Bacon is pretty high on most people’s list of favorite foods. Thin slices of crisp, fatty, salty bacon are some of the best feel-good food in existence.
It stands to reason that something that tastes this amazing can’t be good for you, but you might be surprised.
Much like other foods that are usually identified as being bad for your health, such as coffee, red meat, and red wine, bacon does have some health benefits when eaten in moderation.
If you want to find out how the odd slice of crunchy meat heaven every now and then can have some surprising health benefits, read on.
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1. Bacon is packed with useful nutrients
As a rule, meat is full of the valuable nutrients that the body needs and doesn’t naturally produce. That’s why predators can survive on an all-meat diet and not have to consume the occasional handful of Brazil nuts to up their selenium intake.
Bacon contains the following essential minerals and vitamins that are part of a healthy diet:
Out of a 100-gram portion of your standard supermarket cooked bacon, 37 grams is animal protein. Protein is a crucial building block in almost every cell in your body.
While it might be most commonly associated with muscle gain, your hair and nails are made almost entirely of protein, and your body uses it to manufacture everything from enzymes to new red blood cells.
Bacon contains a whole range of B-vitamins, such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12.
B-vitamins are vital to a lot of the most complex operations in your body, and B-vitamin deficiency can result in reduced function in the heart, liver, kidney, and brain.
Many B-vitamins, such as Niacin (B3) Pyridoxine (B6), Biotin (B7), are all involved in the breaking down of fats and carbohydrates during the digestion process.
Others, such as Thiamin (B1) and Folate (B9), are essential parts of complex processes such as DNA replication, cell division, and the creation of neurotransmitters.
Selenium is an essential mineral and antioxidant that can help to reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, boost your immune system, and keep your brain and thyroid gland healthy.
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to reduce oxidative stress on the lungs, studies have suggested that selenium might reduce the need for repeated doses of the potentially harmful corticosteroid medications that are used to treat Asthma.
Phosphorus might seem like an odd thing for the body to need, but it actually makes up 1% of your total body weight and is used in the formation of bones and teeth.
Pork, and by extension, bacon, contains small amounts of iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. These metals are used in a range of vital processes, from the creation of red blood cells and the transmission of oxygen to the regulation of muscle and nerve function.
2. Bacon is a source of Omega 3s
Omega 3 is a fatty acid that is most commonly associated with oily fish, such as mackerel, flaxseed, and nuts.
A healthy intake of Omega 3 can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, reduce the symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis, and even help with depression.
Bacon is a source of Omega 3 oils. However, modern pig feeding practices have significantly upped the content of unhealthy Omega 6 in pork compared to Omega 3.
“Bacon is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which are not as harmful as previously believed. Also, the typical serving size of bacon is small.”https://www.healthline.com/
So, if you are looking for a healthy source of Omega 3, best to stick to fish oil and enjoy the Omega 3 content of bacon as an ancillary benefit to your favorite pancake topper.
3. Eating bacon can actually boost your mood
This sounds like a stretch until you remember how good it feels to eat bacon!
There is actually some science behind this. Studies have indicated that common mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, might be exacerbated or even caused by a deficiency in amino acids.
A lack of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and γ-aminobutyric acid is a common symptom of clinical depression.
Your body uses amino acids to create these, so amino acid-rich foods, like bacon, can help to treat the symptoms of depression as part of the broader program of treatment.
Of course, bacon isn’t a cure-all for mental disorders, and its beneficial properties only really work as part of a balanced diet.
4. Bacon can help with food cravings
Bacon can help you overcome your food cravings because it is high in fat.
No, really, stay with us.
The amount of fat on bacon is the thing most people worry is negatively affecting their health. In reality, around half of the fats in bacon are monounsaturated and contain a high percentage of “heart-healthy” oleic acid.
The presence of this high level of fat, coupled with lots of protein, in a traditionally small-serving food, can help you to feel full after eating it, cutting down on the urge to overeat.
As part of a high-fat, low-carb diet, bacon’s ability to make you feel full and satisfied while eating a relatively small meal, packed with fats and protein, can actually make it the healthy choice.
5. Bacon is a source of choline – which is good for the brain
Phosphatidylcholine or choline is an essential nutrient, which means you absorb it as part of your diet, as opposed to creating it naturally. Choline is traditionally found in meat and eggs.
A new study by the University of Eastern Finland has suggested that choline’s use in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine might give it an essential role in reducing the cognitive decline associated with aging and in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The study of around 2,500 Finnish men indicated that “the risk of dementia was 28% lower in men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine when compared to men with the lowest intake.”
In addition to preventing Alzheimer’s, dementia, and aged-based cognitive decline, a healthy intake of choline, through foods like bacon, could also contribute to better memory, faster cognition speeds, and keep your brain healthier for longer.
What about the health risks of processed meat?
Many nutritionists are concerned that a high intake of processed meat (like bacon) can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.
The problem with these observational studies is that the people who tend to eat a lot of processed meat also tend to lead unhealthy lifestyles so there’s no way to pinpoint if the processed meat is what’s causing the actual damage.
“However, people who eat a lot of processed meat tend to follow an unhealthy lifestyle in general. They are more likely to smoke and exercise less frequently”https://www.healthline.com/
Bacon is a staple ingredient in low-carb diets such as the popular Keto diet where an increased amount of sodium is actually desirable.
This video does a good job of breaking down the various concerns people have with bacon and explains that so long as you aren’t combing bacon with high carb and high sugar diet, it is safe to consume.
The most healthy way to enjoy bacon is to make it yourself. This way you can control the levels of nitrates or nitrites which are chemicals added to increase shelf life and change the color. Learn where to buy pork belly for making bacon.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making it for yourself, look for a healthy source where the pigs were raised on a sustainable farm.
Wrapping it up (in bacon)
Obviously, we are not suggesting that bacon is a wonder-food that we should all be eating all the time. However, classifying foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is rarely helpful or even accurate.
Bacon is high in brain-preserving choline, packed with useful nutrients, and its fat content isn’t as bad for our health as we used to think it was. It’s also full of unhealthy sugars, salts, and fats.
That being said, superfood kale can interfere with the function of your thyroid gland and acai berries can carry the parasite that causes American trypanosomiasis. Nearly all foods can have a potentially negative effect on the body, but in moderation, even so-called ‘unhealthy’ foods have a place in a balanced diet.
As with all things, the trick is balance. As part of a healthy diet, bacon is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. The butter, pancakes, and maple syrup…not so much.