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Are There Health Benefits of Turkey Bacon?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 01, 2021

Many people believe that turkey bacon is a healthier alternative to the more traditional pork bacon. However, turkey bacon doesn’t offer as many health benefits as you may believe. 

What is Turkey Bacon?

Turkey bacon is cut and cured to be similar to the pork bacon you’re used to eating. The difference is that it primarily comes from turkey, although sometimes pork is added in as an ingredient.‌

Turkey bacon isn’t actually sliced directly from a turkey into pieces. Instead, it is chopped, formed, then sliced into the pieces you see on shelves at the grocery store. If the turkey bacon contains any pork, it must be listed on the ingredient label.‌

If it doesn’t contain pork and is strictly poultry meat, the turkey bacon is usually fully cooked. You can heat or cook the product to your desired temperature or crispiness.

Pork Bacon Versus Turkey Bacon

Even though turkey bacon is often touted as a healthier bacon alternative, it isn’t much better for you. Turkey bacon is still high in saturated fat and sodium. Assuming that turkey bacon is healthier may lead to you eat more of it. This can have a negative impact on your health. ‌

You may be surprised to find out that experts recommend one serving or less of bacon per week in your diet. This is true of pork bacon, turkey bacon, or any other cured bacon product. 

When you compare turkey bacon's nutrition values to the pork alternative, the two are actually very similar. Each two-ounce serving of pork or turkey bacon contains nearly the same amount of protein. Pork bacon has 20 grams of protein while turkey bacon has 17 grams. 

Turkey bacon does have fewer calories, with 218 calories per serving, compared to pork bacon, with 268 calories per serving. The one place that turkey bacon stands apart is with fat content. It only contains 14 grams of fat compared to 22 grams in pork bacon. ‌

Keep in mind that turkey bacon does contain 4 grams of saturated fat, which is considered the bad fat for your diet. Still, that is half as much as pork bacon, with 8 grams per serving. Eating too much saturated fat increases your risk for heart disease.

Although many people assume it to be healthy, there are pros and cons to turkey bacon — especially when compared to pork bacon.‌

When you’re shopping at the grocery store, look for a turkey bacon product with less sodium. You should only eat 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, yet two ounces of turkey bacon contains 1,900 milligrams of sodium. ‌

Pork bacon has less than 1,300 milligrams per two ounces, although the amount is still very high. Too much sodium increases your risk of heart disease and also makes it more likely that you’ll have kidney stones.

Both turkey bacon and pork bacon have zinc and vitamin B complex nutrients, but pork bacon offers slightly more. Pork bacon also has more selenium, a mineral that may contribute to a lower risk of getting cancer.

When shopping for and preparing turkey, consider these things:

  • Look for turkey bacon with less sodium.
  • Don’t add salt, oil, or butter when you cook.
  • Allow the fat to drip off of your turkey bacon.
  • Blot it with paper towels to remove excess grease.

Health Benefits of Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon does offer a high amount of protein as well as other important nutrients for your diet. However, not all protein is created equally, and there are healthier options.‌

The National Academy of Medicine recommends you get around seven grams of protein for every 20 pounds you weigh. For a 120-pound person, this equals 43 grams of protein. For a 220-pound person, this equals 77 grams of protein.

Examples of healthier protein options include salmon and lentils. Four ounces of grilled salmon will give you around 30 grams of protein. It is low in sodium and has only one gram of saturated fat. It’s also an excellent source of omega-3 fats, the kind of fat that’s good for your heart.

One cup of cooked lentils offers around 18 grams of protein plus 15 grams of fiber. Plus, it has almost no saturated fat or sodium if you don’t cook with added fats and salt. These are both much healthier options than turkey bacon while offering similar nutrition.

Potential Risks of Turkey Bacon

The reason turkey bacon has health risks is that it is considered an ultra-processed food due to the way it is packaged and preserved. This, coupled with the fact that it is deceivingly unhealthy, makes it dangerous for your health because it lends to overindulgence.‌

The World Health Organization categorized processed meat like turkey bacon as carcinogenic to humans, meaning it could potentially cause cancer. It falls into the same category of cigarettes, although it isn’t nearly as bad for you as smoking or using tobacco.‌

Still, foods like turkey bacon greatly increase your risk of health conditions like colorectal cancer by as much as 18% when you eat a 50-gram serving each day.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Ask USDA U.S. Department of Agriculture: “What Is Turkey Bacon?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Turkey Bacon: How Healthy Is It Really?”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Protein.”

World Health Organization: “Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat,” “IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat.”

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