Admit it. Your relationship with bacon is complicated. On one hand, you can’t imagine your life without it. It smells amazing and tastes even better. It has that perfect mixture of saltiness, sweetness and smokiness. It makes that satisfying crunch when you bite into it. Even just saying the word or seeing pictures of your beloved bacon makes your eyes widen and your mouth salivate. On the other hand, bacon has a bit of a bad reputation. Anymore, it seems like a day doesn’t go by without some new report besmirching bacon’s good name. And it’s true, an all-bacon diet isn’t going to make you a model of good health. But reports of bacon’s apocalyptic effect on the human body have been somewhat exaggerated. Here is just a little peek at the healthy side of bacon:
High Protein, Low Carb
As with all foods, measuring the health benefits of bacon requires a bit of give and take. You need to determine if the reasons to eat it outweigh the reasons to avoid it. With bacon, the main health criticism is that it’s high in bad cholesterol. This is true, but in moderation the benefits of a bacon-inclusive diet can be huge.
For starters, bacon is a great source of high-quality protein that is packed with essential amino acids. The body doesn’t naturally make these amino acids so it needs an outside source to provide them. The protein in bacon is a veritable treasure trove of amino acids like tryptophan, which improves brain function, and leucine, which helps build muscle. Additionally, bacon is low in carbohydrates, which is the primary cause of weight gain. If you’re trying to lose weight with a combination of diet and exercise, bacon lives right in that perfect high-protein, low-carb sweet spot.
It’s a common misconception that a diet high in saturated fat is bad. Actually, foods that are high in saturated fat — as opposed to those high in carbohydrates — are quicker to signal to the brain that you’ve had enough to eat. And that’s not all. The saturated fat in bacon has high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is commonly referred to as “the good cholesterol.” HDL is an important component of heart disease prevention, and a diet that is too low in fat can actually be detrimental to your health.
That being said, bacon made from pork is also high in “the bad cholesterol.” If you’re looking to cut down on your intake, turkey bacon remains a great alternative. Just watch out for brands that amp up the sodium content to achieve that “bacon” flavor.
Too much of any food is bad. Switch to a diet of only vegetables and you’ll have plenty of vitamins and minerals, but the utter lack of protein — coupled with a stomach-destroying fiber overdose — makes it pretty hard to get out of bed in the morning. If you want to live a healthy life, have a little bit of everything and not too much of anything.
The same goes for bacon. It is one of the easiest foods to pair with other foods for an added burst of flavor and a boost of nutrients. This Kale and Potato Soup with Bacon is a great example of a balanced dish because it provides just enough protein, fiber and sodium without overdoing any of them. It’s the definition of healthy eating.
Bacon on the Brain
Just like vegetables, bacon is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. In addition to selenium (healthy thyroid), phosphorous (improved muscle movement) and niacin (clear skin), bacon is also a great source of choline, which has been shown to improve your memory, attention span and brain cell size. One more reason to enjoy that BLT with a big smile on your face.