believe in everything in moderation, with balance and variety. Do I think we need to eat more fruits and vegetables? Absolutely. At the same time, I think lean meat can be part of a healthy diet. A new, very controversial study released this fall found that meat, even processed meat, isn’t as bad as previously thought. Not everyone is convinced, and some feel the study wasn’t comprehensive enough.
This is where we have to remember nutrition is a science, and because of that, it’s always changing. Eggs are good for you; eggs are not. Coffee was good, then it wasn’t. It’s frustrating yet exciting as we learn new things from more studies.
I think we can be sure lean pork is going to remain in the good-for-you category.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin With Spice Rub
1 1¼-pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1½-inch rounds
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
14 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
Pat pork dry. Place in prepared pan. Combine yogurt, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and turmeric; spread all over pork rounds.
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill. Place pork tenderloin rounds on medium-high heat grill and cook, turning occasionally, until meat thermometer registers 145 degrees F, about 10 minutes. Let pork rest 3 minutes before serving. Serve with roasted vegetables, if desired. Serves 4.
Fargo is a dietitian for Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill. Send recipe ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.