Nothing beats the delicious taste of crispy bacon on a breakfast platter. Even though it has been around for many years, bacon has recently reached superstar status in the food world.
Initially favored as a breakfast staple, it has slowly made its way to other sections of the menu in appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, sandwiches, and even desserts.
Bacon is categorized as red meat, and it falls under the section of “processed meat.” Bacon is made from pork, and the latter is classified as red meat by the food authorities and the scientific community, including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Why Is Bacon Red Meat?
Bacon can come from different parts of a pig: belly, back, or sides. Any side with a high content of fat is ideal for bacon. While Americans prefer streaky bacon, also known as side bacon that is cut from the pork belly, people in the United Kingdom enjoy back bacon more.
Pork has high levels of myoglobin compared to fish and poultry. This is one of the reasons scientists and food regulators categorize it as red meat, even though its original color isn’t a deep shade of red, and the color turns lighter when it’s cooked.
Secondly, all livestock is considered red meat. Since pigs are raised on farms, pork is treated the same way as beef, lamb, and veal.
How Is Bacon Made?
After a pig is harvested, the carcass is broken down into various parts. One of the parts includes the belly, ribs, and the loin. The belly has to be trimmed to ensure it is straight on all sides; also, it helps give uniformity to the bacon. At this point, the bellies can be sold without any further process- it would be termed ‘fresh pork belly’ or ‘pork belly.’
The next step is to cure the pork bellies. Although the main purpose of curing is to make sure the meat isn’t spoiled but with the technology of refrigeration, that’s not a problem anymore. Therefore, curing is used today to preserve the unique flavor of the meat.
A curing mixture of water is prepared with products like sugar, salt, and sodium nitrate and injected into the pork belly. Once the brine has been added, the pork bellies are suspended on large racks and left for about a week, giving the cured mixture plenty of time to develop a strong flavor.
The bellies are then placed in a large smoker to enhance the bacon flavor further. Since the smokers are very hot, the bellies are allowed to cool down after extraction and then pressed into rectangular molds, making the slicing process easier.
Finally, the product is processed with a slicer that slivers the bacon according to customer requirements and packaged for distribution.
Is Bacon Healthy for You?
Red meat is nutritious, and bacon is no exception. Generally, a 3.5 ounce (100 gm) serving of cooked bacon contains:
- Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12
- 37 gm of animal protein
- 89% of the RDA for selenium
- 53% of the RDA for phosphorus
- Considerable amounts of magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc.
Vitamin B12 and iron help the human body make new red blood cells, while the protein from red meat is important for building bone, muscle, other enzymes, and tissues. However, certain factors affect the nutritional value of a particular piece of red meat.
Cuts from different parts of the animal have varying amounts of calories and fat content. Additionally, the pigs’ diet on the farm also makes a difference in its nutrient density. The animal’s sex and age also impact its nutritional value.
Coming back to our question: Is bacon healthy for you? The right answer would be yes and no. Why? Because even though bacon has all the goodness of red meat, it falls under the category of processed meat. According to the American Institute For Cancer Research, any amount of processed meat, no matter how small, is dangerous for health.
Research also links regular red meat consumption to health issues like kidney and digestive problems, heart disease, and mortality. The intensity of these health problems depends on the type of red meat the person intakes.
For example, unprocessed red meat or leaner cuts such as pork tenderloin or sirloin steaks are healthier alternatives to regular bacon. Processed meats contain extra fat, salt, and preservatives, and frequent or excessive consumption can seriously harm a person’s health. Some popular processed red meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, bologna, etc.
What Makes Bacon Unhealthy?
Now that you have the answer to Is Bacon red meat? Let’s move on to whether it is healthy or not. Here are a few reasons bacon has earned an unhealthy reputation among scientists.
It Has A High Sodium Content
As discussed earlier, pork is injected with a brine-containing salt- for this reason, bacon is higher in sodium than other foods. In addition, each serving contains ¼ of the RDA for sodium; therefore, keeping track of portions is crucial to balancing your salt intake. According to research, a diet that’s chronically too high in salt can elevate the chances of cancer and heart disease.
It Contains Nitrates and Nitrites
The additives that are used in the curing process of bacon can lead to the formation of carcinogens, a cancer-causing agent that is activated by high heat. However, many bacon producers are adding antioxidants during the curing process lately, lowering nitrate content while mitigating the risk of ingesting harmful substances.
It Is A Processed Meat
Bacon isn’t fresh meat but processed. Various studies have linked a high processed meat diet to certain cancers and diseases.
How Can You Enjoy Bacon In a Healthy Way?
While bacon isn’t exactly an ideal superfood, everyone would agree that it tastes amazing. If you want to add bacon to your diet without overdoing it, here are a few ways to enjoy it.
- Keep a check on your portion sizes. Please remember that moderation is the key to eating a healthy and balanced diet.
- Don’t consume bacon daily, but limit your intake to 2-3 times a week.
- Add it to your meal as a condiment rather than enjoying it as the main course.
- Pan-fry bacon until crispy to ensure all the extra fat melts away.
- Don’t burn the bacon while cooking, or else you will increase your carcinogen consumption.
- Drain it well so that the fat and calorie content of the bacon reduces.
- Once you have cooked the bacon, allow it to drain on a paper towel and clean away any extra melted fat that you can see.
- Prepare a big green salad and crumble some bacon on top of it so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
- You can also add a sliver of bacon to a low-fat chicken wrap with extra green veggies to build a rich flavor.
Is sausage red meat?
All pork, lamb, and beef products are red meat; therefore, all sausages are red meat. It also falls under the category of processed meats, as it is preserved for future use.
Is Turkey bacon red meat?
Turkey bacon is not red meat, but it is processed meat which means you should be wary of the amount you consume to mitigate health risks.
Is Turkey bacon healthy?
Turkey bacon has a lower fat and calorie content than pork bacon, making it a healthier alternative for people who like eating bacon but want to avoid the health risks it poses.
Nevertheless, Turkey bacon is also processed meat containing more sugar and less protein than regular bacon with added preservatives.
What meat is not called red meat?
Poultry such as duck, chicken, turkey, seafood, legumes, eggs, nuts, and seeds are not red meat.
What meat is the healthiest?
Here is a list of meat that is healthy for you.
- Fish and shellfish
Does eliminating red meat from the diet help lose weight?
Cutting red meat out of your diet, especially processed red meat, can significantly improve your health and lower your risk for cancer.
It also helps lose extra pounds, depending on the alternate protein source you consume instead of the red meat.
Is chicken more healthy than red meat?
Generally, red meat has high levels of saturated fat compared to chicken, fish, and plant proteins.
As saturated fats are linked to high blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, consuming chicken is a healthier alternative. However, if you choose lean and unprocessed meat, you can enjoy the health benefits of red meat without its problems.
Is bacon healthy?
Since bacon is red meat, it contains health benefits such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, the curing process required to make bacon adds preservatives and extra salt to the meat, making it unhealthy compared to fresh red meat.
Is bacon processed food?
Yes, the curing process of pork makes bacon a processed food.