What’s the Deal with Bacon?

by Jackie Wicks

The Big Reason

Despite the potential disease risk associated with nitrosamines and sodium, the biggest reason bacon is still something you probably want to limit consumption of is that, at the end of the day, bacon is basically pure fat. We might call it a ‘protein’, but only 12% of the calories in bacon come from protein with the other 88% coming from fat alone. In order to reach the recommended 20 grams minimum of protein per meal, you would need to consume 6 slices of bacon, which would also net you around 65 grams of fat! 65 grams of fat is 585 calories, if you’re counting.

[quote align=”left” color=”#999999″]Bacon is basically pure fat; Eating 4 slices of bacon is like eating 1/2 a stick of butter![/quote]

Bacon might be made primarily of “good fat” which will improve your cholesterol levels, but if our standard of ‘good’ only goes so far as the direct effect our food will have on our blood lipid levels, then we may as well drink a third of a cup of olive oil, which will contain roughly the same amount of fat as those six slices of bacon. As a handy conversion, each slice of bacon contains only 2 grams (about 20 calories) less fat than a full tablespoon of oil.

Does this mean we can’t sit down every now and again and enjoy some bacon, or put a couple slices on our BLTs from time to time? Of course not! No nutritional fact will make bacon any less delicious, even if we know that eating 4 slices of bacon is basically the same as eating half a stick of butter!

The bottom line is that bacon is a treat, and should be enjoyed as one—not as a daily indulgence, but as something you feel good about rewarding yourself with.

Have your own bacon story, or questions I didn’t answer about bacon? Please comment below!

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Hord NG, Tang Y, Bryan NS. Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. Am J Clin Nutr. July 2009;90:1-10. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27131.

Loh YH, Jakszyn P, Luben RN, Mulligan AA, Mitrou PN, Khaw KT. N-Nitroso compounds and cancer incidence: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Norfolk Study. Am J Clin Nutr. May 2011;93:1053-61. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.012377.

Jeurnink SM, Büchner FL, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, et al. Variety in vegetable and fruit consumption and the risk of gastric and esophageal cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Int J Cancer. September 2012;131:E963-73. doi: 10.1002/ijc.27517.

Miller PE, Lazarus P, Lesko SM, et al. Meat-related compounds and colorectal cancer risk by anatomical subsite. Nutr Cancer. 2013;65:202-26. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2013.756534.

Cook NR, Cutler JA, Obarzanek E, et al. Long term effects of dietary sodium reduction on cardiovascular disease outcomes: observational follow-up of the trials of hypertension prevention (TOHP). BMJ. April 2007;334:885-8.

Pimenta E, Gaddam KK, Oparil S, et al. Effects of dietary sodium reduction on blood pressure in subjects with resistant hypertension: results from a randomized trial. Hypertension. September 2009;54:475-81. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.109.131235.

Bibbins-Domingo K, Chertow GM, Coxson PG, et al. Projected effect of dietary salt reductions on future cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med. February 2010;362:590-9. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0907355.

Jemal A, Siegel R, Xu J, Ward E. Cancer statistics, 2010. CA Cancer J Clin. September – October 2010;60:277-300. doi: 10.3322/caac.20073.

CDC. Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Updated August 28, 2013. Accessed October 24, 2013.

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