Are Pork Rinds Healthy?

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Pork rinds are a crunchy, savory snack made from deep-fried pigskin.

They have long been a popular snack in the Southern United States and are a staple in many cultures around the world, including Mexico, where they’re known as chicharrones.

Fans of keto and low carb diets enjoy pork rinds as a low carb substitute for potato chips or pretzels.

Popularity aside, you may wonder if eating fried pigskin is good for you.

This article looks at how pork rinds are made and whether they’re healthy.

Pork skin is considered an edible byproduct of pork processing. The skins are frozen and sold to companies that produce pork rinds on a large scale (1).

To make pork rinds, pork skin is first boiled to soften and render any fat under the skin. Once it’s cooled, any additional fat is scraped away, so only the outer layer of skin remains.

Next, the skin is cut into strips or bite-sized pieces and dehydrated at a very low temperature until it’s browned, dried, and brittle. This can take several hours or overnight, depending on the dehydrating equipment used.

Finally, the dried pork skin is deep-fried at a high temperature, around 400°F (204°C) until it’s puffy and crispy.

The puffed rinds are usually seasoned with salt and pepper or any number of flavor combinations. Popular pork rind flavors include barbecue, salt and vinegar, or cinnamon-sugar.

SUMMARY

Pork rinds are made by boiling, drying, and then deep-frying the skin of a pig until it’s puffy and crispy. The pigskins used to make pork rinds are an edible byproduct of pork processing.

Crispy pork rinds are high in protein and fat. They’re carb-free, which makes them appealing to those on a low carb diet. However, they’re very low in any beneficial vitamins or minerals.

A medium-sized, single-serving bag which contains 2 ounces (57 grams) provides (2):

  • Calories: 310
  • Protein: 35 grams
  • Fat: 18 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 1,040 mg

As a processed snack, pork rinds are notable for being high in sodium. A medium-sized, single-serving bag provides nearly half of the recommended daily limit for sodium. Public health agencies and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines advise limiting sodium to 2,300 mg per day (3).

Some brands of pork rinds also contain artificial colors, flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate (MSG), and preservatives (4).

SUMMARY

Pork rinds are a carb-free snack that’s high in protein and fat. However, most brands are also very high in sodium, and some contain artificial colors, flavor enhancers, and preservatives.

Eating too many processed snack foods may cause or contribute to health problems, especially if they’re high in calories, sodium, or both — as is the case with pork rinds.

Both salty and sweet snack foods are considered ultra-processed foods, meaning that they’re industrially manufactured, ready to eat, and often high in salt, sugar, and fat (5).

A study in nearly 16,000 adults found that those who ate the most calories from highly processed foods had higher body mass indexes (BMIs) and more abdominal fat (5).

Excess fat stored in the abdominal area, or visceral fat, is linked to insulin resistance. In those with this condition, the body doesn’t respond properly to the hormone insulin, which may raise insulin and blood sugar levels and eventually lead to diabetes and heart disease (6).

Eating a high sodium diet can also increase blood pressure, which can contribute to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease (7).

A blood pressure prevention study that followed more than 3,000 adults for 20 years found that those who preferred high sodium foods had the highest risk of death from all causes (8).

About half of the fat in pork rinds is saturated fat, which is thought to contribute to heart disease, as it can raise cholesterol levels. Still, not all saturated fat has the same effect on your body (2, 9, 10).

The two main types of saturated fat in pork rinds are stearic acid and palmitic acid. Studies on stearic acid have found it to have a neutral effect on cholesterol levels. However, palmitic acid may increase cholesterol depending on your overall diet (2, 9, 10).

SUMMARY

Given that pork rinds are high in calories, sodium, and saturated fat, eating them frequently may contribute to weight gain and high blood pressure — two factors that can increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

If you want to include pork rinds in your diet, it’s best to eat them in moderation.

Instead of snacking on them out of the bag, try using them as a crunchy, bacon-like topping on roasted vegetables or a salad. That way, you can enjoy their flavor but keep your calorie and sodium intake to a minimum.

When purchasing pork rinds, it’s also a good idea to compare brands. Look for one that’s lower in sodium and free of artificial flavors and colors. Be aware though, if you eat enough, they’ll still contribute quite a few calories to your diet.

Most pork rinds are made from the skins of pigs that are raised on large-scale conventional pig farms. However, some smaller, organic pig farms make pork rinds.

If you’re concerned about conventional pig farming practices, look for brands that are made from, organic, pasture-raised pigs.

SUMMARY

If you enjoy eating pork rinds, try to eat them in moderation and compare brands so you can choose one without undesirable additives.

Pork rinds are a savory, carb-free, high protein snack made from fried pigskin.

They have a fair number of calories and are quite high in unhealthy saturated fat. Plus, a serving of pork rinds provides nearly half the amount of sodium you should eat in a day.

If you want to eat pork rinds, look for brands that are lower in sodium and free of artificial ingredients. Moreover, as with all processed foods, enjoy them in moderation as an occasional treat.



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