There seems to be an epidemic spreading through America known as Bacon-Gate!
What used to only be served with eggs at the breakfast table has slowly transitioned into more unconventional uses. Bacon is now offered in ice cream, wrapped around hot dogs, shrimp, and even dates. You can find it in gourmet chocolate bars, infused in mayonnaise or jams, and countless other concoctions.
Unfortunately, while its popularity is on the rise, so are concerns regarding the potentially harmful effects this salty staple can have on your health.
The fact is, bacon is not good for you, especially if you are at risk for certain health conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure. The high fat content (68 percent of its calories comes from fat, almost half of which is saturated or artery-clogging, and one strip can contain up to 3.5 grams of fat), high sodium (one medium slice contains 150mg), and high cholesterol (30mg per ounce, about 4 slices). Cured bacon contains nitrates, and according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nitrates in food have been linked with cancer.
There are ways you can still enjoy bacon (in moderation, of course) and minimize its potentially unhealthy effects. Keep in mind that traditional pork bacon has some plusses: It is high in protein, vitamins and minerals, including B6, B12, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc, as well as choline, a nutrient which helps improve cognitive performance, memory, mood and mental alertness.
However, your best bets are to stick to small servings, blot extra bacon grease off to lower fat intake, avoid adding extra salt or other high sodium seasonings, and consider healthier varieties, such as:
Turkey Bacon: Made from lean turkey instead of pork or beef, this variety is a good alternative that allows you to trim back on the fat without compromising the delicious taste and flavor of bacon. One piece of turkey bacon contains 20 calories (versus 35 calories in pork bacon), 1.6grams of fat, 9mg of cholesterol and 85mg of sodium.
Bacon Flavored Salt: Low in sodium, zero calories and fat, kosher and vegetarian, this product allows bacon-lovers everywhere to enjoy all the flavor of their beloved treat without a side of guilt. Sprinkle it over eggs, potatoes, meats, baked beans, soups, salads and sandwiches. This versatile seasoning is available in many flavors for every occasion.
Canadian Bacon: Cut from the leaner backside of the pig, Canadian bacon is lower in calories and fat than traditional bacon. A one-ounce serving of Canadian bacon has about 50 calories and 2g of fat, compared to regular bacon, which has about 165 calories and 14g of fat per ounce (or about four slices). Although lower in fat and calories, both are equally high in sodium.
Meatless Canadian Bacon: This vegetarian-friendly option is ideal for those watching their fat intake (especially saturated) and cholesterol. Made from soy, this tasty bacon alternative is low in calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium,and carbohydrates, while still bringing in the same amount of protein (about 2.5g per slice) as regular bacon.
Uncured Bacon: A bit of a misnomer, uncured bacon, is in fact, still cured; however, the difference is in the curing process. Natural nitrates found in celery powder or juice and sea salt are used in uncured bacon to obtain a similar taste without using potentially harmful sodium nitrates. Whether cured or uncured, both generally have the same nutrition, including calories and fat, but some uncured bacon may be higher in sodium to replace the lost sodium nitrates. Based on studies linking consumption of nitrates and cancer — and the fact that uncured bacon does not contain these nitrates — uncured bacon is generally considered safer.