Bacon has always been an incredibly popular food (especially here in the United States), but there seems to have been a boom in its popularity over the past five years or so. Waking up to the smell of bacon cooking has been associated with a pleasurable feeling that can ease you into the day, and the taste is amazing. There are different cuts of bacon, though the most common that we see is side bacon that comes from the pork belly.
Before the increase in bacon sales and consumption in the past few years, we were told by doctors and researchers that it’s incredibly bad for you. Lately, though, we’ve learned that bacon (in moderation) isn’t so bad, after all. Eating six slices of bacon on a daily basis obviously isn’t going to do you much good, but having a few slices each week might actually help. Just how, exactly? Let’s look at the nutritional value of bacon, and the proven health benefits you can get from including it in your diet.
Nutrition of Bacon
One thing that you’ll notice about bacon is that it’s not quite as high in calories as some people might think. In one ounce of sliced bacon (which is about three slices), you’ll find just under 150 calories. Each serving of bacon gets you about one quarter of your daily recommendation for fiber, with almost no carbohydrates at all. While there is fat and saturated fat, you can still work bacon into your diet. There aren’t too many vitamins in bacon, but you will find about 20 percent of your daily niacin recommendation.
Bacon is also a great source for thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and pantothenic acid. Bacon can be high in sodium, though you’re getting a quarter of your daily selenium recommendation and 16 percent of your phosphorus intake. There are also smaller amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper. Bacon does contain 31 milligrams of cholesterol per serving, but we’ll get more into that in just a bit.
You may have noticed that one of the reasons why people are eating more bacon these days is because of low carb diets such as the Paleo Diet. Bacon has become the biggest staple of this diet because there are just about no carbohydrates in each serving, and it’s easy to fit bacon into your daily calorie total. Different cuts of bacon will have more or fewer calories depending on where you get it, with some strips of bacon having as few as 20 to 25 calories.
While you should definitely be adding more fruits and vegetables to any weight loss plan, bacon does make for a great way of beating cravings for meat while not packing on many calories. Bacon also has a lot of protein, which is able to help you build more muscle while at the gym. The more muscle weight you have on your body, the more calories your body will burn even when you’re not working out. That also leads to more stubborn fat being burned, even from tough places such as the waistline.
It has been said for a long time that eating more bacon is going to do a lot of damage to your heart, and lead to premature heart attacks or heart disease in general. While eating too much bacon is going to do harm because you’ll have too much sodium and saturated fat in your system, you do need at least some content from those departments. Eating a couple of strips of bacon each week will meet those needs.
One thing that might surprise you is that bacon can actually help to balance your cholesterol in moderate amounts. Bacon has been shown to help raise your HDL cholesterol levels. While that might not sound great, HDL is actually the “good” cholesterol that your body needs. Your body also needs the saturated fat to protect organs, but not too much. That’s what leads to the heart disease.
If you’re trying to balance your blood sugar (especially if you’re diabetic), you’ll want to look for foods that are low on the glycemic index. It’s estimated that your typical ounce of bacon is extremely low, measuring in at a 1.6 on the scale. As a point of reference, the glycemic index goes all the way up to 150, and anything below 35 is considered to be very low. This means that (in moderation, of course), bacon is quite good for diabetics to eat.
That’s likely a big relief for diabetics that have had to give up many of their favorite foods along the way. Carbohydrates are another big thing that come into play with your blood sugar, and lowering the amount of carbs helps to balance glucose levels. As you know by now, bacon won’t bring you carbs.
One thing that you’ll find in bacon that you can’t find in a majority of foods is choline. Choline has been shown to help your brain’s activity, increasing your memory capacity. There have even been studies that show choline has a positive effect in helping you to prevent age-related neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Bacon helps your central nervous system act more efficiently. This will help your muscle movement in the long run. Those that are affected by neurological diseases have much lower muscle function, which can be an unnerving symptom to both see and experience.
It’s not just the function of the brain that can be helped out by eating bacon. The smell and taste of bacon immediately put you into a good mood, initiating a dopamine release for a better feeling. Bacon also contains tryptophan, which is one of those amino acids that can help you get better rest and night, and sleep more efficiently. Then again, you probably didn’t need a reminder that the smell of bacon makes you feel good!
Summing it Up
At this point, we usually tell you about the potential drawbacks that you find in foods that have health benefits. Bacon is one of those foods where you probably already know those drawbacks, since it’s pounded into everyone’s brain that bacon is not good for your health. Yes, bacon does have high amounts of fat and sodium with some cholesterol thrown in, but you’ll be fine in moderation and an overall healthy diet.
Bacon does also have nitrates that can lead to a possible increase in cancer risks, but there are plenty of other great foods that we’ve looked at that can help to negate those risks. Obviously, bacon isn’t something that you should be eating every morning, no matter how good it smells or tastes. However, including it once a week or so will be perfectly fine. Some people eat more than they probably should, while others avoid bacon like the plague. There’s a middle ground in there, and that’s what you should be aiming for.