If you're looking for another reason to add more pork to your diet, you found one: it's high in vitamin B-12. You need this vitamin in your daily diet for healthy red blood cells, peak brain function, a strong metabolism and steady energy levels. Even though you'll get a lot of B-12 from pork, not all cuts are good for you. Some varieties are loaded with saturated fat and can do more harm than good.
Amount in Pork Products
Always opt for the leanest types of pork and trim away any visible fat. Broiled pork tenderloin, a very lean cut of pork, contains more than .6 micrograms of B-12 per 3-ounce cooked serving. A center-cut pork chop has about the same amount of the vitamin in a 3-ounce piece with the bone left in. Ham is relatively lean and low in fat, although certain types can be excessively high in sodium, so you'll need to check the label carefully. Three ounces of cured extra-lean ham offers .7 micrograms of vitamin B-12. Braised pork spareribs have .9 micrograms of B-12 in a 3-ounce portion, but spareribs can be especially rich in fat and not the healthiest option.
How Much You Need
Although vitamin B-12 is powerful and is essential for several functions in your system, you only need a tiny amount each day -- 2.4 micrograms, says the Linus Pauling Institute. As soon as you become pregnant, you'll have to up your intake to 2.6 micrograms. If you breast-feed your newborn after birth, you'll need 2.8 micrograms of B-12 per day.
Vitamin B-12 in pork and other meats binds to protein in the food. Enzymes in your stomach work hard to break off the vitamin B-12 and send it along to your small intestine so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, if you have pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disorder that damages the lining of your stomach, your body doesn't produce enough acids to break apart B-12, resulting in a deficiency. Older adults are also at risk of abnormally low B-12 levels, since your body naturally produces less stomach acid as you age. No matter the cause, if you have a B-12 deficiency, you may have poorly formed blood cells -- resulting in inadequate oxygen transport -- numbness in your arms, difficulty walking and constipation.
If you pick up a lean pork tenderloin for dinner, it becomes fatty and full of calories if you don't use healthy cooking methods. Prep your primo cut of pork by coating it with nonstick spray, versus dousing it with oil. Season it with a touch of fresh cracked black pepper, dried sage and garlic powder. Toss it on the grill or broil it in the oven if it's too chilly to cook outdoors. You may also want to sear it in a hot skillet to get a crispy outer texture and then finish cooking it in the oven. By keeping your cooking light and clean, you'll be able to get the B-12 you need and enjoy your favorite type of meat, without feeling guilty.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.