SOME RUNNERS shy away from pork, deeming it too high in total fat, too high in saturated fat, or even total kilojoules. And while some cuts really do pack a fat and kilojoule punch, gram for gram, cuts like pork tenderloin have less fat than a chicken breast. And, like it or not, food scientists are finding ways to make it leaner and leaner every year. Six of the most common pork cuts have, on average, 16 per cent less fat and 27 per cent less saturated fat than 19 years ago and an 85-gram serving of pork tenderloin contains only 2.98 grams of fat, whereas an 85-gram serving of skinless chicken breast contains 3.03 grams of fat.
Of course, it’s often the fat that makes pork (bacon anyone?) a delicious addition to sandwiches, salads, ice cream, you name it, so many runners and gourmands opt to include higher fat cuts in their diet.
Putting my reputation on the line, I’ll readily admit that I love bacon. But I should note that I fit it into a diet that’s comprised of plenty of fruits, veggies and moderation. But since not everyone is into balance and moderation, it’s probably a good thing that not everyone has a taste for bacon, pancetta and ham. After all, some varieties of bacon and cured products contain loads of sodium and other preservatives, such as nitrates, that research suggests may raise blood pressure or increase your risk for cancer. Then again, according to the US National Pork Board, there are no studies that show a causal link between processed meats and cancer. In addition, the board notes that 95 per cent of nitrates (a precursor to nitrites) come from vegetables and our own saliva. But I think we’d all agree that there are significant differences between the nutrient content and quality of food items like beets and dark leafy greens (which are full of health and performance-boosting nitrates) and the chemical nitrites that are used as a preservative. Regardless, in order to curb potential or nonexistent (depending on who you ask) risk, be sure to choose fresh meats or packaged products that contain no preservatives – typically labelled “all-natural” – whenever possible.
So what can lean cuts of pork do for your running and waistline?
According to the (pork) Checkoff-funded project conducted by Purdue University, US, and published in the journal Obesity, women who cut kilojoules but included more protein, including 170 grams of lean pork per day, kept more muscle mass while losing weight than women who consumed the same amount of kilojoules but less protein. Consuming a higher-protein diet also helped retain a sense of satiety or fullness after meals. My professional opinion: it’s reasonable to assume that a reduced kilojoule diet that’s rich in lean protein, perhaps regardless of the source, will result in similar results.
Pork is an excellent source of the B-vitamins thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and B-6 as well as phosphorus. It’s also a good source of zinc and potassium. All of which play a role in establishing optimal health, metabolism and immune function.
Chef Nate King from Cache Cache in Aspen, Colorado was kind enough to send the following recipe along:
Cache Cache frisée salad with Tender Belly bacon
Chef Nate says: This is the recipe for the famous Cache Cache frisée salad. I always remembered my school track coach having us suck down some honey before our races for some good pure energy… Not only does it taste fantastic, but the body can turn it into great energy. The balsamic dressing for this salad calls for a good amount of honey. The most important part of this preparation though, is making sure you add some of the warm bacon fat to the bowl when dressing your greens. This fat will mix with the balsamic dressing and make the salad “complete.” If you can’t find frisée lettuce heads, baby rocket or your favourite salad mix will taste great also. Preferably grown by someone you know!
Makes 4-6 servings
- 3 Large heads of frisée lettuce
- 1 cup Cooked bacon
- 1 tsp Chopped fresh garlic
- 1 tsp Chopped fresh shallots
- ½ cup Balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup Local raw honey
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 ¼ cup olive oil/ canola oil/ grapeseed oil
To make dressing, in a blender, combine the vinegar, honey and mustard. With the blender running on medium, slowly add the oil until dressing becomes thick.
Slice the raw bacon into half-centimetre strips. Slowly render and cook the bacon in a heavy bottomed sauté pan on your stovetop over medium heat. When the bacon pieces are to your desires doneness, remove the pan from the direct heat but keep the bacon nice and warm.
While the bacon is rendering, prep the rest of the salad. Clean the lettuce thoroughly and pat dry. Cut the large frisée lettuce heads down to the tender, less bitter, yellow centres. Cut off the root end. Tear apart the lettuce by hand into more manageable bite size pieces. Place in a bowl large enough to toss with dressing. Add garlic and shallots. (This should be done sparingly to your taste or your guests tastes.) Add fresh ground black pepper if desired.
Add the warm bacon and a bit of the warm fat to the bowl. Add enough balsamic dressing to coat the lettuce to your liking (there should be dressing left over). Mix well. The bacon fat will combine with the dressing. Plate immediately and serve.
Chef Nate adds: A good garnish for this salad is a warm poached or sunny side farm egg. Set on top so that the yolk can be poked an allowed to ooze down into the salad. Another popular garnish is some nice fresh chèvre from your closest goat cheese producer. Also don’t be afraid to add some nice raw seasonal veggies.