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Bacon, the Bad Guy or the Good: The Healthy vs. Unhealthy Debate

Posted in Food Safety on August 14, 2018

I love bacon. Let’s start right there. I’ve loved bacon since the first juicy bite. Applewood. Smoked. All of its fatty goodness.  In fact, I’ve judged individuals based on their bacon-cooking style. I know, it’s petty, but we all have our vices.

Do you like yours burnt and crunchy, or with a little bit of that fatty chew? How about sprinkled on potatoes, or on the side of your eggs? In a baked potato? Mixed into macaroni and cheese? On a sandwich? Maybe even dunked into dark chocolate and sprinkled with a little bit of sea salt?  Oh, the many ways of bacon.

But before you jump on The Bacon Experiment Bandwagon, let’s take a moment to examine if bacon is really as bad as we think it is.

Cheers to Bacon! But IS it Unhealthy?

I’ve always accepted bacon as the unhealthy choice and feasted despite that knowledge (with moderation forced by the high costs of meat). I consume bacon without shame, but have recently entered into a debate that had me feeling better about my bacon-lust. Could bacon, gasp, be better for my body than I previously thought?

I’d rather not force a false narrative about bacon being a positive, because it just can’t fulfill a healthy category no matter how much we might want it too. I also have no intention of swaying people toward bacon-choices, it’s wonderful aroma does that just fine on its own. My purpose for this article is to give you further understanding of the good and the bad. That way, with a bit of restraint, you can eat bacon to your benefit. (I mean, those on the keto diet may have a point, right?)

Bacon is not really the bad guy, but it isn’t the standout hero either. Bacon is more like the involved bystander. Bacon is the neighbor that helps change a tire, but might overstay his/her welcome if you invite them over for dinner.

Bacon doesn’t just boast Protein, it also provides Vitamin B12, Thiamin, Zinc, Phosphorus, and Selenium. That means bacon can give you a boost of energy to carry you through the day, as well as positively impact your immune system through the delivery of antioxidants, and also promotes a healthy thyroid gland.

Bacon can help the heart. I know, shocking, right? With that moderation I speak of, the Omegga-3 fatty acids in bacon is a good thing. Omega-3’s, like in fish oils, help reduce cholesterol. On top of that, bacon also has Choline. Choline is a nutrient that can protect the heart by helping to heal abnormalities. Choline doesn’t just promote heart-health, it’s also being looked at for positive impacts of the brain. When given to pregnant women, Choline shows a mass improvement to the fetus’ brain development. Choline is also being researched in conjunction with memory. So far, Choline on its own doesn’t impact adults do to our complex digestive systems. However, according to the CDC,

“…a combination of 2g of choline bitartrate and 25mg of caffeine significantly improved performance on both the visual and auditory memory task compared to a placebo group.” 

Sure, bacon is a fatty source of protein, but it’s not the worst of the worst when it comes to types of fats. Actually, out of all the meats, bacon holds the highest Protein to Fat content. Bacon contains approximately 50 percent monounsaturated fat, most of that being Oleic Acid. This is the same fatty acid in Olive Oil, the healthier of the cooking oils. The rest of the fats in bacon are polyunsaturated and saturated fats.

Bad, Bad Bacon – Say It Isn’t So!

The bad news about is the level of cholesterol in that remaining fat, which is definitely past what I’d call high. On the flip-side, the cholesterol debate of whether dietary cholesterol actually effects blood cholesterol is broaching on myth. Many researchers are finding that high cholesterol is attributed mainly to genetics, instead of diet. However, I suggest sticking with your doctor’s orders, because he/she knows best and there’s a whole bunch of trans fats that are still presenting a problem.

Coming back around to the saturated fats of bacon; it’s important to remember a high-intake of saturated fats are still believed to be problematic for the heart. So, if you want those heart-healthy benefits I spoke of before, moderation matters. The good news, though, is saturated fat helps you feel fuller for longer. Considering the high caloric intake of bacon, and incredibly taste, it’s a good thing you don’t need much to feel satisfied. You’ll probably want more, but you don’t need it.

When it comes to bacon problems, the sodium takes the spotlight. Bacon is high in sodium. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300mg of sodium per day. One slice of bacon has approximately 200mg of sodium. Considering we often eat three to four slices on average with breakfast, that equals to almost half of our daily allotment. Ouch.

Here’s some more sad news about bacon. It’s a cured meat. Recent studies have shown that processed meats contain nitrates that convert into a compound that may cause cancer. N-nitroso is that compound, and multiple research studies are taking swipes at it for good reason.

I mean, even the Bacon Experiment guy chose “the highest quality stuff I could find. It was pasture raised, antibiotic free, non-GMO and steroid free.”

Life Isn’t All Bacon Roses

The heartbreaking truth about bacon is when you look at how its produced. I know, not only are pigs pretty adorable, they are also highly intelligent. If that doesn’t make you grimace, the risk of factory-farmed pigs is high. The close quarters, and high demand quantity, leads to infections like MRSA, E. Coli, and Salmonella. That’s a hard hit for bacon-lovers.

So, now that you’ve had your bacon-education, maybe your breakfast choices can be customized better to your needs. Bacon transparency means you can make better decisions, and maybe, not have so much guilt of you love bacon as much as I do.

Happy and healthy eating to all, and to all a good breakfast.

By: Heaven Bassett, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)