Is Bacon Good For You?
Ahhh bacon-delicious whether served as a snack, a garnish, or a main course. Its popularity has exploded over the years with it being incorporated in all kinds of dishes including desserts.
But that doesn’t keep folks from talking about how unhealthy it is, and the most common reason they cite is that it’s high in saturated fats.
Fortunately, that’s not the entire picture. While bacon is high in saturated fats, there’s plenty of research that contradicts the myth that all saturated fat is bad.
That said, however, there’s another reason that you might want to be careful about how much bacon you can eat.
The good news though is that if you can resolve this one issue, then you can enjoy delicious and nutritious bacon on a regular basis along with your other healthful choices.
What Should You Worry About?
Most people assume that it’s the saturated fat that they should worry about in bacon. After all, that has to be the enemy. But that’s not the case. You should be concerned about the nitrates instead.
Nitrates are the chemical compounds used in foods. Often times, they are used to preserve meats while at the same time keep color and prevent bacterial growth. Over the years, they have been linked to oxygen deficiencies, cancer, and infant methemoglobinemia, according to Melissa Clark.
While you won’t want to pair bacon with orange juice as some people suggest, consuming a little extra vitamin C and E does help to prevent the negative formation of nitrates.
So What About Those Saturated Fats?
As far as saturated fats go, there are SO MANY reasons to not be afraid. Through a huge push of certain chemical industries, people automatically assume that saturated fat will be what puts folks in an early grave.
As surely as water is wet and Coca-Cola can strip blood off pavement, saturated fat clogs the arteries and causes people to balloon up with fatty deposits until their hearts give out. But this is far from the truth.
Certain groups of people have lived (and still do) almost entirely off fat, meat, and dairy. Yet somehow they have survived!
Consider the Tokelau of New Zealand. According to the authors of Migration and Health in a Small Society: The Case of Tokelau, the Tokelau consumed no wheat at all. Indeed, over half of their diet was fatty animal products, which included saturated fats. And these men and women were quite strong.
The Inuits of North America similarly consumed heavy quantities of whale and seal, both animal proteins being full of saturated fats. Discover Magazine ran an article in 2004 asking “how can people who gorge on fat and rarely see a vegetable be healthier than we are?”
Raw muktuk, strips of whale skin with layers of fat, are especially high in saturated fat and aren’t even cooked or flavored. Yet these men and women survived and even thrived in one of the harshest climates.
And last but most certainly not least in the list of impressive people who defied the saturated fat death threat are the Masai. The Masai, a tall, powerful and athletic people, live primarily on meat, milk, and blood. Vegetables do not grow well for them, and although vegetables would be great to eat, they just don’t have any in their diet. In fact, the only thing close to vegetables in their diet is tree bark which they turn into soup.
These groups of people lived healthy strength-filled lives. Yet they did not watch their saturated fat content at all. Instead, of falling to the ground grasping at their hearts, they continued on in the prime of health.
Apparently they didn’t get the memo that all that saturated fat was supposed to be bad for them, and, even if they did, it’s not likely they would have stopped.
Am I suggesting to stop eating the ultra-healthy vegetable food group? Absolutely not.
Am I suggesting that bacon is OK while other so called “healthy” foods should be avoided? Definitely!
How to Find the Best Cuts of Bacon
Packaged bacon is the most likely to include nitrates and other preservatives which aren’t so good for you. Local butcher shops, on the other hand, often supply different types of bacon, and they should be able to answer whether they have any nitrate free cuts. In some towns, you can even put in special requests and get nitrate free bacon in a variety of flavors and cuts.
Typically, fresh sliced bacon is best for you and has a much better flavor. Just be sure to refrigerate and use within two days of purchase.
As an added bonus, slab bacon is also easier to cook and can be incorporated in more creative ways than thin bacon which tends to crumble easier and make better garnishes.
As a general rule, you are more likely to find nitrate free bacon, even in packages, if you look for thick cuts or slab bacon. This bacon will not have been treated as much as thinner bacon, and it is almost always more flavorful.
These bacons have lower levels of treatment because the meat is thicker, and the cuts are typically a bit more choice. Always check the back for nutrient information and read the fine print.
So…You CAN Eat Bacon!
Yes, you can, and bacon is actually good for you. You can have as much as you want within satiety so long as it is nitrate free, and you can have it in limited amounts if it has nitrates.
And yes, it can be pork bacon. In fact, it can be pork, beef, turkey, or even buffalo bacon if you feel like being a bit adventurous.
It can be rather tricky these days to sift through real information vs marketing gimmics by food companies to figure out what is actually good for you.
As many of us are trying to live healthier and fitter lives, it is good to match up fat burning foods with weight loss strategies.
What is surprising though is finding out which foods do the trick. I’ll bet you can’t guess what the seven strange foods that burn body fat are. I’m sure you’d be surprised at what you find.
Melissa Clark, Are Nitrates in Bacon Harmful, Real Simple http://www.realsimple.com/health/nutrition-diet/healthy-eating/is-nitrate-bacon-harmful-10000000677151/index.html (2012).
Anthony Hooper, Judith Huntsmen, Ian A. M. Prior, Clare E. Salmond, Migration and Health in Small Society: The Case of Tokelau.
Patricia Gadsby, Leon Steele, “The Inuit Paradox,” Discover Magazine, http://discovermagazine.com/2004/oct/inuit-paradox#.UOp9LneSmSo (2004).