Whenever I even mention the b word I get called out. Yep, apparently bacon is highly processed and must be avoided at all costs.
But is it really bad?
Almost everything we eat is processed in one way or another. We buy our meat cut, or maybe ground. We buy our meat dried or frozen. When I think of processed meat, I think of meat that has been ground up, combined with chemicals and other dubious ingredients and given a completely new form and shape (think “chicken” nuggets and hot dogs). Bacon is not processed like this.
Why is bacon so different?
Bacon has been around for a long time, from the days we needed to preserve our meat to enable us to keep it for longer without it going bad. I don’t think the fact it’s preserved is the issue – the issue is how it’s preserved – and there are a lot of differences here.
Traditionally, bacon would have been preserved using salt, but since we’ve all got so worried about the wrong things being unhealthy, we now avoid sodium like the plague – so many modern techniques use ingredients that are a long way from natural, to preserve the meat.
If you’ve looked at the ingredients on packs on bacon, you’ll have seen huge differences. Looking at my local store, they offer bacon with contents between 83% and 95% pork – clearly the lower pork content bacon is to be given a wide berth.
But what about the other ingredients in packages bacon? Here are the ingredients I found, in various quantities:
- Dextrose (Corn), Dextrose (Maize),
- Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (Maize)
- Sucrose, Sugar (yes – they add SUGAR to bacon!)
- Mineral Salts (450, 451, 452),
- Antioxidant (316),
- Sodium Nitrite (250).
- Food Acid (325)
But did you know you can get bacon uncured, without any of this? If you have a butcher like mine, you’ll be able to get pasture raised uncured bacon, without any of these additional ingredients.
What about nitrates?
Nitrates are a big talking point when it comes to bacon. Well, even unprocessed bacon contains nitrates naturally, and believe it or not celery is high in nitrates – and we don’t see warnings on sticks of celery. For more information on why dietary nitrates aren’t a bad thing – check out these studies: Inorganic Nitrate Suplementation Lowers Blood Pressure in Humans: Role for Nitrite-Derived NO Hypertension, 2010, 56, 274-271 and Dietary Inorganic Nitrate Improves Mitochondrial Efficiency in Humans.Cell Metabolism, 2011, 13, 149-159.
As for the sodium, when you eat a natural paleo diet – it’s often actually a good thing to get more sodium into your diet.
And the fat content?
Of course, a huge argument against bacon is the saturated fat content. Yes, bacon is a lot higher in fat than turkey. But I don’t need to tell you why eating fat is not a problem, do I?
What do you think about bacon? Do you eat it often? Where do you get yours?