What do centenarians across the globe have in common, aside from having a notable fondness for dark chocolate? The answer may surprise you, but pork is a staple of their diet.

Fu Suqing, a Chinese woman who lived to be 119 years old, ate pork twice a day, every day. Interestingly, the quantity of pork consumed per person by the Okinawan people of Japan, who are famous for their longevity, is larger than that of the Japanese national average. The traditional diet for centenarians in the Nicoya Peninsula revolves around pork, pork brains, and a lot of lard (as well as “bone soup,” tons of organ meats, fresh milk and eggs, salted fish and shellfish, and some fresh corn tortillas). The average age for centenarians in the Nicoya Peninsula? 107 years old. 

The Okinawans and Costa Rican’s are hardly the only centenarians crazy about pork, though. For the inhabitants of the Italian island of Sardinia (a “Blue Zone” known for their high number of centenarians), two kinds of animal meat are primarily consumed: pork and lamb. And it’s no wonder, considering how delicious it is! However, we also know that not everything that tastes good is healthy for us. The nice thing about pork is that you get the best of both worlds: superior flavor and a superior nutritional profile. 

Pork offers an impressive array of health benefits: it’s a seriously great source of thiamine, and is also packed with collagen, glycine, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, taurine, glutamine, creatine, creatinine, carnosine, and anserine. Lard, which features prominently in the diets of many centenarians, is also a wonderful form of pork to use as it is great to cook with. A flavorless oil with a very high smoke point, lard is 60% monounsaturated fat (in comparison, butter is 45% monounsaturated fat). The majority of this monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, which is the fatty acid known for its health benefits and for being associated with decreasing LDLs (this lowers “bad” cholesterol). And it turns out, lard actually has twice the amount of oleic acid than butter has!

So what is it about pork that makes it not just healthy, but healing? Researcher, author, and Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner shared one theory about the health benefits of pork from an Okinawan scientist who studied its effects on human health: “Because pig is the most genetically similar to humans, there’s something in the pork protein that helps repair arterial damage. What [the scientist] cites is that in America we die of heart disease and the Japanese tend to die of strokes, but in Okinawa they have fewer strokes. This is part of the reason they live longer. The doctor theorizes that it’s because they eat more pork than any other prefecture of Japan, and pork protein serves almost as caulking.”

Are you looking to optimize your health by adding different kinds of meat to your diet, but don’t know where to start when it comes to cooking them? Do you want to eat more pork, but don’t know where to look beyond the common form of bacon and sausages? Then check out my cookbook Carnivore Cooking For Cool Dudes! It is full of useful cooking tips to make it as easy as possible for you to make healthy food that truly tastes great. Plus, it’ll help you familiarize yourself with utilizing all parts of the animal — not just those prized cuts you see in the supermarket — and you’ll learn how to make really fun, yummy recipes, like chicharrón nachos. Considering how many centenarians have survived so well on pork, why not get yourself a big ‘ol tub of lard, a generous amount of pork, and maybe some pork belly the next time you’re shopping for groceries? When it comes to pork, the options are endless, delicious, and nutritious. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and enjoy your bacon — it could help you make it to your 100th birthday!

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