One of my favorite sandwiches used to be a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato). Note that I said, “used to be.” Are you one of those people that love to follow the different food trends and crazies? The bacon craze is still on! Right now bacon is popular and figured in as a flavor-booster on pizza, salad, dessert and even liquor. But is it ok to eat?
It smells terrific and tastes great, but an article that quotes Sonya Angelone, RDN, a nutrition expert in San Francisco, reveals there is no evidence that it’s actually good for you. Bacon is thought of as a fresh cut of meat like a pork chop or steak, but it isn’t. It actually starts out as pork belly, and then goes through a heavy processing of curing, smoking or salting. The end product is more like hot dogs and various lunchmeats. Usually salt, a type of nitrite, is used. These are found naturally in vegetables that convert to nitrite as you chew. These are used as additives as they preserve the meat, kill bacteria and boost the flavor and color. They can also damage blood vessels and increase the risk of a stroke.
In October 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer named processed meat a “group of carcinogen.”
This includes that most loved meat, bacon! This was a hard blow to bacon and all those bacon lovers. Colon or stomach cancer can be caused by these foods, as backed by evidence by Marji McCullough, RD, director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society. Pork belly is really considered red meat and was linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer as well. Bacon is also a part of the not-so-healthy meal like bacon, eggs and toast and butter. There is no produce, plus a sandwich usually has lots of mayonnaise and other processed meats. It all comes back to that individual choice.
If you are determined to eat bacon, try mixing it with something healthy like orange juice that has vitamin C. Other options would be vegetable juice, pineapple or kiwi. Try that BLT with less bacon and more lettuce and tomato on it. You can even add fresh avocado or organic lean turkey, but load up on veggies and fruit the rest of the day. You might also choose to use organic Canadian bacon. This type is much leaner than the regular bacon and not just a big chunk of fat with a little bit of meat included.
Check those packaging labels as they might just say vegetables instead of the chemicals being used to make the product. There are nitrates naturally in celery, spinach, beets and lettuce, so look for these. Bacon from pastured pigs fed healthy food is much better than the cheap corn and soy based diets. Angelone says, “you are what you eat, and pigs are what they eat as well.”
It’s true that some positive omega-3 fatty acids are in bacon, but also in olive oil, which is a nice list staple. There is a huge amount of saturated fat in bacon compared with other sources.
The final bottom line is that if you are determined to eat bacon, move bacon from the star of the meal to guilty pleasure status. Choose that better option with poultry, fish and beans for the main protein. If red meat is a must for you, go for the lean cut and keep those servings small.
If you just have to eat or just want to eat those “not good for you” foods, just eat them wisely and sparingly. Protect your health and eat healthy!
-Dr Fredda Branyon