Bacon-Is-Healthy

Is there any food in the world with a worse rep than bacon?

People really hate on bacon (from a health perspective, definitely not a taste one). It’s one of the first foods people eliminate when trying to lose weight and become healthy.

But how did bacon become known as an unhealthy food?

It’s an ancestral food. Any culture with access to boars and pigs would have eaten them. It’s thought that the first pig farms started in Asia around 1000 BC. The Romans ate the backs of the pigs which they boiled with figs. And bacon has been eaten for centuries in Europe.

So people have been eating bacon for a really, really long time without rampant heart disease, obesity or cancer. And as it turns out, if you look at the facts, bacon isn’t an unhealthy food.

Most people consider bacon so unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content. This is ridiculous for two reasons, the first of which is that saturated fat is good for you. The body needs fat, roughly half of all cells in the body are made up of fat. The brain is over 60% fat. And there is literally no evidence that saturated fat intake from healthy animals leads to heart disease. None. The second reason, and I find this really funny, is bacon is mainly made up of monounsaturated fat! Which is the primary fat in olive oil, which is what people like to call “the good fat.”

Furthermore, bacon is rich in vitamins and minerals. Take a look at bacon versus turkey bacon versus chia seeds.

Bacon (100 g) Turkey Bacon (100 g) Chia Seeds (100 g)
Calcium 10 7 631
Iron 1.49 1.73 7.72 (non-heme)
Magnesium 30 24 335
Phosphorous 506 377 860
Potassium 539 324 407
Zinc 3.36 2.48 4.58
Niacin 10.623 2.895 8.830
Vitamin B12 1.16 0.30 0
Vitamin A 11 0 0
Saturated Fat 14.187 6.801 3.330
Monounsaturated Fat 19.065 8.973 2.309
Polyunsaturated Fat 4.859 5.582 23.665

Turkey bacon is the least nutrient dense! Chia seeds have a good mineral profile but a piss poor vitamin profile. I’d also like to point out that while chia seeds are touted as being a great source of omega-3s, they are high in the omega-3 ALA, not EPA or DHA, which are more critical.

The other issue people have with bacon is the narrate/nitrite issue. This is less of an issue if you’re getting pastured pigs from sustainable, local and organic farms, which is what I do and what I encourage others to do. From Chris Kresser,

It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of nitrate/nitrite exposure comes not from food, but from endogenous sources within the body. (1) In fact, nitrites are produced by your own body in greater amounts than can be obtained from food, and salivary nitrite accounts for 70-90% of our total nitrite exposure. In other words, your spit contains far more nitrites than anything you could ever eat.

When it comes to food, vegetables are the primary source of nitrites. On average, about 93% of nitrites we get from food come from vegetables. It may shock you to learn that one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs.

Pretty shocking, huh?

And the last issue people have with bacon (I think?) is the sodium content. There is still a falsely held belief that sodium leads to hypertension and heart disease. In fact the opposite may be true!

This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in theAmerican Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine—an excellent measure of prior consumption—the greatertheir risk was of dying from heart disease.

The media, bad science and plain ignorance fuels many widely held beliefs, not just about bacon. Remember to think for yourself and do your own research. Because bacon is back on the menu. You’re welcome.

People have been eating bacon for thousands of years! So why is it so hated. I encourage you to find out why bacon Is a health food!

Sources:

http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/baconhistory.htm

http://bacon.wikia.com/wiki/Bacon_History

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2742?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=bacon

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/8237?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=turkey+bacon

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3655?qlookup=chia+seeds&fg=&format=&man=&lfacet=&max=25&new=1

http://chriskresser.com/the-nitrate-and-nitrite-myth-another-reason-not-to-fear-bacon

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/its-time-to-end-the-war-on-salt/

5 responses on “Why Bacon Is A Health Food

  1. Tom S.

    You address some good points in general about avoiding the dangers of animals that are not raised with organic diets or meats that are not heavily processed and use dangerous chemicals to preserve them like nitrites and nitrates. I have to disagree, however, with the consumption of pork in general. Not only are there tons of other meat alternatives, and the issues raised in this article can apply to pretty much any meat, as things like nitrites and nitrates are also used in a lot of beef, turkey and chicken meat products, but there is also a long history of abstinence from pork. Modern research is showing a lot of questions that can be raised about eating pork. consider this 6 page article that shows a lot of well documented and extensive research on the subject:

    https://healthmasters.com/blog/adverse-influence-pork-consumption-health

    I find a lot of your articles insightful and thought provoking, but this one I just have to agree to disagree with you on.

    1. dani stout Post author

      Disagreement is good! I definitely welcome it. Thanks for the comment, I’ll make sure to give this article a read.

  2. Mary

    Great article. I read on Dr. Mercola s site the same type of thing ….but he stated evidence that uncured bacon may actually have more nitrates than cured bacon! I try to buy as much organic foods as I can but how can I find cured organic bacon? It doesn’t sound possible…. what brands do you recommend? Thanks!

    1. dani stout Post author

      I know Applegate has an organic brand but I actually recommend checking out your local farmers market. I get my pastured bacon from my farmers market.

  3. hillarybug

    Thanks for the article. I enjoyed reading it. I want to point out, though, that the fatty pigs we have today are not like the pigs hunted and later domesticated by prehistoric humans. You state, “It’s an ancestral food. Any culture with access to boars and pigs would have eaten them. It’s thought that the first pig farms started in Asia around 1000 BC.” You are right, but these people probably were not eating bacon specifically, because bacon is a result of many hundreds of years of selective breeding for animals with fatty bellies. Anyone who has shot and butchered a wild pig knows that bacon is a rarity. Wild pigs have little fat on their bodies, and almost none in their bellies. I consider it a rare treat if I have the opportunity to make bacon from wild pig. It has only happened once, with a pregnant female in a year with a lot of rain and acorns. It was special! So bacon is a result of a long process of domestication and is really only present in the bizarre form of pig that we have purposefully created for our consumption, a form of pig that little resembles their wild ancestors that our ancestors would have consumed. Anyway, just thought I’d throw out a more academic perspective of the diets of prehistoric humans. Thanks again for your thoughtful piece.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *