16 August 11 Bacon – a love story

I love bacon. It tastes heavenly just pan-fried, baked or even microwaved. And it works beautifully in many recipes. It can turn a so-so recipe into something special. But it is also high in calories, saturated fat and sodium. So what is a bacon-loving but health conscious person to do? Keep it or ditch it?

Nutrition

One ounce of cooked bacon (about 28 grams) is equivalent to about 31/2 slices of cooked bacon. On average, this portion size provides (and microwaving is just a hair lower than the other cooking methods):

145 calories

11 g total fat (68% of total calories)

3.7 g saturated fat (23% of total calories)

10 g protein

0 g carbs

31 g cholesterol (10% of 300 mg daily limit)

612 mg sodium (27% of 2300 mg daily limit)

2% DV iron

I wouldn't try to argue the merits of bacon in terms of nutritional content. If you are trying to get more iron in your diet, then pick other foods since bacon contains only 1/2 gram of iron per 1 oz serving (women generally need 18 mg whereas men typically need 8 mg). However, bacon is a good source of niacin, selenium, vitamin B12 and zinc. Just note that many other foods can also provide these nutrients, so bacon should not be considered a safeguard food for those nutrients.

Bacon is higher in calories, salt and saturated fat compared to other cured meats (e.g. sausage and salami), as well as compared to non-cured meats. The comparison becomes dramatic when bacon is compared to a lean meat such as pork tenderloin: bacon is 3 times higher in calories, 5 times higher in total fat, 4 times higher in saturated fat and 38 times higher in sodium. Wow.

Bacon's Place?

So why on earth am I writing about bacon for a blog dedicated to healthier living through food and exercise? Because despite the daunting nutritional profile of bacon, it can be incorporated into one's eating plan if care is taken to control portion size and use. Bacon used in small amounts in recipes will add flavor without contributing a significant amount of salt and saturated fat. If using bacon in small amounts increases consumption of veggies, beans and whole grains, then I see a place for bacon in a healthy eating plan. For instance, if you think you dislike Brussels sprouts, then consider trying Cooking Light's Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.

However, retire bacon as a daily breakfast meat - it is simply too high in salt and saturated fat for daily consumption. As a general rule, I would recommend avoiding daily consumption of breakfast meats in general since they are high in sodium. For occasional use, try turkey bacon, turkey sausage, Canadian bacon, lean ham or veggie bacon/sausage.

So my answer is "yes," bacon used occasionally and in moderation has a place in a calories-controlled, healthy eating plan. But don't guess at your use – simply track calories, sodium and saturated fat in MyNetDiary to see if your use of bacon is moderate.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

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Foods & Recipes/Red Meat

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