Americans spend over $2 billion a year on bacon, reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and the National Pork Board doesn't expect that trend to change anytime soon. A fondness for bacon may not be good news for your blood cholesterol level or your overall health, however. If you choose to eat bacon, do so in moderation and only occasionally. People who have a history of heart disease or high cholesterol should talk to their doctor before including bacon in their diet.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one slice of pan-fried cured pork bacon contains 11 milligrams of cholesterol. Healthy adults are advised to limit their total daily cholesterol to 300 milligrams. Three slices of bacon with breakfast would supply 11 percent of that limit. People with high blood cholesterol are recommended to consume no more than 200 milligrams of cholesterol each day to help lower their risk of heart disease. A meal containing three bacon slices would be over 16 percent of their limit.
Saturated Fat Content
While dietary cholesterol can raise your blood cholesterol levels, the saturated fat content of foods does so even more, says the National Institutes of Health. Adults should obtain 7 percent or less of their total daily calories from saturated fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that would be 15 or fewer grams per day. Bacon has approximately 1.4 grams of saturated fat per slice, 9 percent of the limit. Consuming more than one slice at a meal or making bacon a staple in your diet may cause your blood cholesterol to rise due to the saturated fat.
Try substituting meats lower in saturated fat for the bacon in your dishes and menus. A serving of turkey bacon still contains about the same amount of cholesterol as regular bacon -- 13 milligrams -- but it has half of the saturated fat at 0.7 gram. Canadian bacon is an even healthier option, with 9 milligrams of cholesterol and 0.15 gram of saturated fat in each slice. You can also experiment with vegetarian bacon. Some brands prepared from soy protein and wheat gluten contain no saturated fat or cholesterol.
Even if you don't have high blood cholesterol and carefully control your daily intake of saturated fat, you should still limit your consumption of bacon, cautions the Harvard School of Public Health. A diet that's high in processed or cured meats like bacon may increase your risk of dying from cancer and all other types of chronic medical problems, reported a 2012 study in the "Archives of Internal Medicine." In addition, bacon is high in sodium, with 194 milligrams in each slice. That's 8 percent of the daily sodium limit for healthy adults.
- Bloomberg BusinessWeek: Bring Home Better Bacon
- National Pork Board: Bacon Trends
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pork, Cured, Bacon, Pre-Sliced, Cooked, Pan-Fried
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Louis Rich, Turkey Bacon
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Canadian Bacon, Cooked, Pan-Fried
- Lightlife: Smart Bacon
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein - Moving Closer to Center Stage
- Archives of Internal Medicine: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality - Results from 2 Prospective Cohort Studies