What’s the Deal with Bacon?

by Jackie Wicks

Bacon is delicious, there are no two ways around it. And, as is often the case when we love something, we desperately hope that it is good for us, at least in some small way! Well, with bacon, there is a silver lining—a thin one (don’t start buying the bacon in bulk yet!), but there nonetheless.

Bacon, a key part of the Breakfast Triumvirate (bacon, eggs, pancakes) for decades, is usually put through the wringer for being a saturated fat. Some saturated fats (though not all; see my article on coconut oil) can be detrimental to blood cholesterol levels, which makes them less-than-ideal choices for individuals at-risk of cardiovascular diseases.

In reality, all fats except chemically purified ones are mixtures of both saturated and unsaturated fats. Fats with a saturated fat percentage above 50% are deemed “saturated fats” while those with a saturated fat percentage below 50% are deemed “unsaturated fats”. The usual rule of thumb we apply when visually inspecting a fat is that if it is solid, it is saturated, but this is just a shortcut, and it can fail us. In fact, it fails us with bacon!

First, Some Good News About Bacon

[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]Believe it or not, bacon is technically an unsaturated fat![/quote]

Despite being solid at room temperature, bacon is actually only 36% saturated fat [SFA] (as a percentage of total fat). Compare this to bacon’s 47% monounsaturated fat [MUFA] count, 92% of which is the same fat we give credit to olive oil for being “heart healthy”. The remaining 17% is in the form of polyunsaturated fats [PUFA], almost all of which are omega-6s.

We can break the saturated fats down even further, as well. In bacon, 66% of the saturated fats are in the form of palmitic acid, the saturated fat which has worst effects on our blood cholesterol. The other 33% are in the form of stearic acid, the only saturated fat which actually lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol.

To break that down, the fats in bacon are:

  • 47% MUFAs (Heart Healthy)
  • 36% SFAs (66% Bad, 33% Good)
  • 17% PUFAs (potentially inflammatory, but overall better for cholesterol than even MUFAs)

 

In total, roughly 76% of the fat in bacon can be quantifiably called “good for the heart”, with only 24% raising LDL cholesterol disproportionately to HDL and having an overall negative effect.

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