Bacon isn’t bad. But is it good?

**First of all, excuse the research paper-ish, formal tone of this post. I actually did it as a project I’m working on in my classroom. I also thought it would make an interesting blog post (two birds with one stone…)! So read on to learn more about myths surrounding bacon!!

Bacon has to be one of the most hotly debatable foods out there.

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For most of mainstream society, bacon is an indulgence. A representation of gluttony. Pure fat.

Then came the Paleo diet and the “bacon” glorification. And the resulting back lash and criticism that coined Paleo as  the ‘bacon’ diet and gave critics a good argument against the Paleo diet. What kind of good diet touts eating copious amounts of bacon? That can’t be food for you…can it?

I think we need to reframe how we think about bacon. Is it good? Or bad? Let’s look at the facts.

1) Some people say that bacon is full of saturated fat.

Most people have been lead to believe this:

saturated fat

Right? WRONG! Recent  (2010) studies have been proving that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) or CVD (cardiovascular disease).”

According to Chris Kresser,  this “puts the nail in the coffin” of the saturated fat= heart disease idea. This idea was the cause of the manufacturing of harmful products like margarine, and the push to use “healthier” oils like vegetable and canola oil. Eww. I feel embarrassed that I fell into that trap.

In Eat The Yolks, Liz Wolfe talks extensively about myths surrounding cholesterol and saturated fats and explains how “neither the cholesterol in our food nor the cholesterol in our blood causes heart disease, and when it comes to the cholesterol in our blood, remember it’s there for a reason. It’s a healing substance.” I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in debunking more food myths.

What does this have to do with bacon? Well, some may say that bacon is high in fat and that’s why it’s bad. WRONG! On to the next argument.

2) Bacon is bad because it contains nitrates/nitrites.

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I totally believed this to be true! It is nearly impossible to get nitrite/nitrate free bacon (unless you get it from a local farmer). What are nitrite and nitrates? They are additives used to preserve processed meat and to help them keep the color. BUT what many people do not know is that natural nitrites/nitrates occur in things like celery, beets, and even in your saliva! According to Chris Kresser,

“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.”

I was shocked too! I wasn’t completely convinced that nitrates/nitrites are safe from this one article, but it does stand to reason if that’s what people are worried about, did they know that nitrates occur naturally in things like vegetables as well? In fact, I was talking with my farmer just last week about this issue and he even said that he was confused about why people wanted “nitrate” free bacon when the stuff they use to preserve it (like celery seed) contains natural nitrites!

It is quite confusing…therefore I’m not 100% sure what to think, however I don’t think we need to demonize bacon because of nitrites and nitrates. I think that what matters most brings me to my last point.

3) Quality matters

Pastured Pork

(source: make your own bacon!)

Animals are ALWAYS the most healthy when they are raised in a natural, evolutionary appropriate way. For this reason, even though research about nitrates is conflicting, and the saturated fat myth can be thrown out the window; I still cannot advocate copious amounts of processed, industrial bacon. I can’t advocate for processed, industrial anything really. But I honestly think that bacon naturally smoked and cured from pigs that have been treated humanely and given the opportunity to live their natural lifestyle is a healthy product.

I don’t think the stuff in the grocery store is a healthy product, but I don’t see a need to demonize it. It’s just like anything else. Bacon shouldn’t be looked down upon. It should be treated as any other neutral, potentially beneficial (especially pasture raised bacon) product. Just like a nice steak, or a heaping serving of mashed potatoes. It’s there. It’s delicious. It’s food. Eat it, but like anything else, don’t eat massive amounts of it every day! Variety in a diet, no matter what, is what matters. But QUALITY when it comes to meat is probably the most important factor to consider when it comes to whether or not that product is healthy.

I highly suggest you find a farmer that can get you this type of product Because….. life with out bacon is just sad.

 Have you heard about the nitrite/nitrate debate?

Why do you think bacon has such a stigma?

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