Bacon Nutrition Facts

Pros and Cons of America's Favorite Breakfast Meat

pork bacon nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Bacon is sometimes referred to as "meat candy: and for good reason. It is packed with flavor from pork, salt, chemical or natural smoke, and, occasionally sugar or other sweeteners. To improve the appearance and shelf life of bacon, nitrate and nitrite preservatives are frequently added during processing.

At its most basic, bacon is simply salt-cured pork.

The streaky bacon Americans eat for breakfast is derived from the pork belly. Leaner bacon from back cuts is referred to as either Canadian bacon or back bacon. 

It will come as no surprise that bacon is on few "healthy eating" food lists. But, like any other high-fat animal protein, it has its place in a balanced diet if consumed in moderation.

Calories in Pork Bacon

Pork Bacon Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 3 slices
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 161 
Calories from Fat 109 
Total Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 4.1g21%
Cholesterol 34mg11%
Sodium 581mg24%
Potassium 172mg5%
Carbohydrates 0.6g0%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Sugars 0g 
Protein 12g 
Vitamin A 0.3% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0.3% · Iron 1.8%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Nutrition Facts

A single serving of bacon is not exceptionally high in calories but offer high quantities of unhealthy saturated fat and nearly a quarter of the daily sodium that most adults needs.

Insofar as back bacon is concerned, it has more or less the same calories at regular bacon but half the saturated fat. On the downside, it has only slightly less cholesterol (29 milligrams) and sodium (515 milligrams).

While some people have turned to turkey bacon as a "healthy" alternative, the difference in nutritional value is not as significant as you might think.

On the plus side, three slices of turkey bacon have only 100 calories and 35 percent fewer saturated fats than its pork cousin. On the other hand, it is also high in sodium (500 milligrams) and packs 40 milligrams of cholesterol per serving, more than either streaky or back bacon.

Carbs in Bacon

Many dieters consume bacon as part of a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Since bacon is high in fat and low in carbohydrate, it is considered acceptable for these types of weight loss plans. For people on a low-fat or low-sodium diet, bacon is clearly a less attractive option.

For the average 2,000-calorie American diet, carbohydrates should make up between 45 and 65 percent of your daily calories. Depending on your sex and age, that would amount to between 225 and 325 grams of carbs per day.

Despite the low carb content, don't be fooled into thinking that all bacon is the same. Bacon that has been sweetened with maple syrup or brown sugar will rack up the carbs in the form of sugar, mainly glucose. This is the type of carb your body burns quickly and one that affects your blood sugar most profoundly.

If you are on a strict low-carb diet, be sure to check the nutrition label to ensure that you are not being exposed to any of these hidden carbs.

Bacon's low carb count also means that it has virtually no dietary fiber. This is the form of indigestible carbohydrate that aids in digestion and slows the absorption of fat and sugar into the bloodstream.

Fats in Bacon

Certain diet plans, like the Paleo diet, have been criticized because they place greater focus on protein rather than assessing the long-term risk of dietary fats. Bacon is a case in point.

For an average 2,000-calorie diet, 20 to 35 percent of your total calories should come from fat, translating to around 44 to 78 grams per day. While it may be easy to shrug off the fact that bacon can account for as much as a quarter of your daily intake, most of it will come from the unhealthiest of fats, namely saturated fat.

Saturated fat is the type that can clog your veins and contribute to the development of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat should account for no more than 5 to 6 percent of your daily calories.

For a 2,000-calorie diet, you should eat no more than 13 grams per day. Doing the math, three slices of bacon equal 4.1 grams. Add to that two fried eggs (3.2 grams of saturated fat) and a slice of toast with a tablespoon butter (7 grams of saturated fat), and you've already well exceeded your daily limit.

Protein in Bacon

Around 10 to 35 percent of your daily total calories should come from protein. This translates to between 50 and 175 grams of protein per day. At 12 grams per serving, bacon offers a quality source of protein. To mitigate the high-fat content, bolster your diet with other types of meat and plant-based proteins, such as bean, eggs, dairy, poultry, fish, and tofu. 

Micronutrients in Bacon

Bacon is a good source of potassium. On average, adults should consume around 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. Potassium supports blood pressure, cardiovascular health, bone strength, and muscle strength.

Bacon also delivers a significant amount of vitamins BI, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12 and more than 50 percent of your reference dietary intake (RDI) of selenium and phosphorus. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant which can eliminate free radicals that damage cells. Phosphorus promotes strong bones and teeth and helps filter waste from the kidneys.

Health Benefits

There is no denying the fact that bacon is delicious and loved by many. There is also no denying that there are healthier sources of protein you can eat. As such, you can't discuss the "health benefits" of bacon without including the potential downsides. 

With that being said, bacon is not all "bad" if eaten in moderation. Among some of the potential benefits:

  • Roughly 50 percent of the fat in bacon comes "healthy" monounsaturated fat which can temper some of the inflammation triggered by saturated fat.
  • Fat is essential to a diet and aids in the absorption of vitamin A, D, E, and K.
  • Despite being demonized, saturated fat is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in some groups, including post-menopausal women (according to the landmark Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial).

Ultimately, the secret to enjoying bacon is to limit your intake. If in doubt or dealing with cardiovascular concerns, speak with your doctor to assess the dietary impact, if any, on your health.

Common Questions

Can crispy bacon cause cancer?

The long-held belief that crispy bacon can cause cancer dates back to the 1970s. Back then, early studies showed that mice exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs)— chemicals produced when meat is charred—had an increased incidence of cancer. 

Others scientists expressed concerns about cancer-causing chemicals known as acrylamides, which are produced when certain foods are heavily roasted or charred. It is also created when burning tobacco. 

Recent epidemiological studies in humans have not supported these early findings. In fact, a 2015 review of studies concluded that acrylamide was not linked to the most common cancers but did have a modest association with kidney, endometrial, and ovarian cancer in people who had never smoked.

With that being said, acrylamides are no so much associated with protein-rich foods but rather those high in carbohydrate. Bacon has only around 0.6 grams of carbs per serving, a minuscule amount. Moreover, cooking bacon to a golden brown helps render more of the fat that you might otherwise be eating.

How long can you keep bacon?

If unopened and properly refrigerated, bacon will maintain its best quality for about a month, depending on the "sell-by" date. Once opened, you should eat the bacon within seven days, according to guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

You should never eat bacon that is past its "use-by" date or more than seven days after its "sell-by" date. Irrespective of the date, if bacon ever smells sour or off, it is probably bad. Throw it out. If frozen, bacon can keep safely in the freezer for up to six months.

Recipes and Preparation

There are several ways to cook bacon:

  • For the skillet method, place strips of raw bacon in a cold frying pay without overlapping. Turn the burner to medium and turn the bacon occasionally until each side is a light golden brown. Drain the cooked bacon on two layers of paper towel.
  • For the oven method, line a ridged cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lay out the bacon strips without overlapping. Place in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400 degrees F and bake to desired crispness, around 25 to 35 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  • For the microwave method, line a microwave-safe plate with two layers of paper towel. Lay out several bacon strips without overlapping and cover with two more paper towels. Cook in the microwave for four to six minutes on a high setting until you achieve the desired crispness.

To limit your intake, crumble bacon over a salad, cream soup, or casserole. You can even crumble some over a serving of vanilla ice cream with low-fat caramel sauce for a sweet and salty sensation.

Here are other recipes you can try at home:

Allergies and Interactions

Bacon allergies are uncommon but can occur. As with any other type of meat allergy, a bacon allergy can develop any stage of life. Meat allergies are common in people exposed to the Lone Star tick, a parasite found predominantly in the southeastern United States from Texas to Iowa and into parts of New England.

Symptoms of a bacon allergy may include hives, rash, stomach cramps, sneezing, headaches, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. In rare cases, a potentially life-threatening allergy known as anaphylaxis may occur, requiring emergency medical treatment.

The nitrates and nitrites used to preserve bacon may also cause an allergic response. Allergies of these sorts may cause hoarseness, wheezing, cough, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Anaphylaxis may also occur. 

Even in you don't have a nitrate/nitrite allergy, you may react to them during later pregnancy. This is due to the accumulation of a substance in blood known as methemoglobin which interacts with the preservative, causing nausea and stomach upset. Because of this, you may want to avoid bacon after your 30th week of pregnancy or find a preservative-free bacon brand.

If you are on monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) used to treat depression, you will need to limit your intake of bacon and any other foods high in tyramine. Other high-tyramine foods include cheese, processed fish and meat, beans, beer, and fermented foods. The overconsumption may lead to a potentially dangerous spike in blood pressure, known as malignant hypertension

Speak with your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms after eating bacon. Be sure to bring along the product label with both the ingredient list and nutritional information.

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