Bacon: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, Is It Healthy?, January 10, 2012
Can bacon be part of a healthy diet?

Some folks love it, others cringe at the very thought. Smoked and cured fatty cuts of meat aren’t typically considered nutritious, but can this pork delicacy be part of a healthy diet?

Nutrition Facts
One slice of regular cut-bacon (about 1-ounce) has 35 calories, 3 grams of total fat (1 gram of saturated fat), and 145 milligrams of sodium, which is about 6 percent of the daily recommendation. No-so-healthy preservatives called nitrates are often added to packaged bacon to prevent growth of bacteria and to maintain color. You may be able to find nitrate free bacon at your local butcher, farmers’ market or high-end grocer.

Why We Love Bacon
The upside to bacon – its flavor! While salt and grease won’t do your waistline any favors, your taste buds may feel differently. Instead of noshing on slice after slice of oily pan-fried strips, use a modest amount to flavor an entire dish. Soups, pasta, sauteed vegetables and egg dishes can all get a flavor boost from a slice or two. Rendering a small amount of fat in the pan before adding other ingredients allows you to cash in on the flavor without going overboard.

If you do have a yen for a slice or two on a sandwich, bake in the oven on a baking rack (like Ina Garten does in this recipe). This way your bacon won’t be swimming in grease.

Gobble or Oink?
Some brands of turkey bacon may be lower in fat than traditional pork cuts but they can also be higher in sodium. There are lots of variations across brands, so read labels carefully.

Pork-derived Canadian bacon from the back of the animal is also a leaner choice. Its cured and salty and a nice choice for breakfast sandwiches and quiche.

Bottom Line: Whichever bacon you choose, modest portions are key.

Tell Us: Do you squeal for bacon?

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Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (940)

  1. Jan says:

    Being a widow, I buy the precooked bacon (Oscar Meyer makes a good one). That way, a whole pound doesn't go to waste, but if I want it for an omlette, in a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, in my tuna salad (now I'm getting hungry), 35 seconds in the microwave is all it takes, and it's not overly greasy!

  2. Tonia says:

    Bacon is awesome! 2-3 strips baked crisp in the oven once a week for Sunday brunch with the fiancé – perfect! No one is saying eat it by the handful, but it’s rather ridiculous for someone to tell me I don’t have the will power not to eat it because I’m not on this crazy health food only drink broccoli juice insanity. Just because this particular eating fad is “cool” doesn’t mean it’s that great. Moderation is key with everything, especially to being healthy and happy. And meat tastes good, especially pork.

  3. Pam says:

    Everything in moderation!

  4. Lia says:

    One of the best things I ever ate for dessert = bacon cookies with maple cinnamon glaze. And the best chocolate bar ever? Mo's Bacon Bar by VOSGES. Heck, *everything's* better with bacon!


  5. Hungryboy says:

    Either you love bacon or you're wrong.

  6. Wesley says:

    Have you seen… They bake all of their Bacon and then infuse them into baked goods…

  7. wineelitist says:

    I would eat bacon daily if I had the time to make it every day. It is very healthy for you. It is high protein and low carb which is part of the perfect way of eating. Based on the latest scientific research fat via high protein and low, low carb is the healthiest diet and decreases heat disease, diabetes and reduces chance of cancer as well as keep our bodies lean. And bacon is a great part of that. Refer to the latest study done at Stanford University to verify this.

    • RD to be... says:

      "High protein and low, low carb" is not the healthiest diet. And believe me, I love bacon. (It literally is my favorite food, and I am studying to be a dietitian right now.) Fat is more calorie dense (9 calories/gram) than carbohydrates (4 calories/gram) – so saying that this "diet" keeps you leaner makes no sense when you are choosing higher fat foods over "carbs".

      Your brain can only run on glucose, a carbohydrate, therefore it is essential to consume adequate carbohydrates to maintain energy. The body cannot make glucose from fat. What you're ACTUALLY doing to yourself on a low carbohydrate diet is forcing your body to leach its protein stores in order to create glucose for the brain. Therefore, your fat remains, and the weight you are losing is primarily muscle. Your body is essentially in a semi-starvation mode, in which it tries to hold onto its fat stores until the very end. Overtime, this is incredibly detrimental to your metabolism.

      Please do not believe everything you read in a study. Studies are EXPERIMENTS, and we should not follow them blindly. I am always very wary and critical of anyone trying to eliminate whole food groups from the diet. Balance is key.

      • wineelitist says:

        Research and studies are how we back up what we know. And if it is different from our hypothesis it is the hypothesis that has to be changed. Saying that you would prefer to keep to a diet that has no validity nor evidence than to utilize the one that has the evidence to support it… well that makes no sense at all. Obesity is a hormonal imbalance, it is not about calories it is about fixing the hormonal imbalance. Insulin being one of (though not the only) the issues. And carbs create and continue this imbalance.

        All the research has backed up and demonstrated that a low carb and high protein diet IS the healthy diet. You might want to do your research on this if you are going to be a nutritionist so that you will give the correct and accurate information.
        It is the low calorie diets, high carb and decreased protein that causes the losing of muscle. The high protein diet only depletes the stored fat. It gives you what your body needs when it needs it.
        It is basic biochemistry hence biochemist have known for a long time that the food pyramid needed to be turned upside down to the accurate. Unfortunately, many have not done their research and have been teaching it wrong for way too long. That is why we have a problem with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is because of carbs. And it is pretty clear why. Carbs are what cause increased triglycerides in the body. It does this because it increases glucose which in turn increases insulin (contributing to the imbalance) which turns the glucose into triglycerides. Protein does not. It is this increase in triglycerides that cause people to gain weight, to have diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It has been proven over and over that a high protein low carb diet reduces diabetes, decreases blood pressure increases HDL, does the smallest increase of LDL's and even then it only increases the large molecule LDLs which are the good ones. All other diets do NOT (even the low fat diet does NOT do this it increases the bad LDLs, the small molecule).
        The high protein low carb diet also increases metabolism.

        As far as fat it depends on what it is used with. Fat consumed with carbs is what is bad. When fat is consumed with protein it is not. So fat is only an issue when consumed with carbohydrates. It enhances the insulin increase. When consumed with protein , because protein doesn't cause the Insulin imbalance as carbs do fat then does not add to an already high insulin imbalance. Hence, again showing that the high protein , low carbohydrate diet is what is the healthiest.

        As for the brain, it is actually cytokines that the brain works best on. Cytokines are even superior to glucose. And a high protein diet increases the cytokines. Right now we are seeing a depletion of these needed cytokines and a big part of this is the high carb diets. So again the high protein , low carb diet is again the healthier diet.

        Basically , the supposed healthy diet that has been taught for the last 30 years is wrong. But sadly it is taking alot to get the correct information out. But as those in the sciences get this information out and all the vast evidence that supports it we will be able to eat healthier and finally reduce diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately , the diet being taught over the last 30 years with it's high carbohydrates is killing us. And there is no research to back it up as healthy. It came about and was pushed when there was no evidence to support it. And once you learn the biochemistry you realize it is wrong. This idea that because it is in a certain form in the food is how it will remain in the body is what makes no sense at all.

        Based on how our bodies work, the biochemistry, the high protein / low carbohydrate diet is what we all need to be doing to be healthy. Because of this what is now being looked into is exactly how low the carbs need to go. Some of that is genetic. Some people are more tolerant to carbohydrates than others. Also certain other imbalances/disease states also cause varying degrees of carbohydrates tolerance. In fact, carbohydrates are so rough on the body that there is a type of withdrawal syndrome when lowering the carbohydrates. But once the body is placed back in balance these symptoms will go away. Carbs slow metabolism, cause fatigue as well as all the other things I mentioned.

        I can list for you the plethora of research that backs this up if you are interested, or you can look it up yourself.

  8. brownjackie624 says:

    good article, we limit ours to turkey bacon 2 slices per person

  9. g.c.w says:

    Bacon is one of the healthiest foods on the plant,love it! it's rich is good health fat and salt, but you do have to cook it, and it's best if you know where it comes from

  10. Healthy or Not says:

    The association of Nitrosamines to oesophageal and stomach cancer, and additional links to these preservatives as a possible explanation of childhood leukaemia really makes any intake of bacon risky (especially to pregnant mothers). Preservative free bacon would run the risk of pathogenic bacterial overgrowth…so we agree with you that those that cannot resist bacon should limit intake as much as possible based upon these 2 issues…and that's not even considering the high sodium concentration you mention and the bioaccumulation of toxic substances as another person has noted :) Great site by the way.

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