The memory of bacon frying in a pan is one I remember from my grandmother’s house, and I am sure many people have similar memories. In the era of food accessibility and high obesity levels we are told to cut back on fatty or rich foods to help improve our health. Bacon qualifies as a fatty food for sure, but these days it is showing up in candy bars, sandwiches and everywhere in between.
Now I hold true to the “all foods can fit (into a healthy lifestyle)” philosophy. And bacon is no exception. The trick is to either limit the portion size, and frequency of consumption or the fat and sodium content of the bacon.
For frequent consumption:
Let’s talk turkey! Turkey bacon is typically lower in fat, saturated fat and sodium which make it a better option for more frequent consumption.
For recipe use or flavor enhancement:
Go for the real deal! I have made soups both ways with turkey bacon and regular bacon. Regular bacon wins the flavor contest hands down. Don’t skimp here! This is a case of a little bit of an intensely flavored ingredients is well worth the added fat and sodium. In addition when you use bacon as a flavor enhancing ingredient in a recipe it typically does not add that much fat or salt to the individual portions. Also remember that bacon freezes well so whatever you have left over you can freeze for the next recipe.
Sausage is similar to bacon in that is it high in fat, saturated fat and sodium. Again the turkey variety is typically lower in all offending nutrients.
Kim’s local best bites:
• Bob Evans Express Fully Cooked Lite Sausage: 80 Calories, 5 grams fat, 220mg sodium
• Jennie-O Fully Cooked Turkey Sausage: 65 Calories, 1g saturated fat, 250mg sodium.
What about nitrates?
Processed meat like bacon, sausage, hotdogs etc. usually have sodium nitrite added as a preservative, to protect against bacterial growth, and to add flavor and color to the product. However in animal studies nitrites or nitrates can combine with dietary elements to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. The relevance of these experiments to humans is uncertain.
Consider this: According to Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter about 80% of the dietary nitrates come from healthy foods (vegetables). A recent article in the 2009 September issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that nitrates and nitrites might be beneficial. Nitrogen compounds (as in nitroglycerin tablets) widen arteries and could also reduce blood pressure. It is speculated that the nitrates and nitrites from vegetables and fruits may contribute to the blood-pressure lowering benefits of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Keep in mind that the sodium and saturated fat in the DASH diet is also minimized and that the nitrites and nitrates come from vegetables not bacon and sausage. So while nitrites may not be as harmful as once perceived bacon and sausage are still not health foods.