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A Bacon Comparison

by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: Are Canadian bacon and turkey bacon healthier choices than regular bacon?

A: They have significantly fewer calories and less fat than regular bacon. But they’re not better in all ways—which is why you should limit how much you eat of any type of bacon.

American-style bacon is made from pork belly meat and is highest in calories (120 to 150), fat (10 to 12 grams, much of which is saturated), and sodium (300 to 600 milligrams) per ounce, uncooked. Keep in mind that bacon varies widely in terms of calories, fat, and sodium, depending on the brand, cut of meat, and how it is prepared. When bacon is heated, a fair amount of its fat cooks off, so that a well-cooked strip may have only half the calories of an uncooked slice, assuming the grease is not consumed.

In contrast, Canadian bacon—also known as English, Irish, or back or peameal bacon—is typically made from leaner pork loin and is more like ham, with about 30 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, and about 200 milligramsof sodium per ounce, uncooked.

Turkey bacon, which is made from ground dark and light turkey meat, may sound like it would be healthier than any type of pork bacon—but it has more calories (65 per ounce) and fat (5 grams) than Canadian bacon and is also high in sodium (300 milligrams). Still, it’s a better choice than regular bacon.

To lower the fat and calories, cook bacon on a grill (indoor or outdoor) or on a rack in a pan in the oven, which allows the fat to drip off. Don’t pan-fry it or add more fat or oil in cooking. For further reductions, blot the bacon on a paper towel after cooking.

Another issue with all cured bacon is that such processed meats were classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 as “carcinogenic to humans,” based on observational studies linking them to colorectal and other cancers—possibly due to their nitrate and nitrite preservatives. Though it has not been clearly established that processed meats cause cancer (observational studies do not prove cause and effect), it’s still a good idea to limit them, since there’s strong evidence linking them to cardiovascular disease and other disorders.

What about veggie “bacon”? Typically made from textured vegetable protein and wheat gluten (along with a long list of additives), these highly processed products can be just as high in calories and sodium as regular bacon (and lower in protein). One brand has 105 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 200 milligrams of sodium per ounce (about 4 slices). Though much of the fat comes from healthier vegetable fat, go easy on this bacon, too.