In this article we will explore and examine the food we know as bacon. A quick fact, pork is the most commonly consumed meat in the world! This is despite the fact that there are many who abstain from it for religious reasons. This is just to give you an idea of its popularity and prevalence.
We will describe its nutritional profile and then assess its suitability in a keto-compliant diet. We will suggest acceptable alternatives, give you some recipe ideas and culminate with a series of FAQ’s.
Enjoy your read!
Bacon is an animal-based food that is sourced from the side of a pig. It is typically deboned, cured, and then put through a smoking process.
This meat has been popular for centuries as it has a much longer shelf life due to its curing process. Before the days of refrigeration, this was a huge advantage.
Over the years, distinct methods for cutting and curing bacon have developed, with each culture giving it their own twist.
Serving size: 100 g
As you can see, there are little to no carbs in your average piece of cooked, cured bacon. There is substantial fat and plentiful protein.
Superficially, this food is just right for keto! But a deeper look is required. Let’s dive in!
Bacon is indeed fat-fantastic, but what kind of fat does it contain?
In order of proportion, bacn has monounsaturated fats, saturated fats and some polyunsaturated fatty acids. Of main interest to us is the saturated fatty acid component, totalling at 14.2 g per 100 g of product.
This is more than the recommended daily intake of saturated fat, which is 13 g if we are consuming a typical 2,000 calories-a-day diet. This fat is limited due to its association with elevating the “bad” cholesterol LDL, which in turn increases the risk for heart disease.
You can see how easy it is to exceed this amount if eating a 100 g serving of bacon. However, it is important to remember that typically a serving size of bacon usually consists of 2-3 slices. On average, a slice weighs 8.1 g, so 3 slices will weigh in at 24.3 g and contain 10.5 g of fat, of which about 3.5 g will be saturated. This is certainly tolerable and acceptable for a keto diet.
But before we can say that bacon is good for keto, there are other nutritive compounds in bacon that need addressing; namely the sodium content and the various nitrite compounds used in the processing of bacon.
In terms of sodium, 3 slices will give you 1.3 g of salt. While this amount is not too terrible, salt is a nutritive compound you must be most mindful about as it does not take much to exceed daily limits. Eating 100 g of bacon would bring sodium up to about 5.5 g. This is an incredible amount which surpasses the daily allowance in some countries!
It is well known that processed meat is considered a Class 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a view shared by other authoritative bodies.
There are various mechanisms that explain this, and one of them attributes the carcinogenic nature of processed meat to the compounds produced in cured meat, namely N-nitroso compounds, among others. These are thought to be potential byproducts of the nitrites used in the curing process.
Based on these observations, it would be wise to keep intake of bacon and other processed meats as low as possible.
However, in order to see the big picture let us take a look at vitamins/minerals for which bacon is a good source, compared to the recommended daily amount (RDA).
|Vitamin / Mineral|| Men / Women |
(age 19-70) RDA
|In 100 g of Bacon||As a % of RDA for Men / Women|
|Potassium||3,400 / 2,600 mg per day||539 mg||15.9% / 20.7%|
|Zinc||11 / 8 mg per day||3.36 mcg||30.6% / 42%|
The table shows you that bacon does indeed have some merits and is a rich source of potassium and zinc, two of the essential mineral nutrients we need from our food.
Bacon consumption will not jeopardize your adherence to your carb limit, not even closely. Quite the contrary, the high fat content will be able to supply many ketone bodies and the high quality protein may help promote the feeling of fullness and suppress hunger.
On the other hand, keto dieting is a healthy way of eating. As such, foods which may adversely affect our health should also be seen as not suitable for keto. With this approach, it may be said that a daily consumption of bacon is not recommended due to its high saturated fat content, excess sodium content, and carcinogenic compounds.
However, if you are one to be really bacon berserk, you can allow yourself to consume 2-3 slices up to twice a week.
Remember the nutrition profile we have painted for you is for average cooked, cured bacon. In certain store-bought products and in restaurants there may be other ingredients which will completely skew the tables we laid out. You must always read labels and stay informed so that you know what it is you are eating.
If you can avoid this product altogether, it’s not a bad idea due to the potentially harmful effects of saturated fat, excess sodium and carcinogens present therein.
If you absolutely must have this product, we would advise to consume no more than 2-3 slices, (approx 25 g) once or twice a week.
Here is an interesting one, until now we have been writing about the cured and processed bacon that is standard and commonly found. However, we know that there are many types of bacon out there and it is possible that some choices are healthier than others. Let's explore this.
In the USA, most bacon is processed from pork belly, a very fatty part of the animal. In other countries, such as Canada and Great Britain, it is made from the loin; the top of the pig towards the rear. This meat is naturally much leaner than pork belly.
So, Canadian-style bacon would be a healthier choice than American thanks to its reduced fat and hence saturated fat content. You would still have the problem with the N-nitroso compounds and excess sodium, though.
Another option is to go for an uncured and unsmoked variety. However, don’t let yourself be fooled; you can get uncured and unsmoked bacon with higher salt content than cured bacon! The thrust of this suggestion is just to show you what options are available and that you should ideally go for a product that is as lean and unprocessed as possible.
Here are just a sample of ways you can enjoy your bacon on a low-carb diet:
As processed meats are frowned upon by our health experts we will instead focus on fresh meat cuts instead.
Get quick answers to your questions about including this food in your low-carb plan.
No, there are 3 main differences:
This just means the meat used is taken from the loin or the top of the animal. This is typical in Canada and in the UK. American bacon is taken from the belly of the pig, a cut much higher in fat. This is why it is also called streaky bacon as it has fat streaked throughout.
Yes! Like other meat products, it is a rich source of B vitamins such as Niacin and B12. These are important for the metabolism of the food we eat into usable energy.
Actually, bacon is a good source of potassium. It is also a very good source of selenium, a mineral that is essential as a coenzyme in some vitally important biological locations such as the thyroid gland. Just one serving of 100 g and you have already reached your RDA for selenium.
Filling yourself up on a protein rich meal for breakfast may be a good idea; promoting a feeling of fullness to power you until lunch.
Here’s an idea for you with just 3 ingredients:
Cut chicken into bites, coat with garlic sauce and then wrap with bacon slices. Bake for 25-30 minutes and voila!
You can also try making scrambled eggs and then toss cooked strips of bacon and avocado chunks in the mix. Let cook for a minute and remove and enjoy!
All processed meats are now considered as class 1 carcinogens. That means the evidence behind this announcement is strong. It is important however to drill down and distinguish between the various types of processed meats; of course different animals will have different nutrients.
For example, one of the mechanisms that is thought to be the reason why meat in general is carcinogenic is due to high iron content. This is a bigger problem in beef and lamb, which have considerably more iron than pork.
This is to illustrate that the current guidelines are broad and culled from many generic observational studies, with little intervention trials carried out to really distinguish different cuts and different levels of processing. But until such studies are done, it is the correct thing to do to adhere to the guidelines and limit consumption of bacon and other reprocessed meats despite their positive nutritive components.