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Can Bacon Be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Here's healthier bacon recipes and tips for bacon lovers.
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Just How Unhealthy Is Bacon? continued...

Many researchers have concluded that regular consumption of processed meats may lead to higher risk for prostate cancer and several other cancers. That’s why AICR advises people to avoid all forms of processed meat until we know more about what it is specifically about processed meat that increases cancer risk.

It’s not clear how exactly processed meat raises cancer risks, but it might have to do with:

  • Nitrates, which are often used as preservatives in processed meat, change into N-nitroso (compounds that promote cancer) in the meat and also in the gut when it is being digested.
  • Carcinogenic PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) compounds can be produced during processing.

Want Bacon or Sausage With That?

OK, so the news about bacon is not all bad. Some restaurant breakfast entrees come with a side of bacon or sausage. And believe it or not, it’s usually best to choose bacon. Although both meats are high in fat and saturated fat, two links of sausage will cost you a bit more in calories and fat than three strips of bacon. Call it the lesser of two evils:

  • 2 pork sausage breakfast links (45 g) have 140 calories, 12 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 7 grams protein, and 310 mg sodium.
  • 3 hickory smoked bacon strips, pan-fried (26 g) have 120 calories, 9 grams fat, 3.8 grams saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 7.5 grams protein, and 435 mg sodium.

Bacon: One Ounce is Enough

Probably the best news about bacon it’s that one ounce is usually enough to sideline your breakfast, round out your BLT sandwich, or top your baked potato.

Even with the highest-fat type of bacon, 1 ounce adds up to 140 calories (the same as one cup of low-fat milk or two small slices of whole wheat bread). Choose a slightly leaner type (such as Oscar Mayer Center Cut Smokehouse Thick Sliced), and 1 ounce adds up to 105 calories and 7.5 grams of fat.

In the mid-1990s, bacon didn’t even make the top 15 food sources for total fat among U.S. adults, although sausage was No. 12 and eggs were No. 14, according to USDA dietary data. Bacon didn’t make the list of top 15 food sources of saturated fat either, but sausage came in at No. 12 and eggs, No. 15.

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