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ON NUTRITION: More on the pros and cons of pork

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Talk about personal. A handwritten letter on lined tablet paper came to me from a "nearing 90-year-old widower just past six years and a month" who signed his note "CJS."

"This is my observation on your recent article (Lima Ohio News) on the pros and cons of pork," he began. He then described in intricate detail his medical history including "58 years of diet-managed Type 2 diabetes," heart valve surgery and hip replacement.

"All of this information is to convince you that I am deeply motivated to know all I need to know to take care of myself. You mention pork tenderloin can be lower in saturated fat than chicken breast, but I believe you are assuming both are prepared fresh. In Ohio, a processed slice of pork tenderloin is heavily breaded and sold breaded to restaurants. That changes the comparison.

"Next you mention lean pork, but you don't give other examples besides pork tenderloin."

Dear CJS: I commend you for your ongoing attention to your health. And yes, the comparisons all refer to fresh as opposed to processed or prepared items.

Here are the leanest cuts of pork, according to the National Pork Board (, starting from the most lean: pork tenderloin, sirloin pork chop, sirloin pork roast, New York pork chop and 96% lean ground pork. Notice the key words in these cuts are "loin" and "chop."

Pork tenderloin and pork sirloin roast both meet the American Heart Association's criteria for a food that is low in fat, saturated fat and sodium. And don't forget that pork is packed with high-quality protein to maintain precious muscle mass as we grow in years.

You might also be interested to know the difference between ham and Canadian bacon, which are considered processed meats because they are "cured" — preserved with combinations of salt, sugar and other ingredients.

Canadian bacon is usually leaner than ham because it is a loin cut, while ham is not. Yet a 3-ounce serving of either can easily contain half the sodium one needs in a whole day. So eat these and other processed meats less often and in smaller portions.

Thanks for writing!

Lastly, I enjoyed this letter from KT in Lincoln, Nebraska:

"Your column in this morning's paper reminded me of my seventh-grade foods teacher, Mrs. Bevacqua.

"She instilled in us the importance of nutrition, and she was big on a balanced diet. She was very wise. Also very strict, direct, proper and classy. I would have to say the overarching concept of her class, although she did not verbalize this, was to do a right thing in a right way. I don't think we really appreciated her as much as we should have at the time. But I sure do appreciate her now. Diet trends come and go, but common sense is always common sense."

Amen to that!

Barbara Intermill is a registered dietitian. Email her at



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