The TRUTH About Bacon
When people today think of bacon, they think of clogged arteries, love handles, and sin.
But is that right – eating bacon means that you’re destined for heart disease, a fat belly, and a lifetime on heart meds and endless visits to your GP.
But, thinking this way is a terrible misconception. In truth, bacon is a very good addition to your diet, and should be something enjoyed more often than you indulge in toast and jam, porridge and honey.
Bacon is not an unhealthy food when chosen correctly. By reading this article, you’ll learn why and how to properly add bacon to your diet.
What Is Bacon?
Bacon is a cured meat usually from the pig, naturally treated to prevent the meat from going off using salt, and often nitrites. It also includes natural fat (known as lard).
Bacon usually comes from either the belly of the pig, the back, or the sides. The amount of fat (lard) in bacon depends on how fat the pig is, with the belly usually being fattier than the back. Most traditional breeds lay down more fat if intensively fed. Free range pigs tend to be less fat.
Today, you can also find bacon made from turkey. But if you read the label of turkey bacon, it contains a laundry list of ingredients, many of which are not good for you such as hydrolysed corn gluten, soy protein, wheat gluten, disodium inosinate, silicon dioxide and nitrites.
Europeans Have It Right
All over Germany, pork reigns supreme. From bacon to sausage to lard – no part of the pig is left unused. And, if you take a good look at traditional Germans, you will notice that they are not as overweight as many of us in the UK, nor suffer the same incidences of chronic disease.
Many Europeans still use lard for most of their baking and cooking. We also used to incorporate a lot of lard into our daily diets, but then our government started telling us that pig fat was too “saturated” and unhealthy, so, we shifted to the use of hydrogenated plant oils (aka., vegetable fat) which actually made us sicker, fatter, and more diseased.
Why Bacon is Better
To understand why bacon, and the fat it’s rich in (lard), is a healthy choice for us to use in our diets along with other beneficial fats and proteins, let’s look at the nutritional science of this food.
If we take 1 tablespoon of pure lard, we see that is consists of an even balance of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, with some polyunsaturates and cholesterol (all animal fats contain cholesterol – remember not ALL cholesterol is bad!), but no trans fats.
Specifically Lard contains*:
• 5.9 grams of saturated fatty acids
• 6.4 grams monounsaturated fatty acids
• 2 grams polyunsaturated fatty acids (mostly omega-6)
• 14 mg cholesterol
*analysis from Mass Spectrometry at University of Alberta, 2003
Vegetable shortening contains**:
• 3.8 grams saturated fatty acids
• 6.7 grams monounsaturated fatty acids
• 3.9 grams polyunsaturated fatty acids (most omega-6)
• 2 grams trans fatty acids (man-made)
• 0 mg cholesterol
**analysis from ESHA Food Processor
These trans fats found in this man-made, fake lard substitute, have now been linked directly to heart disease, morbidity and mortality, and there is a strong move to rid our shelves of this dangerous fat as soon as possible. You should NEVER consume trans fats EVER!
Saturated Fat is Not Bad
Some people still think saturated fats are evil, and as a result have banned bacon from their homes. However, fat experts today emphasize that saturated fat from natural sources like meats, dairy, and tropical oils (coconut, palm) are not detrimental for our health, but instead much better than the polyunsaturated and hydrogenated substitutes we’ve been using in recent years.
I can hear you saying ‘ Here we go, yet more conflicting information’ it can be confusing to tell yourself that saturated fat isn’t bad like we once thought. However, it’s important that you realize we have been fed bad advice and processed foods that have only made us fatter, sicker, and unhealthy. We need to change this way of thinking.
The bottom line is that saturated fats, like that found in bacon, CAN and SHOULD fit into a healthy diet – a diet low in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and synthetic chemicals, but high in fresh low-pesticide vegetables, organic meats and fish, and nuts and seeds.
Essential Omega-6 and Omega-3 Balance
What about the omega-6 fats in bacon? Some people feel that bacon and other foods containing omega-6 polyunsaturated fats should be minimized, and a focus placed on omega-3 fats such as fish, flax, and certain nuts – which is both true and untrue.
It is correct that we should try to keep a fairly close balance between the omega-6 fats (found in most meats and some nuts and seeds) and the omega-3 fats, but we can’t completely eliminate omega-6s in favour of omega-3s.
Your body needs omega-6s because they are ESSENTIAL – meaning necessary for proper metabolic and physiologic function.
It’s more important to maintain a healthy ratio of omega-6 fats found in foods like bacon, with omega-3 fats found in DHA-enriched eggs (those fed with extra rations of linseeds) and omega-3 rich fish.
For example, a great breakfast combination would be a few slices of bacon with omega-3 DHA eggs topped with organic salsa and avocado. Delicious and nutritious!
The Science of Bacon Fat
In 2003, a research study at the University of Alberta, USA looking at the effects of a high bacon fat diet vs. a high palm oil diet had on the cholesterol levels and inflammation profiles of ten healthy men.
The men were given meals like:
• (BLLTs) Bacon, Lettuce, Lard and Tomato sandwiches
• Hash Browns cooked in lard
• Bacon and Egg Omelets cooked in lard
After 6 weeks on each diet, their blood was analysed for cholesterol synthesis rates, cholesterol, and triglyceride concentrations, and markers of inflammation.
What was found was that the high lard diet compared to the high palm oil diet produced significantly lower total cholesterol, and total-cholesterol/HDL cholesterol levels, with slightly lower LDL-cholesterol and inflammatory marker levels.
What this means is that fat from lard may be less harmfull and inflammatory than fat from palm oil. This does not mean that palm oil is a bad fat, but instead suggests that lard may be better when consumed often.
Choosing Healthy Bacon
Now that you know that the fat in bacon is not bad for you, or harmful for your health, don’t immediately go out and purchase bacon and eat it everyday.
First, you need to look for bacon that is nitrite-free.
Nitrite (sodium nitrite) is a preservative used in bacon to not only prevent spoilage, but also keep bacon a nice red colour.
However, nitrite is also a known carcinogen and is related to increased risk and incidences of cancer.
So, if you do decide to choose bacon to help you either stick to a lower carbohydrate diet, or just eat instead of toast and jam, make sure you choose wisely – natural nitrite free bacon is the best.
With bacon, you don’t have to worry about the pig being full of artificial or natural growth hormones, because these are not allowed to be used on pigs.
Eat a Better Breakfast
Now you know that bacon is a good breakfast food, but it can also be used to enhance the taste of your favourite salads for lunch, or as a side dish at dinner.
No matter what you choose to do with your diet, bacon or not, remember that bacon is not bad for you, and will not ruin your health. Also, when eaten in the context of a low-sugar, unprocessed diet, it will not make you as fat as a pig!