Bacon nutrition

Bacon nutrition: sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  But if certain Paleo people are to be believed, bacon is a major food group, and a staple of the Paleo Diet.  I’m sure the primitive hunter-gathers of the Paleolithic period, living in the eons prior to 8000 B.C. and limited to crude stone tools, sat around curing bacon over the fires of their temporary hunting camps, carefully slicing cured pork bellies up and frying the strips in their frying pans.  Oh, wait… domesticated pigs and frying pans hadn’t been invented yet.

Paleolithic realities aside, bacon is a staple of the 21st Century Paleo diet craze.  In fact, you could make the case that people jump on the Paleo bandwagon to rationalize bacon, burgers, steak and bacon burgers.  One proponent goes so far as to claim that, contrary to all available evidence, saturated fat and cholesterol, such as you get from bacon, are fabulously healthy.  Another hedges on the use of commercially cured bacon, with all that non-Paleo sodium nitrite, but still thinks uncured bacon is perfectly OK.  Another serves up recipes like the Bacon Sausage Hamburger (apparently those Paleo hunter gathers also had avocados and had the time to make and cure sausage).  Could all these Paleo meat addicts be the cause of the looming bacon shortage?

So where does 21st Century bacon fit in the Paleo Pyramid?  The Pyramid includes “lean meats and fish” at the bottom, with Fruit, Veggies and Berries (Berries separate from Fruit?  Who knew!) in the middle and Nuts on top.  Bacon actually doesn’t fit into any of those categories.  It’s high fat, so clearly doesn’t fit the Lean Meat and Fish basis for the Pyramid.  I’m thinking we re-do the Paleo Pyramid: 

So what are the realities of Bacon Nutrition?  One average cooked slice of bacon has, depending on how much fat it contained originally, about 40-50 calories, 3 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat.  The fat is mostly mono-unsaturated, so you might think bacon fat compares to olive oil, which is famous for a high monounsaturated fat content.  Here are the rough comparisons:



Fat         monounsaturated    saturated  unsaturated
Olive oil         75%             14%           11%
Bacon fat         45%             34%           11%

Clearly olive oil wins out in the monounsaturated fat competition.

But you can’t argue with the fact that bacon tastes really good.  What to do?  Have it occasionally, on a sandwich or crumbled on a tossed salad or with breakfast.  Operative word: occasionally.  It’s not a major protein source.  You can get more concentrated protein from lean beef, lean pork, bison, chicken, turkey, fish milk or yogurt.  It’s also high sodium; 1 slice has almost 200 mg.  Although, yes, one Paleo promoter actually advocates bacon because it’s high sodium.  Rationalization run amok.

So is “bacon nutrition” an oxymoron?  Strictly speaking, no.  Bacon is a food and has nutrients.  It’s just not something you should rely on everyday.  You can get all the key nutrients in bacon from other foods, with less sodium and less fat.  You just can’t get the flavor.

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