Pork is a perennial favorite in our family. Roasts, chops, sausage, bacon, ham–there are so many cuts and preparation methods from which to choose that I think of it as one of the most flexible meat sources.
Pork–especially bacon–got a bad rap years ago when meat fats became linked with heart disease and cancer. Since then, pork growers have addressed the problem, and leaner pork is now available. It also turned out that the nitrites used in bacon were most likely the cancer culprit, not the bacon itself. If you get bacon made without nitrites you’ll be less likely to have problems, based on nutrition research summaries I’ve read recently.
There’s even a substantial amount of evidence that the cholesterol in meat fats may not be inherently bad for your heart. According to the Harvard School of Public Health:
“The total amount of fat you eat, whether high or low, isn’t really linked with disease. What really matters is the type of fat you eat.
“The ‘bad’ fats—saturated and trans fats—increase the risk for certain diseases. The ‘good’ fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—lower disease risk. The key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats—and to avoid trans fats.”
“Although it is still important to limit the amount of cholesterol you eat, especially if you have diabetes, dietary cholesterol isn’t nearly the villain it’s been portrayed to be.”
Trans fats are man-made, and are also called “partially hydrogenated.” Avoid hydrogenated oils (read food labels, and stay away from restaurant fried foods unless they use non-hydrogenated vegetable oils) and you’ll be avoiding trans fats. Turns out, for example, that eating butter is healthier for you than eating margarine, because margarine contains trans fats. That’s true of most low-fat, low-calorie diet foods, too–full of trans fats.
Pork and other meats contain saturated fats, so nutritionists still recommend eating them in limited quantities. However, an increasing amount of evidence suggests that the chemicals and drugs which tend to concentrate in the fats of animals may be the worst culprits, not the fat itself. Most animals these days are raised under factory farm conditions where their food may contain toxic pesticides and herbicides. Hormones and antibiotics are frequently used to stimulate abnormally fast growth and to counteract the crowded, filthy, unnatural living conditions. If you eat locally raised meat from animals raised in natural, healthy, drug free conditions and provided with chemical-free food you will most likely be avoiding a lot of the potential health risk.
In other words, a locavore eating style based on locally and sustainably grown, organic food is good for your health!
A detailed article on the Harvard School of Public Health web site has a good summary of the most recent research and recommendations about fats and cholesterol. It’s written in plain English, not scientific jargon. I highly recommend it.
As with most things, moderation seems the healthiest route. After considerable study, I’ve come to the conclusion–for me–that occasional pork in my diet will most likely not be harmful, especially local pork raised in healthy ways. That said, what’s true for me may not be right for you. I encourage you to read, experiment with how you feel, and decide for yourself.
I’m currently getting pork from Nooksack Nine, a farm near Everson. They have their naturally grown meat processed at the Keiser packing plant in Lynden. Farmers Michelle Zehr and Joshua Craft say their organic certification is underway, but is not yet completed. They are also experimenting with growing red and white wheat, triticale, and rye grains.
- Prep Time:
- Cook Time:
- Ready In:
- 2 Tbsp butter (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
- 1 lb. pork chop, boneless (cut into thin strips) (Nooksack Nine, Everson)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp dried habanero pepper powder, or to taste (friend’s garden, Lummi Island)
- 1 small onion, diced (Hopewell Farm, Everson)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (Joe’s Garden, Bellingham)
- 1 cup carrots, diced (Hopewell Farm, Everson)
- 1 cup sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), peeled and diced (Osprey Hill Farm, Acme)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup yogurt cheese (homemade with yogurt from Grace Harbor Farms, Custer)
In a large skillet, wok, or Dutch oven, melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Add the pork, 1/2 tsp salt, and half of the habanero powder (1/16 tsp). Saute until pork is browned on all sides and just cooked through, stirring frequently. Remove from pan.
In the same pan, add the second Tbsp butter and begin to loosen meat bits from the bottom of the pan while the butter heats. Add sliced onion and stir fry for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion is just starting to brown. Add garlic and saute for another minute, stirring constantly. Add carrots, sunchokes, and the other half of the salt and habanero pepper. Stir fry about two minutes.
Add water and cover. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until vegetables are done, about 5-7 minutes. Uncover pan and add the cooked pork and yogurt cheese. Continue cooking until warmed through, stirring frequently.
Can be served as a one-dish meal, or add a simple salad or green side vegetable. I like this with steamed Brussels sprouts or broccoli.
BelleWood Acres, 231 Ten Mile Road, Lynden
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad and Chestnut, Bellingham
Community Food Co-operative, Westerly and Cordata, Bellingham
Home gardens, Lummi Island
Terra Organica, Flora and Cornwall, Bellingham