Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Are Pork Rinds Bad For You?

Also Known As: Chicharrones, Cracklings



Short answer

While pork rinds are a low-carb, high-protein snack, they can be high in saturated fats and sodium which may affect heart and blood pressure health negatively, especially if consumed frequently. They're also a source of collagen and can offer feelings of fullness. Still, given their nutrient profile, moderation is crucial, and they should be consumed as part of a balanced diet.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Pork Rinds

Understanding the nutritional content of pork rinds is essential to evaluate their place in our diet. Pork rinds, also known as chicharrones or cracklings, are made from pork skin that has been fried or roasted until crisp. Let's dive into the key nutritional components of pork rinds:

  • Macronutrients: A standard serving of pork rinds (approximately 1 oz or 28g) primarily includes protein and fat. Of the total calorie content, a significant portion comes from fat, particularly saturated fats. It also has a substantial amount of protein, making it a low-carbohydrate snack option.
  • Calories: The same serving size of pork rinds contains roughly 154 calories, making it a high-energy snack.
  • Fat Content: In the given serving size, pork rinds can contain around 9 grams of fat, with about 3.3 grams of saturated fat, which is about 16% of the daily recommended intake of saturated fats based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
  • Protein: Pork rinds contain about 17 grams of protein per serving, which contributes significantly to their popularity among low-carb and high-protein diet enthusiasts.
  • Carbohydrates: They are virtually carbohydrate-free, often containing less than 1 gram of carbs per serving. This characteristic makes them an attractive option for those on ketogenic diets.
  • Sodium: A major point of concern is the sodium content in pork rinds, which can be relatively high. Some brands may contain over 500 milligrams of sodium per serving, equating to roughly 22% of the FDA's daily recommended cap of 2,300 milligrams.
  • Cholesterol: Cholesterol content can be significant, with some brands containing around 20 milligrams per serving.
  • Minerals: They offer small amounts of trace minerals such as iron and zinc, although they are not particularly rich in these nutrients.
  • Vitamins: Pork rinds do not offer a significant amount of vitamins and may be considered negligible in this aspect.

Considering these nutritional facts, it is clear that pork rinds can be high in protein and fat while being low in carbohydrates, but they can also be high in sodium and saturated fats. Regular consumption of foods high in saturated fats and sodium can potentially lead to health issues such as hypertension and heart disease. It is always advisable to check the nutrition label of the specific brand you are purchasing to understand the exact nutritional content.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that high-protein, low-carbohydrate snacks like pork rinds can contribute to increased feelings of satiety, which might aid in weight management. However, the study also emphasizes the importance of considering the type of protein and fat consumed when making dietary choices.

When analyzing the nutritional profile of pork rinds, it's vital to approach their consumption with moderation, especially for those monitoring their intake of fats, sodium, and cholesterol. As with any food, the key lies in a balanced diet that accommodates a variety of nutrients necessary for optimal health.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Content: Heart Health Implications

When delving into the nutritional landscape of pork rinds, it's crucial to examine their saturated fat and cholesterol content, as both have direct implications on heart health. A standard serving of pork rinds can contain a considerable amount of saturated fats, which, when consumed in excess, can raise LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels in the blood. Elevated LDL cholesterol is a well-documented risk factor for heart disease, including coronary artery disease and heart attacks.

Furthermore, pork rinds also contain dietary cholesterol, which can contribute to the overall cholesterol levels in the body. It's important to note, however, that recent research indicates that dietary cholesterol may have a less significant impact on blood cholesterol levels than previously thought, with individual response varying greatly among people, as per a study in the journal Nutrients.

Let's break down the specifics:

  • Saturated Fats: A 1-ounce (28g) serving of pork rinds can provide about 5 grams of saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. For someone consuming 2,000 calories per day, that's approximately 13 grams of saturated fats. Therefore, a single serving of pork rinds could take up a significant portion of the daily allowance.
  • Dietary Cholesterol: The same serving size might contain around 20 milligrams of cholesterol. While there is no longer a specific limit on dietary cholesterol intake in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is advised to eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.

It's essential to consider these figures in the context of an overall diet. Regularly consuming foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol, like pork rinds, can lead to a higher likelihood of developing heart disease if not balanced with heart-healthy foods. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins is advocated by health professionals to offset the risks associated with high saturated fat and cholesterol intake.

Moreover, individuals with a family history of heart disease or existing cardiovascular conditions should be particularly cautious. Genetics play a considerable role in how one's body processes cholesterol and fats, and for some, even a modest intake of foods like pork rinds could lead to negative health outcomes.

The Harvard School of Public Health emphasizes moderation and balance, suggesting that replacing foods high in saturated fats with those containing unsaturated fats can contribute to better heart health. However, for those who are mindful of their saturated fat and cholesterol intake, enjoying pork rinds on occasion, within the context of a balanced diet, might not have a significant impact on overall heart health.

The relationship between what we eat and heart health is complex, and while the consumption of pork rinds can be part of a diverse diet, their role should be carefully considered. Health professionals often recommend that individuals seeking heart-healthy diets limit their intake of foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol, including pork rinds, especially if other risk factors for heart disease are present.

High Sodium Levels in Pork Rinds: Blood Pressure Concerns

When evaluating the impact of pork rinds on health, one cannot overlook the significant sodium content typically found in these crunchy snacks. Sodium plays a vital role in physiological functions such as muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and fluid balance. However, excessive sodium intake is closely linked to adverse health effects, particularly in relation to blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a well-established risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems.

According to the American Heart Association, the recommended limit for sodium intake in adults is no more than 2,300 milligrams a day, moving toward an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Yet, a single serving of commercially packaged pork rinds can contain upwards of 500 milligrams of sodium, constituting a significant portion of the daily recommended intake. For individuals with existing hypertension or those at risk, this level of sodium consumption can exacerbate their condition.

The following points highlight the concerns surrounding the high sodium content in pork rinds:

  • Sodium and Blood Pressure: Excess dietary sodium can lead to fluid retention, placing additional pressure on the blood vessel walls. Over time, this increased pressure can stiffen blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Salt Sensitivity: A subset of the population is 'salt-sensitive,' meaning their blood pressure is more affected by sodium intake. People who are salt-sensitive, older adults, or those of African descent may experience a more pronounced rise in blood pressure with excessive sodium consumption.
  • Hidden Sodium: Beyond the direct addition of salt, pork rinds may contain sodium-rich additives and preservatives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), further elevating their sodium content without the consumer's full awareness.

It's crucial to recognize that the frequency and quantity of pork rinds consumed can compound the issue. Regular snacking on pork rinds can lead to a chronic intake of high sodium, which increases the risk of developing sustained hypertension over time. Even for those without high blood pressure, a high-sodium diet can detrimentally impact heart health and lead to other chronic diseases.

Select empirical studies underscore the relationship between sodium intake and blood pressure:

  • A meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that a moderate reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks led to a significant fall in blood pressure for individuals with both elevated and normal blood pressure levels.
  • Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that over 70% of sodium intake for Americans comes from processed and restaurant foods, such as pork rinds, which can contribute to the burden of hypertension in the population.

For those concerned about sodium intake and blood pressure, it may be advisable to limit the consumption of high-sodium snacks like pork rinds or to seek out lower-sodium alternatives. Moreover, conscious selection of seasonings and flavorings that do not contribute additional sodium can help in maintaining a healthier snack choice. Attention to portion size and frequency of consumption can further help mitigate the potential health risks associated with high sodium levels in pork rinds.

Glycemic Index Score of Pork Rinds and Blood Sugar Impact

When examining the effects of pork rinds on blood sugar, the Glycemic Index (GI) is a crucial factor. The GI is a measure that ranks foods according to their impact on blood glucose levels. Foods with a high GI score cause a rapid increase in blood sugar, while foods with a low GI score result in a slower, more gradual rise. This is particularly important for individuals managing diabetes or watching their blood sugar levels.

Pork rinds, surprisingly, have a glycemic index score of 0. This is because they contain no carbohydrates; they are made up of protein and fat. Thus, pork rinds should not cause a significant rise in blood glucose levels when eaten in moderation. This makes them a favored snack for those following a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet, as they provide the crunch and satisfaction of a snack without the carbs.

However, it’s important to consider the broader implications of pork rinds on diet and health. While they do not directly impact blood sugar levels, the high-fat content in pork rinds can still have health implications. They are primarily composed of saturated fats, which have been associated with an increase in LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess. High LDL cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease. Additionally, the processing of pork rinds can add extra sodium, which could indirectly affect blood pressure and heart health.

For those especially sensitive to dietary cholesterol and saturated fats, the following points are worth noting:

  • While pork rinds may have a low GI, frequent consumption of high-saturated fat foods may lead to poor lipid profiles.
  • Monitoring overall consumption of pork rinds is essential, taking into account their high calorie and sodium content alongside saturated fats.
  • Choosing baked pork rinds over fried options can slightly reduce the unhealthy fat content.

People with diabetes or insulin resistance should factor in not only the GI but also the quality of the food they consume. Opting for a balanced intake that prioritizes foods with a low GI and high nutritional value is advisable. Despite the favorable GI score, moderation is key, and individuals should consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for personalized advice on including pork rinds in their diet.

Moreover, it is valuable to consider that satiety is an important aspect of diet management. Protein-rich snacks, like pork rinds, may help some people feel full for longer periods, which can reduce overall calorie intake. However, the long-term impacts of consuming high-fat snacks on appetite and weight management require further study.

While the immediate impact of pork rinds on blood sugar may be minimal due to their low glycemic index, the overall nutritional profile and health implications warrant a cautious approach to their consumption, taking into account individual dietary goals and health concerns.

Additives and Flavorings in Commercial Pork Rinds

Commercial pork rinds, a popular snack among those following a ketogenic or high-protein diet, may come with more than just the crunchy satisfaction they offer. Often consumers may overlook the presence of additives and flavorings in these snacks, which can have health implications worth considering. Understanding these components is essential for making informed dietary choices.

Common Additives

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Frequently found in flavored pork rinds, MSG enhances taste but may lead to symptoms like headaches and flushing in some individuals, particularly those with MSG sensitivity.
  • Sodium Diacetate: This compound is used for its vinegar-like flavor and as a preservative. While generally regarded as safe, its consumption in large amounts should be monitored as it contributes to overall dietary sodium intake.
  • Maltodextrin: A filler and sweetener, maltodextrin can impact blood sugar levels and possibly disrupt gut flora.
  • Artificial Flavors: These synthetically produced flavors are designed to mimic natural tastes. Though they are approved for use, their long-term health effects are not well understood.
  • Artificial Colors: Sometimes added to make snacks more visually appealing, artificial colors have been linked to hyperactivity in sensitive children and may have other undisclosed health risks.

Health Impact of Flavour Enhancers

Flavor enhancers such as MSG and artificial flavors can trigger adverse reactions in sensitive individuals. The concern around these additives often revolves around their potential excitotoxic effects, where excessive glutamate harms nerve cells, and the debate over their impact on obesity, with some research suggesting a link between flavor enhancers and an increased risk of weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

Potential Risks of Preservatives

Preservatives like sodium diacetate are added to extend shelf life, but high sodium consumption is a known risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Regular consumption of snacks high in preservatives could unknowingly contribute to the intake of harmful substances that may be carcinogenic or alter the gut microbiome.

Nutritional Considerations

A closer look at the nutritional information reveals that while pork rinds may be low in carbohydrates, they are often high in sodium and saturated fats. Coupled with additives, the collective impact on overall health is potentially negative, particularly for individuals with existing health concerns such as hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes.

Advice from Experts

Nutritionists and healthcare professionals routinely caution against the frequent consumption of highly processed foods, advising that additives and artificial flavorings be consumed sparingly. As research continues to explore the long-term effects of these substances, moderation becomes key. Moreover, choosing brands that prioritize natural ingredients and minimal processing may mitigate some of the health risks associated with commercial pork rinds.

Final Thoughts

While the occasional indulgence in flavored pork rinds is not likely to be detrimental to one's health, awareness of the potential risks associated with the additives and flavorings used is crucial. Consumers might look for plain, unflavored versions or brands that disclose full ingredient transparency to better control their intake of these substances.

Are There Any Benefits? Understanding Collagen and Protein in Pork Rinds

Pork rinds, also known as chicharrones, have been a subject of debate in dietary circles for their high-fat content and association with unhealthy snacking. However, it's important not to overlook the nutritional aspects that could offer some benefits, particularly their protein content which is primarily collagen.

Collagen is a type of structural protein vital for healthy skin, bones, joints, and other connective tissues. Regular dietary sources of collagen can support the body's repair process. Since pork rinds are made from fried or roasted pork skin, they are inherently rich in this protein. Here's how the presence of collagen and protein in pork rinds could be beneficial:

  • Joint Health: Studies suggest that collagen supplementation may help improve joint health and reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis. While consuming pork rinds is not equivalent to taking a collagen supplement, they can contribute to your overall daily intake.
  • Skin Elasticity: Collagen has been linked to supporting skin elasticity and hydration. A diet including collagen sources may aid in reducing the appearance of aging.
  • Protein Source: Pork rinds are a low-carb source of protein. A single ounce can contain about 17 grams of protein, which is helpful for muscle development and repair, especially appealing for individuals on a ketogenic diet or those looking to increase protein consumption without increasing carb intake.
  • Fullness Factor: Protein-rich foods are known for their satiety-inducing effect, which means pork rinds may help you feel full longer. This could potentially aid in weight management, although moderation is key.
  • Glycine: As a part of collagen protein, glycine is an amino acid found in pork rinds that may have anti-inflammatory properties and play a role in creatine synthesis and muscle growth.

While the presence of collagen and protein in pork rinds may suggest some nutritional value, the method of preparation and additional ingredients must be considered. Many commercially available pork rinds are high in sodium and fat, particularly saturated fats, which can negate the potential benefits if consumed in excess. It's also important to recognize that while they contain collagen, pork rinds lack other essential nutrients found in more balanced protein sources such as fish, lean meats, legumes, and dairy products.

Incorporating pork rinds into one's diet should be done thoughtfully, taking into account overall nutritional goals and potential dietary restrictions. For those interested in the benefits of collagen, other sources such as bone broth, gelatin, and supplements may be more appropriate, especially for individuals seeking to limit fat and calorie intake.

Scientific references:

  • Clark, K. L., Sebastianelli, W., Flechsenhar, K. R., Aukermann, D. F., Meza, F., Millard, R. L., ... & Albert, A. (2008). 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion, 24(5), 1485-1496.
  • Proksch, E., Segger, D., Degwert, J., Schunck, M., Zague, V., & Oesser, S. (2014). Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 27(1), 47-55.
  • Bolke, L., Schlippe, G., Gerß, J., & Voss, W. (2019). A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients, 11(10), 2494.
  • Self Nutrition Data. Pork rinds Nutrition Facts & Calories. Retrieved from: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/snacks/5362/2

Healthier Alternatives to Pork Rinds

While pork rinds might be a sought-after snack for their crispy texture and savory flavor, there are healthier alternatives that can satisfy the same craving without the unhealthy attributes. When considering alternatives, it's essential to look for snacks that are lower in saturated fat, sodium, and calories, while being higher in beneficial nutrients like fiber and protein.

1. Vegetable Chips: Baked or dehydrated vegetable chips made from kale, beets or sweet potatoes offer a nutrient-dense alternative. They are high in vitamins and minerals, and when baked, they contain significantly less fat than pork rinds.

2. Roasted Chickpeas: High in protein and fiber, roasted chickpeas can offer a satisfying crunch. They come in various flavors and are a whole food snack.

3. Popcorn: Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain snack that is high in fiber and low in calories when not doused in butter or oil. You can season it with herbs and spices for a flavorful treat.

4. Nuts and Seeds: A handful of raw or dry-roasted nuts and seeds can be a nutritious alternative providing healthy fats, proteins, and fiber, though they should be eaten in moderation due to their high-calorie content.

5. Rice Cakes: With a variety of flavors, rice cakes can meet the need for a crunchy snack and are a blank canvas for healthy toppings like avocado or almond butter.

6. Baked Zucchini Chips: Thinly sliced and baked zucchini can make for crunchy, low-calorie chips that are rich in vitamin A and potassium, and fiber if the skin is left on.

Incorporating these alternatives into your snacking routine can significantly improve the nutritional quality of your diet. Each option provides unique health benefits and, when chosen carefully, can help in managing weight, improving heart health, and decreasing the risk of chronic diseases in contrast to the potential downsides of indulging in pork rinds. Always be mindful of portion sizes and the addition of oils, salts, or sugars which could negate the health benefits of these healthier snacks.

As moderation is key in any dietary choice, integrating these healthier options provides a way to enjoy the pleasures of snacking without compromising on nutrition. It's important to note, however, that while these alternatives may be healthier, no single food should dominate your snacking. Variety is essential for a well-rounded diet, and these alternative snacks should be part of an overall balanced nutritional plan.

Frequently asked questions

Some brands offer lower-sodium or baked pork rind varieties, which contain less sodium and saturated fat than the traditional fried versions. Reading labels and searching for options marketed as 'reduced-sodium' or 'oven-baked' can help you select a slightly healthier version of this snack.

Pork rinds contain high levels of saturated fats and sodium, which can impact heart health negatively. While they may fit into a heart-healthy diet on rare occasions, it's advised to primarily focus on foods rich in unsaturated fats and low in sodium, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Consultation with a healthcare provider is recommended for those with heart concerns.

Pork rinds have a glycemic index of 0, meaning they do not contain carbohydrates and therefore do not significantly impact blood sugar levels. This makes them compatible with diabetic diets in moderation. However, individuals with diabetes should still balance their intake with other nutritious foods and be mindful of the high saturated fat and sodium content.

While there is no specific recommended portion size for pork rinds, it's crucial to consume them in moderation due to their high saturated fat and sodium content. As part of a balanced diet, consider enjoying a small serving, such as a handful or around 1 ounce (28 grams), and accompany them with nutrient-rich foods to offset their less healthy attributes.

Ask a question about Pork Rinds and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • headaches
  • flushing
  • increased blood pressure
  • fluid retention

Possible long-term side effects

  • cardiovascular disease
  • elevated ldl cholesterol
  • hypertension
  • weight gain
  • metabolic syndrome

Ingredients to be aware of


  • source of collagen
  • high in protein
  • low in carbohydrates
  • may improve joint health
  • supports skin elasticity
  • can aid in weight management
  • provides satiety
  • contains glycine

Healthier alternatives

  • vegetable chips
  • roasted chickpeas
  • air-popped popcorn
  • nuts and seeds
  • rice cakes
  • baked zucchini chips

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

EPIC Pork Rinds

  • Keto-friendly snack
  • Pink Himalayan Salt
  • 4-count multipack
  • Protein-rich
  • Gluten-free
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-17-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-17-2024

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