Before bacon is cured, smoked, sliced and packaged it starts out as a thick cut of pork belly. A piece of pork belly is composed of layers of fat and meat that cook down into a rich and flavorful dish, particularly when it is braised, which is a common method of cooking the meat. Pork belly is high in fat and calories, so make it as a special-occasion dish and avoid putting it on your menu on a regular basis.
Each ounce of pork belly contains 145 calories, but a recommended serving of meat is 3 ounces, making a total of 435 calories. Dietary guidelines are based on maintaining weight on a typical 2,000-calorie diet for the average person, but daily caloric needs vary depending on gender, age and level of physical activity. For the average diet, a serving of pork belly constitutes nearly a quarter of your daily calories.
There are 14.8 grams of fat in an ounce of pork belly before it is cooked, which is 23 percent of your recommended daily total intake of fat. Of that total fat content, 5.4 grams consist of saturated fat, which is 27 percent of your recommended daily intake. When you triple that for a typical 3-ounce serving, you can see that pork belly provides almost three-quarters of the fat you should get per day and, depending on your accompaniments, your entire meal could constitute your total recommended daily fat intake. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends replacing much of your saturated fat intake with healthy fats to keep cholesterol levels healthy, so consider serving pork belly as an appetizer or small dish, rather than a main entree, and cooking fish for your main course.
A serving of pork belly provides 7.8 grams of protein. Much of the meat is fat, which accounts for the relatively low amount of protein compared with other meats. Raw pork belly contains 20 milligrams of cholesterol per ounce and is low in sodium, because it is not cured like bacon, coming in at 27 milligrams per serving. The meat contains small amounts of iron, vitamin E and B vitamins.
The biggest concern about the fat content of pork belly is the amount of saturated fat it contains. The American Heart Association points out that saturated fat can raise bad cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of developing heart disease, and recommends keeping your intake of saturated fat to no more than 7 percent of the calories you consume each day. The AHA further notes the total fat you consume each day should not exceed 35 percent of your daily calories.