How salty is bacon? This seems like a silly quesiton. Yeah, pretty salty. And an average American eats 18 pounds of bacon every year. One slice at a time… But what are the actual numbers and the overall impact of bacon on your health?
What is bacon?
In it’s most common variation, bacon is thinly sliced cuts of pork belly. This meat is cured with a lot of salt and prepared with high heat, sometimes making it crispy. Other meats are sometimes used, such as beef, lamb, goat, turkey etc. Bacon made from pountry meat is specially processed, because the same exact cut in turkey or chicken simply does not exist (for any practical purposes).
Through the centuries, cured meats served an important purpose of being able to store much needed protein products in the absence of regrigirators. This problem has largely dissappeared, but we have developed the taste for these products. It is actually believed that bacon is the one food that’s most likely to make vegetarians eat meat.
Sodium content in bacon
Salt (sodium chloride) is an indespensible ingredient of bacon. It’s what makes it what it is, being a part of the process of curing meats and reducing their moisture content, by the process of osmosis. A typical slice of pan-fried bacon contains over 130 mg (it is considered that a single serving of bacon is two slices.) Microwaving or baking the same slice will produce different results, depending on the amount of salty fat that does not end up on your plate. Baked bacon has a tendency to preserve the most flavor and salt.
Turkey bacon, sometimes seen as a healthier variety, has the same amount of salt, if not more, because the industry has to compete with the familiar tast of pork bacon. Salt always seems to win over the consumers.
Low sodium bacon producers manage to reduce the amount of sodium in their products to about half. You can find such bacon with as low as 60mg of sodium per single slice.
Is it possible to enjoy bacon responsibly?
The problem with bacon is that is’s simply not that good for you, not matter how you cut it or slice it. It’s high in cholesterol, sodium and usually nitrites (as well as some potential cancerogens) but does not offer any great nutrients. So, if you plan to enjoy an occasional slice of bacon, consider it a guilty pleasure, an indulgence that you will have to pay for in one way or another later.
- Having said that, try to use Turkey bacon, especially if you can find a low sodium variety. The taste is pretty good, but it’s overall a healtherier option.
- Use thin slices. One of the main reasons people like bacon is the texture and the crunch. You will get plenty of that in a thin slice.
- Use paper towels to remove excess fat that contains salt.
- Be wary of bacon that’s included in dishes that already contain high sodium ingretients. Maybe you don’t have to add a slice of bacon to a cheeseburger?
- Make the decision about how many slices of bacon you will eat before preparing them. Because if you cook them you will eat them. As simple as that!
- If you want to eat less meat, help can sometimes be derived from the German language. Consider that the word for meat in German is Fleisch. Yep, you are eating someone’s flesh. Now, the word bacon is believed to be related to the German word Bauch which means ‘stomach.’ You know, pig’s stomach. Does bacon sound a bit less appetizing all a sudden?