Pork and chicken share more nutritional similarities than differences. Of course, that comparison does not include bacon. One slice of bacon has more calories, at least three times more fat and fewer nutrients than a 3-ounce serving of other cuts of pork. Skinless chicken and pork are good sources of lean protein, as well as vitamin B-12, zinc and selenium.
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Excellent Protein Source With Similar Calories
You won’t find a large difference between the calories in pork tenderloin, ham, bone-in pork chops, and skinless chicken breasts, legs and thighs. Pork tenderloin has the fewest, with 93 calories in a 3-ounce serving, while ham contains 116 calories, which is the highest of the six samples. All six provide about the same amount of protein: 16 to 19 grams in 3 ounces. These values represent about 33 to 39 percent of the daily value for protein, based on consuming 2,000 calories daily.
Make Lean Choices
Foods qualify as extra lean if they contain no more than 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. By these standards, pork tenderloin, pork chops, and skinless chicken breasts, legs and thighs are all extra lean. Ham may only qualify as lean rather than extra lean because it has 5.4 grams of total fat. If you eat the skin on your chicken, the total fat in chicken breasts increases to 9 grams, which barely qualifies as lean. The total fat in thighs and legs with the skin increases to 16 grams, which means they’re no longer a lean choice.
Gain Vitamin B-12
Pork tenderloin, pork chops, ham, and chicken breasts, thighs and legs are good sources of all the B vitamins except folate. They’re important sources of vitamin B-12 because it’s not found in most plant-based foods. Without a sufficient supply of this vitamin, you may be at risk for developing anemia because it’s essential for making red blood cells. It also helps produce DNA and keeps nerves working properly. A 3-ounce serving of skinless chicken breast contains 8 percent of your recommended daily intake for vitamin B-12, which is significantly less than the 18 to 25 percent you'll get from all of the pork cuts and skinless chicken legs and thighs.
Boost Zinc and Selenium
Pork and chicken are rich sources of selenium, which your body uses to produce antioxidants and to synthesize thyroid hormone. You’ll get 17.8 to 19.5 micrograms from skinless chicken breasts, legs and thighs, while the three cuts of pork contain 26.2 to 30.6 micrograms of selenium. From the lowest to the highest, these values represent 32 to 56 percent of your recommended daily intake. Zinc supports your immune system, helps build proteins and synthesizes DNA, which makes it essential for normal cell growth. Chicken breasts have 0.58 milligrams, while the other choices provide 1.3 to 1.9 milligrams of zinc. Women should consume 8 milligrams of zinc daily, while men need 11 milligrams.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pork, Fresh, Loin, Tenderloin, Separable Lean Only, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pork, Fresh, Leg (Ham), Whole, Separable Lean Only, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pork, Fresh, Loin, Center Loin (Chops), Bone-In, Separable Lean Only, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broiler or Fryers, Breast, Skinless, Boneless, Meat Only, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Leg, Meat Only, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Dark Meat, Thigh, Meat Only, Raw
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: A Guide to Federal Food Labeling Requirements for Meat and Poultry Products
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12
- Linus Pauling Institute: Zinc
- Linus Pauling Institute: Selenium
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Thigh, Meat and Skin, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Breast, Meat and Skin, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Leg, Meat and Skin, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pork, Cured, Bacon, Unprepared
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (12. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients