If you were presented with a plate of healthy snacks, consisting of fruits, vegetables, and mixed nuts, then pork rinds — or deep-fried pig skins — would almost certainly appear to be a dubious outlier. And yet, as of late, numerous news outlets and health blogs have started promoting them as a hidden superfood, focusing on them being low-carb and high in protein, which has given what was once a greasy gas-station staple a new life in health food stores, right next to the kale chips.
Erm, really, though? Sure, they’re the healthiest snack in the vending machine, but that can’t be saying much, can it?
According to clinical nutritionist Tara Coleman, pork rinds receive way more credit than they deserve, mostly thanks to the low-carb and keto devotees. As she explains, deep-fried pig skins have fallen victim to the common (completely flawed) mentality that a food should be celebrated for the ingredients it lacks, like carbs and calories, rather than the ingredients it contains, like vitamins and minerals. “In the case of pork rinds, people call them healthy because of them being low-carb — and we live in a very anti-carb time — but beyond that, they really bring little to the table,” she says. In fact, even the notion that extremely low-carb diets are healthy is kind of a stretch, because people following them usually end up skipping out on fruits and vegetables that normally provide essential nutrients.
That said, pork rinds might still be better than, say, a bag of potato chips, since they contain some healthier fats, including oleic acid — the same as that found in olive oil, which can do your heart some good — and again, provide much, much more protein (although, most of us already consume more than enough protein on a regular basis here in America). On the flip side, though, deep-fried pig skins typically contain significantly more sodium than potato chips, which can be especially problematic if you go overboard on your portion sizes, as too much sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, as well as increased risk for heart disease and kidney disease.
So, in the end, while pork rinds might be a little healthier than the nuclear snack options, you could do much, much better. “If they make you happy, please enjoy every bite,” Coleman says. “But at the end of the day, [these] are still fried pig skins, not broccoli.”