Is Pork Bad For You?

Talk about confusing. In the world of natural, real food lovers, pork is a contentious subject! On one side, you’ve got people zealously arguing against pork because it’s not kosher or halal, and surely God had a reason for withholding it from His people. They cite a few studies that demonstrate that eating pork causes adverse reactions in the body, and the arguments aren’t without merit. On the other hand, you’ve got traditional cultures like the long-lived Okinawans for whom pork is a dietary mainstay — providing meat and cooking fat. And, of course, there’s the weight of the European agricultural heritage, where every home and small farm had a pig because pigs could do miracles — turn waste into fertilizer for gardens and food for us.

So, where was the truth? Is pork bad for you? Is it really unhealthy? Or is it a good, traditional food that’s an integral part of every self-sustaining homestead?

My first introduction into the world of Real Food happened not with the book Nourishing Traditions, but with The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin. In his book, Jordan argues against pork. But, it didn’t sway me from eating it.

I love my uncured bacon and smoked link sausage too much forgo pork.

But the book did cast a shadow of doubt over my food choice. I simply had to console myself with pork-loving traditional Asian and European cultures and hope that I was doing the right thing.

Now, thanks to the latest issue of the Wise Traditions Journal (which you get when you become a member of the Weston A Price Foundation), I’ve finally got an answer that gives me true peace of mind about the whole issue.

In it, they do a dark-field live blood analysis of people eating various forms of pork.

What is a dark-field live blood analysis?

So glad you asked! From the Weston A Price Foundation website:

The blood is the tissue most easily monitored to show rapid changes in response to nutrients. Live blood analysis involves visual examination of a small droplet of capillary blood from the fingertip. The blood is put on a glass slide and observed under a high-powered light microscope, typically dark-field. This method offers a qualitative visual perspective of the blood cells and plasma, known as the “biological terrain” in integrative healthcare, which supports and sustains the cells and their vitality.

Analysis of the blood can reveal numerous conditions, including the stickiness of red blood cells (RBCs) and their tendency to aggregate and clot, as well as the formation of fibrin—the chief clotting protein—and aggregation of platelets. The presence or absence of these clotting factors can be readily seen using dark-field live blood analysis. Early blood clotting has been linked to chronic systemic biochemical inflammation, which is at the root of chronic disease.

Live blood analysis is described in detail in a previous article by the author.2 Moreover, the blood testing of adults consuming the traditional diet recommended by the Weston A. Price Foundation showed a much healthier biological terrain than those consuming the modern organic diet. There was considerably less RBC aggregation, platelet aggregation and fibrin in the blood.

So, the idea is simple. A test subject eats a particular food, and then you take a sample of their blood at set intervals after they eat. You examine the blood under a dark-field microscope for symptoms like coagulation. If the red blood cells aggregate, it’s bad — a sign of an inflammatory response to the food. If the red blood cells don’t aggregate but stay nice and separate, it’s good — a sign of no adverse bodily reaction.

Is pork bad for you?

In the small study published in the recent Wise Traditions journal, they performed this test on three adults who had been eating a traditional WAPF diet for an average of 45 months. Yes, it’s a small sampling. That doesn’t mean the test was “unscientific,” just that it’d have to be done on a much larger scale to prove conclusive. I will say, though, that the study helped wrap my mind around the pork issue once and for all. Here’s why.

The study looked at the blood of subjects before and after the consumption of various kinds of meats:

1. Unmarinated pastured center-cut pork chop;

2. Apple cider vinegar-marinated (twenty-four hours while refrigerated) pastured center-cut pork chop;

3. Uncured pastured prosciutto;

4. Uncured pastured bacon;

5. Unmarinated pastured lamb chop.

What’s the point of testing so many various preparations for pork? Well, they’re testing traditional pork preparation methods. Yes, pork is a traditional food in some parts of the world, but here’s the kicker. In most Asian cuisine, pork is marinated in an acidic medium before being cooked. And in most European cuisine, pork is preserved as a ham or sausage or bacon using traditional methods that are known today as “uncured” (this, despite the fact that they are technically “cured” with salt and a sweetener and often smoked afterwards).

And look at the results!

Below, you’re looking at the red blood cells of a 52-year old man before (left) and 5 hours after (right) eating an unmarinated pork chop. Notice how the red blood cells (RBCs) are highly aggregated. This blood condition disrupts microcirculation and is proof of an inflammatory response.

Next, this is the blood of the same man before (left) and 5 hours after (right) eating a traditionally-prepared, marinated pork chop. Notice how the RBCs are mostly free to move, although there are some groups clumped together. This blood is well within a healthy, normal range.

And finally, this last image is of the red blood cells of a 37 year old female before (left) and 5 hours after (right) eating uncured bacon. Notice how it’s completely free of clotting factors or any signs of an inflammatory response!

Similar results were found for all individuals. Turns out, just eating plain, unmarinated pork caused a bad reaction in the blood, but eating any traditionally-prepared pork caused either no reaction or a reaction within the scope of normal. And, as a “control” for the study, they looked at the blood of these same subjects after eating unmarinated lamb chops and found that there was also no negative reaction in the blood. In other words, this isn’t the body’s normal reaction to unmarinated meat, but specifically to unmarinated pork!

(Click here to read the entire article.)

Conclusions

I think it’s safe to conclude that traditionally prepared pork (such as marinated pork, pickled pork, uncured bacon, and uncured hams and sausages) can be a healthy part of your diet, while unmarinated pork can cause the dangers so many have warned against.

I am so happy I get to keep eating my uncured bacon!

Still confused? Read my definitive guide to pork.

(photo above: andrew scrivani, blood analysis: weston a price foundation)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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103 Responses to Is Pork Bad For You?
  1. Jenni
    November 9, 2011 | 2:09 pm

    How interesting! I gave up pork a long time ago because I get sick every time I eat it. Now I know why! I’m still a bit afraid to try it again even with traditional preparation… Maybe I will get brave some day. :)

  2. qhartman
    November 9, 2011 | 2:27 pm

    This is easily the most interesting thing I’ve seen all week. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Julie
    November 9, 2011 | 2:58 pm

    What, specifically, does traditionally prepared ground pork sausage, for instance, look like? We get our sausage from our farmer. Is there something I could do to prepare ground pork sausage to make it better?

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 3:01 pm

      The sausage would be labeled “uncured” and the ingredients would be free of MSG, sodium nitrates or nitrites, and celery juice. Instead the meat would be traditionally-cured using a lactic-acid starter culture or just plain salt (sodium chloride).

      • lanna
        November 9, 2011 | 5:02 pm

        So I wonder if its actually the nitrates mixed with the pork that causes a problem..but you said that the pork chop was not marinated right??? WE LOVE BACON and I dont always get it uncured it is hard to find a commercial bacon that doesnt at least have celery in it.. I think I am gona have to re read this…

        • KristenM
          November 9, 2011 | 6:16 pm

          I think celery juice is probably safer than straight up nitrates, but that the uncured meats are the best.

      • Laurel
        November 15, 2011 | 11:13 pm

        What’s wrong with celery? The bacon I’ve been buying has “cultured celery extract” in it. I thought that sounded good. Is it bad?

        • KristenM
          November 15, 2011 | 11:23 pm

          I answered this question in a comment on The Definitive Guide To Pork post:

          It’s my understanding (from talking with our local butcher) that in order to be USDA certified, a processing facility that makes “uncured” bacon, sausages, ham and other such goodies has only two options available — a celery salt cure that’s naturally high in nitrates, or a lactic-acid starter culture. These are both closer to a truly traditional cure than simply adding sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate, but they’re still adapted for larger scale processing and USDA safety standards.

          When home curing, for example, you might use a salt brine to deter the proliferation of bad bacteria while waiting for a healthy colony of wild lacto-bacillus cultures to gain a foothold and start the process of naturally fermenting the meat. Celery salt and a lactic-acid starter cultures are short-cuts to these older methods. So, they may be less than ideal, but they aren’t as harmful as the truly industrial sodium nitrite and sodium nitrates.

      • adrian
        October 26, 2012 | 6:02 am

        Was the pork prepared in a traditional way when “god” was mouthing off. I reckon “J.C” being a sheep farmer must have swayed his decision making.

  4. Julie
    November 9, 2011 | 3:18 pm

    I will ask. Thanks!

  5. Katie @ Riddlelove
    November 9, 2011 | 3:24 pm

    This was super helpful, thank you! My real food adventure started after reading The Maker’s Diet, too, and then on to Nourishing Traditions. I stopped feeding pork to my family for four years, but recently started buying uncured, pastured bacon from a local farm (Llano Seco). This article really puts my mind at ease on the whole pork/bacon issue. Thank you, again!!!

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 3:59 pm

      You’re welcome!

  6. Sam
    November 9, 2011 | 3:30 pm

    Fascinating!

    How would you marinate plain ground pork? I’ve been using 1 lb of ground pork mixed with 2 lbs of ground moose to make breakfast sausage. I like adding the pork as it adds some extra fat to the sausage, but after reading this I’d like to make sure it’s prepared properly. Thanks!

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 4:00 pm

      I would probably experiment to create an acidic marinade for the meat that was favorable to a breakfast-sausage flavor. I’d start with apple cider vinegar sweetened with maple syrup and go from there.

  7. Susan
    November 9, 2011 | 3:51 pm

    This was helpful; thank you! Question: If I am slow-cooking a pork roast, would the long, slow cook time count as being “marinated” or would I need to marinate the roast in a solution for a certain amount of time before cooking it? Would a marinade of (for example) raw cider vinegar and tamari sauce and spices left for 24 hours be sufficient? Thanks!

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 4:03 pm

      I wouldn’t consider the cook time part of the marinade time. It’s also important to note that in most traditional recipes for marinated pork, the pork was cut up before being slow-cooked. It’d be interesting to try to find some really old recipes for pork roast to see how it was done. Perhaps the meat was scored before being marinated?

      • KristenM
        November 9, 2011 | 4:22 pm

        AH HA! I KNEW IT!

        In Stanley Fishman’s latest book, Tender Grassfed Barbecue: Traditional, Primal and Paleo, he says on page 42:

        “I did a bit of research, and learned about the lost art of scoring. Several old books stated clearly that scoring was the most important part of cooking a pork roast. Most Americans have never heard of it. The old books assumed everybody would do it as a matter of course. Scoring means making long parallel cuts through the skin and fat of the pork roast, stopping short of cutting into the meat.”

        NEAT!

        • AdrianaG
          November 10, 2011 | 10:05 am

          I assume that the purpose of the scoring is to facilitate crisping of the skin for making awesome cracklings. If the scoring does not penetrate through to the flesh the marinade won’t get into the flesh.

  8. Jen
    November 9, 2011 | 3:54 pm

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing! And what a relief that there is some evidence that can explain why some cultures stay away from pork, yet others learned how to work with it. It totally supports the WAPF diet. Now . . . gotta start reading those journals more! :)

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 4:07 pm

      That was my feeling, too. As a Christian I couldn’t be swayed by religious arguments against pork, as the New Testament makes it fairly clear that any food received with thanksgiving is now “clean.” That said, I still had to wonder why it had been prohibited for the Jews in the first place, as most biblical dietary laws made sense health-wise. This seems to offer an explanation for that.

      • Loki
        November 10, 2011 | 11:40 pm

        The dietary laws never changed! There are sooo many confused Christians out there, and they don’t need to be! Pork was not a clean food in the OT and it is not a clean food in the NT. It’s NOT a salvation issue, but one that was instituted for our own protection. The only laws done away with were the sacrificial laws…Jesus took care of that!

        • angela
          June 29, 2012 | 7:46 am

          Hmmmm… I also am a Christian, and according to Galatians we are no longer “under the Law”, we are “under grace”. So, I need to agree with KristenM, as “all things are made clean”. So although I’ve heard many negative discussions on consuming pork products, everything in moderation. My daughter goes to a Wellness Clinic, rather than to a medical doctor, and their stand against pork is that since pigs don’t sweat they’re unable to release toxins, therefore if we eat pork we also consume those toxins. But, never researched that, so I don’t know if that’s true.

          • Brandon
            July 1, 2012 | 3:00 pm

            Hmmmm…Well Angela according to Romans 6:15, we are not suppose to freely sin because we have grace. Also Christ said in Matthew 5:17-18 that he came NOT to destroy the law but to fulfill and that this stands until heaven and earth passes away. The earth and heaven are still here so the law still stands. How can we claim to strive to be like Christ and not do as he did. He didn’t eat pork and either should we. Pigs were filthy back been and still are filthy today. Eating pork is equal to eating maggots because both are full of parasites. Pork was never considered as food during Christ’s time. Even more proof that its wrong according to the Bible, read Isaiah 66:15-17. These scriptures speak of future prophecy of when Christ returns, which is yet to happen. In the scriptures you can clearly see that the people on earth who are eating pork when Christ returns will be consumed by the fire he brings.

            • Daniel
              August 8, 2012 | 1:26 am

              You might want to look at Acts 10. Peter is given a vision in which he is commanded by God to “kill and eat” a variety of animals, including those prescibed against by OT laws. Peter obviously doesn’t want to do it, because he has avoided those animals for his whole life! But God insists, saying that Peter should not call anything impure that God has pronounced clean. The whole point was telling Peter that the Gentiles too could be pronounced “pure” in God’s sight, but this, as well as Paul’s rebuke against those who called themselves “The Circumcision” i.e. those who insisted following the OT law, surely shows that these laws are no longer needed.

              • Karen Sech
                March 22, 2013 | 11:32 pm

                Are you kidding? Keep reading, why did you stop there. He is cleary talking about people! Peter thought the GENTILES were unclean. And the other verse you will probably give, it’s not what you put into you mouth it’s what comes out of it. Keep reading!! He was talking about hand washing! Geez.

      • Read the entire sentence
        June 4, 2013 | 12:21 pm

        Reading comprehension is key to understanding.
        May I ask you some questions concerning what you just said about pork verses what the scripture says? Here is the scripture.
        1Ti 4:4 For every creature of God is good,and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
        1Ti 4:5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
        1. Where does the sentence end? Isn’t it verse 5?
        2. Every creature is good and not to be refused if what? If it is received with thanksgiving. What sanctifies it? (Sanctifies is to make Holy) The word of God which is the Old Testament (Headline news: There was no New Testament when this was written. Nothing had been written yet. The only place one will find food guidelines is in the OT. Oh it is also sanctified with prayer.

        • Summer Abdelghani
          November 2, 2013 | 3:25 pm

          I’m not actually a Christian, but this page seems to reconcile that verse.
          http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/RA/k/1049/Clean-Unclean-Meats.htm
          I’m a Muslim, and for what it’s worth, we have this in our prophetic tradition:

          “‘Uday then proceeded to Madina and the people there began talking about his coming. When he entered upon the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, he was wearing a silver cross around his neck; the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, was reciting the verse “They took their Rabbis and Priests as lords besides Allah”. When he heard this ‘Uday said: “They did not worship them”. He (the Prophet) replied: “Yes they did. They (the Rabbis and Priests) they disallowed what was permissible, and made permissible what was forbidden for them, and they (the people) followed them; that was their worshiping them.”

          It would seem that Timothy 4 is referring to this, it would mean not to stop eating things forbidden by false teachers, but not what was forbidden by GOD Himself. Just my two cents.

  9. Lauren
    November 9, 2011 | 3:59 pm

    I had no idea there was a “traditional” way to prepare fresh pork! So, it’s just a matter of marinating in acid for 24 hours?

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 4:09 pm

      Yep. Lots of cultures have variations of this. In India, it’s tandoori pork marinated in yogurt. In Vietnam, it’s marinated in a fermented fish sauce with lemon and a sweetener. You get the idea.

      • AdrianaG
        November 10, 2011 | 10:06 am

        Cubans make Lechon Asado with a cumin /sour orange /garlic marinade. Yum!

  10. Liz
    November 9, 2011 | 4:18 pm

    What is the difference between “cured” and “uncured” ham and bacon?

    • Justin Ross
      November 9, 2011 | 4:41 pm

      “Cured” generally refers to meat that’s been chemically preserved. In the U.S., “uncured” bacon, for example, is meat that hasn’t had sodium nitrite used in its preservation process (I believe most “uncured” bacon is still preserved somewhat via salt. I could be wrong, though).

      • KristenM
        November 9, 2011 | 6:17 pm

        Nope. You’re right. They call it “uncured” but it’s still technically cured, just not with the most conventional method (which uses nitrates).

  11. Kendahl @ Our Nourishing Roots
    November 9, 2011 | 4:33 pm

    Vindication for my uncured, honey-sweetened bacon! Thanks :D

  12. valerie
    November 9, 2011 | 4:40 pm

    I was stumped at what to do with all the fresh ground pork in our freezer from the pig we purchased. I have just gotten back into eating pork in the last 2 years after not having eaten it my wholel life. I grew up kosher but now I realize that pig, esp pig fat, is a good source of monounsatured fats and makes everything taste better so we use a lot of lard in the house. I wonder what the blood analysis would reveal about the impacts on render pig fat. But I digress. After reading the wapf article what I did was defrost about 10 pounds of the ground pork, seasoned it and stuffed into lamb casings (I get them imported from New Zealand, a much better choice than the casings you can get in the US). I soak them in my marinade for 2 days and cook. They are ok, but at least i have a solution for all this meat! I bet I will get better at this, any recipes or suggestions are greatly appreciated!

  13. Pam
    November 9, 2011 | 4:42 pm

    We just did our own uncured bacon!! I made a brine with salt, maple syrup and spices then we smoked it! When I pulled it out of the brine it had a fermented tang to it. :) I guess I need to start marinating the other things though, hm.

    • Marie
      November 9, 2011 | 7:08 pm

      Do you have a recipe/method to share? We are getting a whole pig back from the butcher next week and I would like to know how to cure our own hams and bacon. Can you do it if the butcher already froze it? How about bulk sausage–do you think it is safe to thaw, season, and re-freeze? We are talking an enormous amount of sausage here!

      • Marie
        November 9, 2011 | 7:09 pm

        I also just remembered…I forgot to mention that we don’t have a smoker. Okay to just brine?

        • valerie
          November 10, 2011 | 9:26 am

          yes, you do not have to smoke the meat.

      • valerie
        November 10, 2011 | 9:29 am

        it is ok to defrost it, season it and refreeze. You would not want to do that with a steak cause it will affect the texture, but this is not an issue with sausage.

        here is a link to some recipes that we have tried. But we don’t smoke the meat, we don’t have a smoker. The honey is hard to get to spread evenly, you kind of have to spread it on like you are frosting a cake, it is hard to get it stick.

        http://davescupboard.blogspot.com/2008/04/making-bacon-at-home.html

        • Bebe
          November 15, 2011 | 10:31 pm

          Have you tried warming the honey a bit to make it really runny? That’s what I would do, then spread quickly before it got too sticky again!

  14. valerie
    November 9, 2011 | 4:43 pm

    I sure wish finding pork bellie was easier!! The pork bellies on modern meat pigs is so skimpy! I simply did not get enough with that pig we bought.

  15. Erin
    November 9, 2011 | 4:49 pm

    I saw this the other week in the journal…so what would I do with bacon that is simply sliced pork belly? Nothing at all added…thanks for all your help you provide!

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 6:19 pm

      I’d cure it myself by soaking it in a salt brine with maple syrup added to it, then smoking it in my BBQ pit.

  16. WordVixen
    November 9, 2011 | 4:57 pm

    Kristen- my sister in law is Puerto Rican, and when she taught me to make pernil (roast pork), she kept emphasizing that you have to stab deep into the pork, and then really push the seasonings in there (which included vinegar). It was for flavor, and she didn’t marinate it, but I suspect that traditionally, it would have been marinated.

    Maybe it’s time to try my hand at pernil again. It’s soooo good. (I’m still not giving up my beloved pork chops, though. I only have them about once a month, so I’m taking that as a write off!) :-)

    • Misty
      November 10, 2011 | 9:19 am

      I’ve made pernil and its wonderful!!!!

  17. Maria-Elena
    November 9, 2011 | 6:01 pm

    The study seems like a good start, but there are so many variables potentially at work here that we may not be seeing. Does it matter if the pork is prepared / eaten with lots of fat? Is there a difference if you eat a lacto-fermented condiment when you eat the pork?

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 9:19 pm

      Great questions, and definitely worth further study/hashing out.

  18. Marie
    November 9, 2011 | 8:22 pm

    Another thought–does the acidic part of the marinade need to be vinegar, or would lemon juice do the trick? How about a wine marinade?

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 9:03 pm

      I think that based on traditional examples (such as tandoori pork which is marinated in yogurt and vietnamese pork which is marinated in fish sauce) that all that matters is that it’s acidic.

  19. Beth @ Upper West Side Mom
    November 9, 2011 | 9:38 pm

    FYI according to Jewish law the laws of what is and isn’t kosher fall under the category of a chok. A chok is a law that’s reason is not fully understood. Many people think that the purpose of being kosher is that it’s healthier but that is not the case (There is tons of kosher candy and junk food out there). If your not Jewish there is no reason what so ever that you should not eat pork.

  20. Melissa
    November 9, 2011 | 9:40 pm

    Even if live blood analysis were a respectable scientific technique for evaluating foods (it’s not, and you’ll notice it’s not featured in any scientific journal), the sample size and statistical methods here are pretty questionable.

    Either way, I guess the worst thing that could happen here is that people could marinate their pork chops, so it’s not so bad.

    • KristenM
      November 9, 2011 | 10:07 pm

      I think a lot of quacks using live blood analysis to supposedly test for cancer and other specific nutrient deficiencies have given it a bad name. I can’t fathom how just looking at someone’s blood could tell you any of that (except perhaps an iron deficiency, since we’re looking at red blood cells).

      But what’s been done here makes sense to me — a simple test for coagulation factors (rouleaux, red blood cell aggregation, and fibrin). It’s just a visual sampling showing how the blood is reacting to food. The sample size is far too small to conclude anything about what it all means, but I think it’s helpful for giving me a paradigm to finally understand why some cultures avoid pork while others wholeheartedly embrace it.

  21. Lee
    November 9, 2011 | 10:41 pm

    I love to learn about ancient food and prep techniques. I pulled out some old cookbooks that talk about ancient Greece, Rome and China and lo-and-behold the vast majority of the recipes call for marinating. Think Chinese pork spareribs, Greek Souvlaki/Gyro marinated chunks, big pork roasts butterflied and filled with herbs and spices and marinated in wine then slow roasted. So then I looked for sausage recipes and found one in my Julia & Jacques Cooking At Home cookbook! Jacques Pepin shares his sausage recipe that has you mix up 1 1/2 lb. ground pork with 2 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 3 Tbsp chopped pecans, 3 Tbsp good quality red wine, 1/2 tsp minced garlic. He says 1/8 tsp saltpeter can be added but is optional and states the salt and pepper amounts in the recipe allow it to cure safely and shold be followed as given. Plan to season adn form the sausage at least three days or up to a week before serving. You can also add thyme, rosemary, sage, etc. or substitute pistachios or walnuts. Cure by wrapping tightly in plastic wrap, parchment, foil in a 12″ long 2″ thick log shape. Cure in the refrigerator.

    • Stephanie
      November 28, 2011 | 12:16 pm

      Saltpeter is a source for the nitrates that most people are seeking to avoid. Nitrates inside the body degrade into a material that is a known carcinogen.

  22. Katherine
    November 9, 2011 | 11:51 pm

    Wow! Great post. I’m new to “real foods” and still figuring out all of the protocols…would salting pork chops for example, a few days before cooking (this helps give them better flavor and texture) be enough to reduce the inflammatory response as it does in cured meats?

  23. Pam
    November 10, 2011 | 8:02 am

    What about parasites? I have also heard that pigs are very intelligent, smart enough to know they are being raised for slaughter?? Interesting as I have been wondering about pork, as well.

  24. Tatoosh
    November 10, 2011 | 8:04 am

    I am adrift on the “cured” and “uncured” descriptions of bacon and ham. I realize there may be differences between the traditional curing of meats, brine or sugar/salt packing and smoking versus a legal definition based on modern food processing practice.

    Can you help clarify the TC (traditional cure) that you consider as healthy versus the LC (legal cure) that you do not? Or is the question of LC not really on the board here; it is simply a matter of raw versus traditional cures?

    I am getting ready to learn how to smoke ribs and make my own bacon in the Philippines which is about as pork-centric as one can get. Along with flavor, I would like to use good food practices where ever possible.

    • KristenM
      November 10, 2011 | 12:30 pm

      Yes, this simply compared raw to traditional cures/marinades. I try to avoid what you’re calling legally cured meats because of the excess nitrates. Nitrates (which are also high in conventionally grown produce) can turn into nitrosamines during digestion, and nitrosamines are known carcinogens.

  25. Peggy
    November 10, 2011 | 8:37 am

    Had a conversation with two friends the other day: one eats no beef (history of heart disease and he thinks this helps him) the other eats no pork (religious reasons.) I eat both, but eat no MUO (meat of unknown origin.) They had never heard of that.

    I’ve never heard of “traditional” pork preparation! My husband is a HUGE fan of pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy and asks for it almost once a week. I’ll have to see if I can work marinated pork into a reasonable facsimile for him. It is GOOD to see that my farmer’s pastured pork bacon is okay because I dearly love it!

    I wish I had a medical lab in my home. This is the kind of study that I’d love to do on myself and my family!

  26. Misty
    November 10, 2011 | 9:17 am

    Yee-Haw!!!! What a great post! I, too, read The Maker’s Diet and felt a little iffy eating pork. But, like you, I still love a little bacon and ham. We don’t eat pork chops anyway, only because the hubby doesn’t care for them. Good thing, now that I know.

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  27. slawebb
    November 10, 2011 | 9:19 am

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have been going back and forth on pork for awhile now. We love it here at our house, but I have heard that it is such a “dirty” food and not good for you. But all conventional meat is dirty so you have to look at your source. Thanks for the health aspect of this post.

    I would love to see the “Thai-Style Spareribs” recipe you had in your newsletter. It doesn’t link over and I tried a search on your site as well and couldn’t find it. I have ribs in my freezer looking for the right recipe and I think my kids would love it.

  28. Cathy
    November 10, 2011 | 9:32 am

    I’m sorry to crash the party of enthusiasm over pork, but feel like I need to mention that there are many factors to consider in evaluating whether the consumption of a particular food is advisable. In this particular discussion, all the eggs have been placed in the basket of “blood coagulation response.”

    Might there be negative effects from pork that don’t show up in immediate blood response? Anyone pondering pork would be well-advised to research parasites. Oh, but those are all killed with high heat and curing, you may say. USDA reports indicate that the heat high enough to kill trichinae must be evenly distributed throughout the entire cut of meat to be certain no parasites survive. Microwaves are known to not do this. I would definitely prefer a standard oven for killing the parasites, if I were into eating cooked parasites.

    Ever heard of swine flu? Wonder where that comes from?

    If you’ve googled pork and parasites by now, you’ve probably learned that pigs don’t sweat. The significance here is that perspiration is not an avenue available to swine for the removal of toxins. But, no worries! Each pig has a special gland in the bottom of each foot that God designed for toxin removal from this scavenger. So, this gland constantly oozes green goo to detox the beast. Pig’s feet, anyone?

    I personally know a man who had migraine headaches for fifty years. They were so debilitating that he had to close his auto repair shop and go home to bed when they hit. When he quit eating pork, he never had another migraine.

    There is so much more to the study of pork than the observation of blood coagulation alone. Be thorough in your research before making your final decision on whether or not you want this in your family’s diet.

    • Margaret
      November 10, 2011 | 4:49 pm

      Everyone is individual. Just because one man got migraines from eating pork doesn’t make it bad for everyone. He may just be sensitive to pork. I get headaches from eating chocolate, even organic, unsweetened, dairy-free chocolate. However, I do fine with pastured pork (which I am now starting to marinate since this article came out). And hopefully people that are cooking traditional foods are not using the microwave. I only use my microwave to sterilize sponges.

      • Margaret
        November 10, 2011 | 4:53 pm

        Forgot to add–I have learned from discussions about raw feeding for dogs that trichinosis in pork is now quite rare in the USA. So the concerns about cooking pork and trich are probably overblown at this point. And I would imagine that pastured pork has fewer parasites and disease than factory-farmed pork.

    • Christine
      November 11, 2011 | 2:34 pm

      I’m not too worried about trichinosis – when I was a kid it was a real danger, but in the last 20 years it has reduced to almost no risk at all here in the States. According to Wikipedia, “The incidence of trichinosis in the U.S. has decreased dramatically in the past century. From 1997 to 2001, an annual average of 12 cases per year were reported in the United States. The number of cases has decreased because of legislation prohibiting the feeding of raw meat garbage to hogs, increased commercial and home freezing of pork, and the public awareness of the danger of eating raw or undercooked pork products.[17]“

    • Shar
      February 17, 2012 | 5:59 pm

      http://www.healthmasters.com/blog/adverse-influence-pork-consumption-health

      This article is written by the professor, but posted on a practitioner’s web site, sorry about that, but the article is original form the researcher. I have not located online the original site.

      Very science based, and would love to have feedback from thoughtful folks on this article.

      Also, the way I understand it, pork and rabbit are the only two animals (by some judgement) that were deemed unhealthy to eat, —because they were dangerous to our health— no other reason, according to the ruminant/hoof thing.

      This is a heavy read, but if you skim through it, you will find a summary at the end as well.

      I hope some of you take the time to respond, as I am very curious what you might think.

      I ponder the lard issue, and often wonder if tallow, and other rendered fats would not be far better.

      As far as the parasites—pork tric in the brain is wooooww yucko and debilitating, and , well, I just wouldn’t want to take the chance.

      We use turkey bacon—sustainable and organic etc—what does anyone think of that health-wise? (I know it isn’t quite the same flavor wise, but it works)

      Thank you!

  29. AdrianaG
    November 10, 2011 | 10:10 am

    Two questions:
    1. Pork still is predominantly Omega 6, even pastured pork, so is it really good for us regardless of preparation method to possibly mitigate an inflammatory response?

    2. Could simply serving cooked pork with acidic side dishes (a nice tart vinaigrette, a yogurt sauce, lemonade) accomplish the same thing?

  30. Andi
    November 10, 2011 | 12:36 pm

    Hmmm, interesting…as an Italian, pork was always a staple in my kitchen…roast loins; sausages; chops; bacon, whatever…since changing up my diet 15 mos ago to all organic, I’ve had uncured bacon ONCE lol…enjoyed it, but I never feel like having pork anymore…weird!

  31. Sarah @ Real Food Outlaws
    November 10, 2011 | 4:09 pm

    Thank you so much for this information! After reading The Maker’s Diet, we stopped eating pork about five years ago. We have an amazing source for truly pastured pork where we live now and I have reintroduced it. I’ve only eaten the uncured bacon and ham. I am very happy to hear that eating traditionally prepared pork will not alter our blood chemistry. It’s been wonderful having it back in our diet, even though it is still in moderation(:

  32. Barb
    November 10, 2011 | 6:53 pm

    This was so interesting and informative. I do agree with Cathy, in that there are other factors to consider. I personally love bacon and buy the nitrate free kind when I can afford it.
    At his urging, I cook chops for my husband but I think they have a nasty “dirty feet” smell when cooking. Mind you, this is just generic pork from the market. I’ve always wondered why. Then, the last time I used glue sticks in my glue gun, the smell was the same as the “dirty feet” pork. Wonder what that’s all about. At any rate, I’ll avoid it all together unless I can afford some quality meat.

  33. Amy
    November 11, 2011 | 11:38 am

    I realize that you are in Dallas at the Wise Traditions conference right now (so is my sister Lee of Well Fed Family and she will be at the Real Food Media session tonight) but when you get back maybe you can respond to this. Ever since I read the pork study in Wise Traditions a few weeks ago I have been pondering this. The study really was terribly small. Extremely small. But yes definitely something to take note of and hopefully it will be replicated on a much larger scale. I have a whole hog coming to me next month. Where can I get more specific information on home curing? What specifically is needed to cure effectively? What is really required? My hog farmer uses salt, sugar, and liquid smoke to cure. Is this good enough? She says it won’t turn the meat pink like a traditional ham but it will have the right flavor. I would love to find an old cookbook with some traditional recipes for just basic, down-home cooking with pork.

    This study also brings me to ask another question. Pork was not the only unclean animal, however there doesn’t seem to be any controversy surrounding anything but pork. There were many forbidden foods, including shellfish and bottom feeding fish. I would be so interested to see a similar study done on those also. Now THAT would be revealing, don’t you think?

  34. Christine
    November 11, 2011 | 2:42 pm

    I would be so interested in a broader study of these effects. Especially interesting to me would be a comparison of pastured to factory farmed, and a comparison of nitrate cured vs. traditionally cured. I stopped eating factory farmed pork because the industry is indescribably disgusting on so many levels- talk about a dirty meat! Cruelty due to harsh confinement like veal, incredible environmental pollution, loads and loads of antibiotics and hormones, etc. I do very much love pork though, and I know these are very smart animals – I’ve known a few personally, and I want them to be raised humanely. We’re lucky in Portland to have good access to pork raised by small farms, pastured with good supplemental diets, etc. I was pretty surprised to see that all the pork in this “study” was pastured – wouldn’t it be interesting to see the effects of factory farming on our bodies?

    • MA
      November 14, 2011 | 1:20 pm

      I was wondering the same thing…how does factory pork (what I consider “dirty pork” for the same reasons Christine cited and more) compare to pastured pork?

  35. Carol in NC
    November 12, 2011 | 12:32 am

    As much as I like bacon I would love to give pork a green light. There have been many pork studies, some conclusive, some not, but here is how Don Colbert sums it up.

    Pigs eat enormous amounts of food and this dilutes the hydrochloric acid in a pig’s stomach. This in turn allows toxins, viruses, parasites and bacteria to be absorbed into the animal’s flesh. Besides being gluttons, swine are also filthy animals. They will eat garbage, feces, decaying flesh. All that’s eaten usually becomes part of the pig’s own flesh. Pigs readily harbor parasites.

    I go to great (and expensive) lengths to avoid feeding my family meat and eggs from animals fed GMO feed, or pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics because I know these things cross some kind of barrier and wind up on our plates. It just stands to reason that I would be as careful about eating scavengers of any kind. They have their purpose, just not as food.

    • Bebe
      November 16, 2011 | 12:21 am

      I beg to differ about pigs being filthy animals: only if they have no choice. Given proper room and accommodations (shade to get out of the sun, clean bedding, “clean” mud rather than their own feces, etc…) they’re pretty clean animals.

      As far as eating their own feces, it seems to be a common practice of many animals. Chickens do it and they eat each other too… again though usually only if there is some other problem such as poor nutrition or over-crowding.

      The key really is to raise ALL animals with their feet on the earth with sun, fresh air and fresh water. And real food.

  36. MrsWheeler
    November 12, 2011 | 10:14 am

    My family doesn’t eat pork at all. About a decade ago when I quit smoking, I noticed how much pork products smelled like dog to me. I stopped but my husband didn’t. Then, he also has developed a severe allergic reaction to pork in the past few years. My take on it is this: if the Lord would not eat it when He came to earth in bodily form, why should I? :)

    • Bebe
      November 16, 2011 | 12:23 am

      Never read that chapter.

  37. Lauren@BaseballsandBows
    November 12, 2011 | 5:34 pm

    I am so new to this, so I have a question. I have been buying mild sausage from a farmer. It is pastured and GMO free. She uses ground pork, spices (e.g. sage), and salt. Does this fit the criteria for traditonally cured. I am on full-GAPS, so this sausage has been and easy, tasty meal for me. I hope it fits with the traditional method. Can you tell me if it does?

    • KristenM
      November 14, 2011 | 1:27 pm

      So long as the salt has had at least a few days to age in the meat (through a sort of natural fermentation process), it sounds like it’s traditionally prepared.

  38. Leah
    November 13, 2011 | 9:39 pm

    So what about lard? I had never considered that meat would need to be especially prepared…

  39. Monica
    November 14, 2011 | 7:17 pm

    Fascinating… I stay away from pork because of its omega 3:6 profile/allergies, but it’s great to know that delicious bacon is the lesser of pork evils!! =)

  40. marla
    November 15, 2011 | 2:41 pm

    I was eating jimmy dean turkey sausage thinking it was better for me but I noticed it had BHT and carmel color added to it.

    Then I bought the pork natural with salt and spices only from them.

    Is that better? I am just trying to eat as healthy as possible but be able to afford to eat!! Organic meats I would love to eat all the time like chicken, beef, etc are too much for my budget so don’t eat as much and have salmon fillets from alaska etc.

    I shop at Costco to save $$.

  41. Walter Jeffries
    November 15, 2011 | 6:27 pm

    Odd. I don’t get this result when eating our pork, which is pasture raised, pigs eating grass as most of their diet. Is that perhaps the reason. The lamb and our pork are both grass eaters whereas the pork in your testing is grain fed. In other words it is not about pork but about grain feeding. Also, the sample set was insignificant. Sounds like this needs a lot more real scientific testing.

    • KristenM
      November 15, 2011 | 6:53 pm

      Actually, all the pork in this sampling was pasture raised. What gave you the idea that they were grain-fed?

      • Walter Jeffries
        November 16, 2011 | 1:10 pm

        Because of your other comments about pigs not eating grass. We raise grass fed pigs. The majority of their diet is pasture which is mostly grass and pigs definitely do eat grass. I am well aware that many people ‘pasture’ pigs but free feed grain. I am suggesting that perhaps the reason you see the blood cell clumping might not be due to the meat being pork vs lamb but rather be due to how much grain vs grass the animal consumed. This changes the balance of Omega-3 vs Omega-6 fatty acids in the meat which might explain what you’re seeing. In fact, I’m working right now with a researcher on this exact topic.

        So, if you take beef that has been pastured vs feedlot beef that has been heavily grained what results do you get with this blood test? That would be one of the interesting questions to look at.

        Before condemning pork it needs a lot more research.

        • KristenM
          November 16, 2011 | 1:25 pm

          Hmmm. That makes sense. All I know about the sampling is what was in the Wise Traditions article, and it says “pastured”. If you read the full article, you’ll see that they were testing preparation methods in an attempt to see whether or not traditional preparation techniques affect the body’s inflammatory response. As such, they used unmarinated pastured lamb as the control. Traditionally prepared pork had no inflammatory response. Unmarinated lamb had no inflammatory response. Only unmarinated pork had the inflammatory response.

          So, it would seem that even if these pigs did receive supplemental feed (and I have no idea whether they did or not), traditionally-preparing the pork arrests any inflammatory response.

          That said, why you feel like pork is being condemned? I felt like the study finally vindicated pork by offering up a reasonable hypothesis about why there’s a disconnect between the notion (seemingly supported by scientific studies) that pork is bad for you, yet traditional cultures have thrived on it for thousands of years.

  42. Lisa
    November 16, 2011 | 9:26 am

    So glad to get this information. We do love our pork, but eat it mostly in the form of “uncured” meats, ie. procuitto, and a locally made sausage even an uncured kielbasa, they do add so much flavor to our foods. As for regular pork I will be sure to to try marinating in ACV, I believe that will give it a good flavor anyway.

    • KristenM
      November 16, 2011 | 1:26 pm

      What I would give to find a local source of uncured kielbasa! You lucky person.

      • Walter Jeffries
        November 18, 2011 | 7:36 am

        Huh. We make uncured, unsmoked kielbasa from our pastured pork but unfortunately it does not sell all that well. When we smoke it (still not cured) it sells out instantly. I like them pan fried with sawurcraute(sp?) and fried mashed potatoes on the side.

        One of the things that people need to realize when asking for uncured bacon, hams, etc is that the color is going to be different and the flavor is also different. Nitrates/Nitrites are a long time traditional method of curing meats which give them a redder color and change the flavor a little in a way that people have come to expect. Before buying a lot of nitrate/nitrite bacon, ham, etc, be sure to try a single package to make sure you know what you’re getting.

  43. Nickole@ SavvyTeasandHerbs.com
    November 17, 2011 | 8:51 am

    Thank you so much for this article! We also avoided pork for many years and have recently started eating uncured bacon pretty much on a regular basis. It is nice to know that other pork foods would need marinating beforehand, in case we are able to ever find pastured pork. I think the farmers we buy our meat from may have some periodically. Thanks again! Bacon is like food from heaven! We love bacon… ;)

    Nickole

  44. Kristina
    November 18, 2011 | 3:14 am

    Wow! Thanks for this. I had no idea there was a traditional preparation for pork! I like the bacon and ham (eat ‘em regardless of health properties ;) but always avoided plain pork because of things I’ve read about it. Now that I know to marinate it I’m excited!

  45. Kristina
    November 18, 2011 | 3:22 am

    I also think more studying could be done, and that I’ll still likely going to keep pork to a minimum in my diet. Pasture fed will have to be a must.

  46. Brian
    January 23, 2012 | 1:44 am

    It would be interesting to see the disease rates and average ages of death for people who eat a majority of pork in their diet. Such people I’d assume to not always, and moreso than others, eat unprocessed pork.
    I suspect there isn’t any substantial difference from other people.

  47. Shar
    February 17, 2012 | 6:44 pm

    this article was posted up above, but I am really hoping you all see it, and maybe read and post what you think, so I am putting it here at the end too.

    Live well!
    Thanks for your opinions,
    Shar

    http://www.healthmasters.com/blog/adverse-influence-pork-consumption-health

  48. Daven
    July 16, 2012 | 5:16 am

    The bible says, it’s filthy to eat and even touch this dead animals. This study only focus on RBC, but other harm effects to human body had not been expose here.. Please try to search the effect of nervous system for those who eats pork.

  49. Marilyn Holzerland
    September 18, 2012 | 7:18 pm

    How about side pork? I love side pork and keep it on hand at all times – humanely raised – pasture raised only. Isn’t side pork the same thing as uncured bacon, just sliced differently?

  50. nizo
    September 23, 2012 | 2:48 pm

    im a Muslim and never eat pork,i believe god forbid all pork products for a reason ..not just god wanted that.
    good article

  51. Graham
    December 23, 2012 | 2:15 am

    The Okinawans mainstay is fish & rice, not pork. In the bluezones of longevity around the world, they are mainly vegetarians.
    The pig is very much a filthy animal, regardless of religion..the only animal that routinely eats its own excreta and loves to wallow in filthy conditions. Intestinal worms are endemic and trichinosis which is most difficult to detect, also.
    Your desire to keep eating pork has clouded your opinion and the medical truth.
    Dr Graham, medical scientist, former WHO consultant

  52. Naomi I.-W.
    September 15, 2013 | 5:03 pm

    In that study, did they do a subsequent test on the 52 year old who ate the un marinated pork? Was that result permanent, as in, did their blood stay like that? Thanks for this info.

  53. Naomi I-W
    September 15, 2013 | 5:09 pm

    Feel a bit silly now asking my first question because the answer was right there after I re-read it once my son finally went on his nap…lol. Please disregard my previous question and if you have a chance I’d rather you don’t post my two comments. Thanks, again!

  54. Ben
    January 13, 2014 | 12:48 am

    Did you take in account mental health and spiritual health ?
    Remember that physical health is only a part contribute to your total health beings.
    1 Corinthians 6:19-20 :
    19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
    20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[a] and in your spirit, which are God’s.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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