Is Bacon Bad For You, or Good? The Salty, Crunchy Truth

By: Kris Gunnars | A Reblog  |  Many people have a love-hate relationship with bacon.

They love the taste and crunchiness, but are still worried that all that processed meat and fat may be harming them.

Well, there are many myths in the history of nutrition that haven’t stood the test of time.

Is the idea that bacon causes harm one of them? Let’s find out…

How is Bacon Made?


There are different types of bacon and the final product can vary between manufacturers.

Bacon is most commonly made from pork, the meat from pigs, although you can also find “bacon” made from the meat of other animals like turkey.

Bacon typically goes through a curing process, where the meat is soaked in a solution of salt, nitrates, spices and sometimes sugar. In some cases the bacon is smoked afterwards.

The curing is done in order to preserve the meat. The high salt makes the meat an unfriendly environment for bacteria to live in and the nitrates also fight bacteria and help the bacon preserve its red color.

Bacon is a processed meat, but the amount of processing and the ingredients used vary between manufacturers.

Bottom Line: Bacon is usually derived from pork and goes through a curing process where it is mixed with salt, nitrates and other ingredients.

Bacon is Loaded With Fats… But They’re “Good” Fats

Bacon Strips on Pan

The fats in bacon are about 50% monounsaturated and a large part of those is oleic acid.

This is the same fatty acid that olive oil is praised for and generally considered “heart-healthy”.

Then about 40% is saturated fat, accompanied by a decent amount of cholesterol.

But we now know that saturated fat isn’t harmful and cholesterol in the diet doesn’t affect cholesterol in the blood. Nothing to fear.

Depending on what the animal ate, about 10% are polyunsaturated fatty acids (mostly Omega-6). These are the “bad” fats in bacon, because most people already eat too much of them (4).

However, if you choose bacon from pastured pigs that ate a natural diet, then this won’t be much of an issue.

If your pigs are commercially fed, with plenty of soy and corn (like most pigs are), then the bacon may contain enough Omega-6 to cause problems.

I personally wouldn’t worry about it much, especially if you’re already avoiding vegetable oils, which are the biggest sources of Omega-6 in the diet.

Bottom Line: The fatty acids in a typical batch of bacon are about 50% monounsaturated, 40% saturated and 10% polyunsaturated.

Bacon is Fairly Nutritious


Meat tends to be very nutritious and bacon is no exception. A typical 100g portion of cooked bacon contains (5):

  • 37 grams of high quality animal protein.
  • Lots of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12.
  • 89% of the RDA for Selenium.
  • 53% of the RDA for Phosphorus.
  • Decent amounts of the minerals iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium.

Bacon is also pretty high in sodium, which makes sense given how it is cured with sodium during processing.

I personally think the risks of sodium are way overblown. Some studies show that excess sodium can elevate blood pressure and raise risk of heart disease, while other studies show that too little sodium leads to the opposite result.

If you’re already avoiding the biggest sources of sodium in the diet (processed, packaged foods) then I don’t think you need to worry about the amount of sodium in bacon.

For healthy people who don’t have high blood pressure, there is no evidence that eating a bit of sodium causes harm.

Bottom Line: Cooked bacon is loaded with many nutrients. It is quite high in sodium, which may be a problem for people with elevated blood pressure.

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