4

votes

Is bacon really good? I'm confused.

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created February 11, 2011 at 11:19 PM

Maybe it is the INTJ in me, but I can't seem to get beyond one sticking point with bacon: it is processed. I know I should be looking for minimally processed bacon, but where I live that is actually quite hard.

My question: Why do people feel it is ok to eat bacon even though it is processed? And what do people look for in a bacon that is ok to eat? Low sodium? Low nitrates (how do you figure that out, anyway)?

Thanks, Jason/Aka confused about bacon

58cc17a77bca6e503dcf6bf6471b76a1

(478)

on February 24, 2011
at 07:03 PM

Is it advisable to get pork belly from local butcher at Asian supermarket (like 99 ranch and stuff) (not pastured)?

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on February 20, 2011
at 12:38 AM

I use the definition of paleo that stems from its founder Dr Cordain. He claims that added sodium is one of the neolithic evils, and bacon is a clear example of that. About "cheating" it is not a moral judgement at all, since by eating bacon you would only be cheating yourself, not anybody else and this word, cheat, is usually used in this forum when you deviate from the paleo diet.

0bcefaa82dc94f93ce705f86e235f335

(1591)

on February 19, 2011
at 10:56 PM

I'm not going to downvote this, but the problem is that you are assuming a single and absolute definition of paleo. Many would disagree that such a set of absolute rules exists. You also used the word "cheat" which is a moral judgment.

211d4075d68b24cd0aa7ebfa94262bb9

on February 13, 2011
at 04:06 AM

When your post gets downvoted but no reason for the downvote is provided it's normally due to cognitive dissonance, meaning that you provided factual information that certain readers here did not wish to know but could not refute. Pesonally, I wouldn't pay much attention to what the rebranded Atkins crowd here espouses.

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on February 13, 2011
at 02:19 AM

for those that down voted my answer I would like to tell them that it is impolite to down vote without giving any reason why!

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on February 12, 2011
at 05:29 PM

Sodium nitrite is used aswell as salt in bacon because together they prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum much more effectivly than salt alone.

3a833804187fe8926214e6c0bd8a0766

(1023)

on February 12, 2011
at 03:46 PM

I get the same stuff and I eat a couple pieces every day. But like I posted in another comment it's still "cured" with nitrates in celery juice, some lactic acid and salt. Just something interesting, I love the stuff and just started keeping the leftover fat for cooking too!

3a833804187fe8926214e6c0bd8a0766

(1023)

on February 12, 2011
at 03:39 PM

The uncured bacon I get from Trader Joe's is still "cured" but they use celery juice which naturally contains sodium nitrate (rather than using that pink salt version).

9e7039b63b656582f66d84c5255b436d

(1132)

on February 12, 2011
at 08:33 AM

you can make sodium nitrate by mixing urine and manure, if you want to make homemade bacon :)

9e7039b63b656582f66d84c5255b436d

(1132)

on February 12, 2011
at 08:31 AM

iberian ham - jamon serrano is basically what you're looking at - cured pig (a breed closer to boar) that rummages for acorns. I am not really sure what a pig is supposed to eat (not grass though), I think they are like goats, they eat anything. As long as they are not being fed offal, I don't really see the problem.

Eeefb4a4b2ac14b006f087cf77ba9f23

(106)

on February 12, 2011
at 06:03 AM

Costco sells low-sodium bacon that's also sugar-free. It's their house brand, "Kirkland".

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on February 12, 2011
at 05:28 AM

Yep, it's decent kidney function that is the issue with salt intake. Healthy kidneys should have no problem controlling salt levels in the body for most people. Salt was classically used to preserve meat and is one of the oldest known trade items. It is also found in many areas at which harvesting is relatively easy.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on February 12, 2011
at 05:24 AM

Rock, sounds like they injected saline solution into blood stream to increase volume of liquid in her veins. This causes bp to go up due to volume of liquid, not via salt. They use saline solution because the blood is also naturally salty so they need to use a liquid with the same level of saltiness or it could kill you.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on February 12, 2011
at 03:38 AM

it was imperative that I got enough salt (which was still very little) until who knows what happened and my blood pressure shot up in less than a year. There are lots of evidence based reasons to believe that high salt intake is unhealthy. Anyone with a family history of high BP should pay attention. I watched my mother's BP drop in the ER down to dangerously low levels due to a completely unrelated health crisis, and they gave her saline to immediately bring her BP up. I watched this with my own eyes - ridiculously low BP to normal with nothing more than salt water.

Fe6e37f8d4c49de1ecbc926c8900cd54

(1902)

on February 12, 2011
at 01:45 AM

Haha--agreed, Redshift. And akd--when I asked them if there were any additives in their bacon, they said no. It's possible that they just meant no preservatives, though, you've inspired me to ask. Either way, I'm happy--I'm not terribly salt phobic.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on February 12, 2011
at 01:24 AM

how do they make bacon without salt? i think thats just uncured pork belly.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on February 12, 2011
at 01:23 AM

you can also get pork belly and cure it yourself, leaving out the nitrites/nitrates, just salt and spices. http://ruhlman.com/2010/10/home-cured-bacon-2.html "Pink curing salt means “sodium nitrite,” not Himalayan pink salt. It’s what’s responsible for the bright color and piquant bacony flavor. You don’t have to use it, but your bacon will turn brown/gray when cooked (you’re cooking it well done, after all), and will taste like pleasantly seasoned spare ribs, porky rather than bacony."

Eeefb4a4b2ac14b006f087cf77ba9f23

(106)

on February 12, 2011
at 12:45 AM

What's wrong with making bacon the centerpiece of every meal?

0bcefaa82dc94f93ce705f86e235f335

(1591)

on February 12, 2011
at 12:26 AM

Re:sugar-free bacon, oddly my Walmart actually carries a no-sugar bacon! It's got nitrites and all that other crap, so I wonder if it's aimed at the Atkins crowd... anyway, it's $10 for 3 lbs, and it's pretty darn good.

5489f67c05ca5fc68f2b984e48b6da5e

on February 12, 2011
at 12:18 AM

I'm not really understanding the processed perspective. Bacon doesn't HAVE to be processed. Sausage doesn't have to be processed. Am I missing something? Always willing to learn :]

5489f67c05ca5fc68f2b984e48b6da5e

on February 12, 2011
at 12:14 AM

I'm not really understanding the processed perspective. Bacon doesn't HAVE to be processed.

5489f67c05ca5fc68f2b984e48b6da5e

on February 12, 2011
at 12:13 AM

I'm not really understanding the processed perspective.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:32 PM

You can also just ask for side pork or pork belly if they don't know what you are talking about.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:32 PM

Salt related genes have also been highly selected for in the past 10,000 years. With my own genetic background, it's imperative I get enough salt.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:31 PM

Yeah, uncured is thin-sliced pork belly. You can cook it like bacon and season it to taste. Most paleos I know buy this kind.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:30 PM

Uncured bacon is just thin sliced pork belly...it has no sodium beyond what is in the animal in the first place.

8f8ff21a67437febebc70afd19364e95

(153)

on February 11, 2011
at 11:23 PM

Is that the preferred approach for eating bacon? Uncured? Thanks for the recommendation, heading to butcher later today.

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12 Answers

11
F9a0b72f38860d7601afd5a45bb53394

(3618)

on February 12, 2011
at 12:12 AM

If you want to avoid processed food, stick with fruit or stop eating. Most, if not all, other food is processed--cut up, ground, cooked, whatever. I wish that anti-processed-food meme would fricking die, it's not even close to accurate about what's wrong with our modern food supply.

Bacon came to be part of our cuisine in the first place because the process of its creation developed out of a need to preserve meat in a world in which refrigeration did not exist. Civilization did not invent preserved meat. Foragers were doing it long before then. We should all be familiar with the idea of making jerky out of bison, something the Lakota did for generations. I wouldn't be surprised if the Pacific tribes were doing the same thing with salmon AND using salt since the ocean was right there within reach.

Having access to fresh meat all the time is not a normal part of the human experience. It is entirely an artifact of industrial civilization and the fossil fuel infrastructure. If we were doing without industrial appliances and fossil fuel we might indeed have fresh meat with dinner immediately after a hunt or slaughter, but the rest of the kill would have to be preserved in some way if we didn't want to have to hunt or slaughter an animal each and every day. Dried, pickled, cured, doesn't matter--whatever would make it last long enough to still be edible later when needed.

I would actually prefer that all bacon were salt-cured. We've come to using nitrates and MSG in our industrial food supply because of this erroneous belief that sodium is unhealthy. But there is a dietary requirement for sodium, while there is none for nitrates or MSG--and the only people who demonstrably have an adverse health response to sodium are people whose health is already damaged. It turns out sodium/potassium balance is more important to health than whether you eat sodium at all.

Personally I'm more interested in whether the bacon in question has a large amount of sugar in it. There is such a thing as no-sugar-added bacon but you really have to search for it sometimes.

0bcefaa82dc94f93ce705f86e235f335

(1591)

on February 12, 2011
at 12:26 AM

Re:sugar-free bacon, oddly my Walmart actually carries a no-sugar bacon! It's got nitrites and all that other crap, so I wonder if it's aimed at the Atkins crowd... anyway, it's $10 for 3 lbs, and it's pretty darn good.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on February 12, 2011
at 05:29 PM

Sodium nitrite is used aswell as salt in bacon because together they prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum much more effectivly than salt alone.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on February 12, 2011
at 05:28 AM

Yep, it's decent kidney function that is the issue with salt intake. Healthy kidneys should have no problem controlling salt levels in the body for most people. Salt was classically used to preserve meat and is one of the oldest known trade items. It is also found in many areas at which harvesting is relatively easy.

Eeefb4a4b2ac14b006f087cf77ba9f23

(106)

on February 12, 2011
at 06:03 AM

Costco sells low-sodium bacon that's also sugar-free. It's their house brand, "Kirkland".

5
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:20 PM

You can buy uncured bacon quite easily. Talk to your local butcher or farmer.

9e7039b63b656582f66d84c5255b436d

(1132)

on February 12, 2011
at 08:33 AM

you can make sodium nitrate by mixing urine and manure, if you want to make homemade bacon :)

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on February 12, 2011
at 01:23 AM

you can also get pork belly and cure it yourself, leaving out the nitrites/nitrates, just salt and spices. http://ruhlman.com/2010/10/home-cured-bacon-2.html "Pink curing salt means “sodium nitrite,” not Himalayan pink salt. It’s what’s responsible for the bright color and piquant bacony flavor. You don’t have to use it, but your bacon will turn brown/gray when cooked (you’re cooking it well done, after all), and will taste like pleasantly seasoned spare ribs, porky rather than bacony."

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:32 PM

You can also just ask for side pork or pork belly if they don't know what you are talking about.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:31 PM

Yeah, uncured is thin-sliced pork belly. You can cook it like bacon and season it to taste. Most paleos I know buy this kind.

3a833804187fe8926214e6c0bd8a0766

(1023)

on February 12, 2011
at 03:39 PM

The uncured bacon I get from Trader Joe's is still "cured" but they use celery juice which naturally contains sodium nitrate (rather than using that pink salt version).

8f8ff21a67437febebc70afd19364e95

(153)

on February 11, 2011
at 11:23 PM

Is that the preferred approach for eating bacon? Uncured? Thanks for the recommendation, heading to butcher later today.

58cc17a77bca6e503dcf6bf6471b76a1

(478)

on February 24, 2011
at 07:03 PM

Is it advisable to get pork belly from local butcher at Asian supermarket (like 99 ranch and stuff) (not pastured)?

4
Fe6e37f8d4c49de1ecbc926c8900cd54

on February 11, 2011
at 11:34 PM

The local butcher here doesn't add anything (nitrates, salt, etc) to the bacon--it's totally fresh. Although I wouldn't make it the centerpiece of every meal, I don't think there is anything wrong with cooking with good, fresh, preservative-free bacon.

Eeefb4a4b2ac14b006f087cf77ba9f23

(106)

on February 12, 2011
at 12:45 AM

What's wrong with making bacon the centerpiece of every meal?

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on February 12, 2011
at 01:24 AM

how do they make bacon without salt? i think thats just uncured pork belly.

Fe6e37f8d4c49de1ecbc926c8900cd54

(1902)

on February 12, 2011
at 01:45 AM

Haha--agreed, Redshift. And akd--when I asked them if there were any additives in their bacon, they said no. It's possible that they just meant no preservatives, though, you've inspired me to ask. Either way, I'm happy--I'm not terribly salt phobic.

3
9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on February 12, 2011
at 01:46 AM

Getting uncured vs. cured bacon doesn't really matter. In fact a good number of uncured bacons use celery powder or something of the sort, and, when cooked, have tested to have MORE nitrates than cured bacon. I wouldn't worry about the nitrates. They naturally occur at much higher levels in some vegetables. In terms of sodium, I usually buy niman ranch uncured bacon (not for the fact that it is uncured, but simply that I think it tastes better). The sodium in it is of very little worry to me. Some people do better with more sodium or less. That kind of needs to be an n=1 experiment. I remember reading something that healthy individuals blood pressure and other health markers weren't negatively affected by increasing salt intake, say from 2500 mg/ day to 3500 mg/ day. Honestly, I wouldn't be too worried about the fact that it's conventionally raised. Obviously, if you can get pastured bacon, that would be amazing! If not eating/ choosing bacon forces you to choose something non-primal or even less tasty, then you are missing out. Buy the bacon!

2
072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on February 19, 2011
at 10:39 PM

I cannot profess to know much about nitrates, curing, etc., but I do consider bacon to be quite tasty. Here's a facebook post (typos and all) from Mathieu Lalonde who is just a darned sharp guy about such matters:

"Barry, there is no problem with nitrates. The whole thing was based on in vitro studies. Turns out that in vivo, nitrate is reduced to nitrite, which is then reduced ti nitric oxide (a.k.a NO). NO is a potent vasodilator and responsible fo...r the blood pressure lowering effect of vegetable consumption. Do you have any idea how much nitrate is in celery? If nitrates and nitrites were really that bad, vegetables consumption would have been condemned a long time ago.

Here is a reference for you:

Inorganic Nitrate Supplementation Lowers Blood Pressure in Humans: Role of Nitrite-Derived NO. Hypertension 2010, 56, 274-281

Dietary Inorganic Nitrate Improves Mitochondrial Efficiency in Humans. Cell Metabolism 2011, 13, 149-159"

2
Acfd35c9e350bb4c0c17810af4decd95

on February 12, 2011
at 03:19 PM

Bacon is not "processed" in the normal sense of the word. Salami, bologna, hot dogs, etc., are indeed processed: they are ground up, chemicals added, and formed into the required shape by forcing them into a machine.

Bacon is, for the purposes of this little discussion, minimally processed. It is cut off the hog, brined, etc., then packaged. (That's simplistic I know but compared to a hot dog, it's minimal.)

For those worried about the nitrites, they're not as bad as one has been told. (Remember, Conventional Wisdom and The Government are always wrong.) Another ingredient usually found in such meats is a chemical whose name I cannot remember but it is Vitamin C, or a form of it, and it reduces or eliminates the harmful effects of the nitrites. (Besides, with the advent of the FDA, the amount of nitrites added to foods have been drastically reduced from what was historically used.) If one is still worried about the nitrites but still love bacon, just take a couple of tabs of Vitamin C before you eat it.

Now, I am NOT saying all these added chemicals are paleo but there is no harm in having a handful of bacon every now and then. (I'm not even sure pork, in the mainstream of evolution, is paleo.) Our bodies are too efficient at protecting us from ourselves to let a bit of extraneous additives harm us.

2
Medium avatar

on February 12, 2011
at 12:43 AM

Even if you could buy bacon that is sugar and nitrate/ite free, vegetarian-fed etc. you're still looking at what is almost certainly a corn-fed animal whose fatty acid profile is inferior to that of a grass-fed ruminant.

That being said, if you are a bacon-enthusiast whose life is empty without it, then by all means try to find the "clean" type of bacon and go whole hog.

I suppose the bacon nutritional apogee would involve some wild boar or javelina or something, but I'm not sure that the product itself would be sufficiently fatty to even mesh with our conception of what bacon is.

9e7039b63b656582f66d84c5255b436d

(1132)

on February 12, 2011
at 08:31 AM

iberian ham - jamon serrano is basically what you're looking at - cured pig (a breed closer to boar) that rummages for acorns. I am not really sure what a pig is supposed to eat (not grass though), I think they are like goats, they eat anything. As long as they are not being fed offal, I don't really see the problem.

2
E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on February 11, 2011
at 11:25 PM

It's also loaded with salt, cured or uncured. I also don't understand how/why it is considered a good analog to what paleolithic man may have eaten.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:32 PM

Salt related genes have also been highly selected for in the past 10,000 years. With my own genetic background, it's imperative I get enough salt.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on February 12, 2011
at 03:38 AM

it was imperative that I got enough salt (which was still very little) until who knows what happened and my blood pressure shot up in less than a year. There are lots of evidence based reasons to believe that high salt intake is unhealthy. Anyone with a family history of high BP should pay attention. I watched my mother's BP drop in the ER down to dangerously low levels due to a completely unrelated health crisis, and they gave her saline to immediately bring her BP up. I watched this with my own eyes - ridiculously low BP to normal with nothing more than salt water.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on February 12, 2011
at 05:24 AM

Rock, sounds like they injected saline solution into blood stream to increase volume of liquid in her veins. This causes bp to go up due to volume of liquid, not via salt. They use saline solution because the blood is also naturally salty so they need to use a liquid with the same level of saltiness or it could kill you.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 11, 2011
at 11:30 PM

Uncured bacon is just thin sliced pork belly...it has no sodium beyond what is in the animal in the first place.

1
3a833804187fe8926214e6c0bd8a0766

(1023)

on February 12, 2011
at 03:55 PM

Here's something interesting:

"It has been reported that people normally consume more nitrates from their vegetable intake than from the cured meat products they eat. Spinach, beets, radishes, celery, and cabbages are among the vegetables that generally contain very high concentrations of nitrates (J. Food Sci., 52:1632). The nitrate content of vegetables is affected by maturity, soil conditions, fertilizer, variety, etc. It has been estimated that 10 percent of the human exposure to nitrite in the digestive tract comes from cured meats and 90 percent comes from vegetables and other sources. Nitrates can be reduced to nitrites by certain microorganisms present in foods and in the gastrointestinal tract. This has resulted in nitrite toxicity in infants fed vegetables with a high nitrate level. No evidence currently exists implicating nitrite itself as a carcinogen.

To obtain 22 milligrams of sodium nitrite per kilogram of body weight (a lethal dose), a 154-pound adult would have to consume, at once, 18.57 pounds of cured meat product containing 200 ppm sodium nitrite (because nitrite is rapidly converted to nitric oxide during the curing process, the 18.57 pound figure should be tripled at least). Even if a person could eat that amount of cured meat, salt, not nitrite, probably would be the toxic factor."

1
Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

on February 12, 2011
at 03:02 PM

many people have bacon because they have come into paleo from low carb, atkins type diets. Bacon is a very tasty no carb food. Actually, bacon is not paleo: not only it is processed, it normally has lots of salt and nitrates added. This being said if you do not have problems with either sodium or nitrates, you can go ahead and indulge on cheating with bacon!

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on February 13, 2011
at 02:19 AM

for those that down voted my answer I would like to tell them that it is impolite to down vote without giving any reason why!

211d4075d68b24cd0aa7ebfa94262bb9

on February 13, 2011
at 04:06 AM

When your post gets downvoted but no reason for the downvote is provided it's normally due to cognitive dissonance, meaning that you provided factual information that certain readers here did not wish to know but could not refute. Pesonally, I wouldn't pay much attention to what the rebranded Atkins crowd here espouses.

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on February 20, 2011
at 12:38 AM

I use the definition of paleo that stems from its founder Dr Cordain. He claims that added sodium is one of the neolithic evils, and bacon is a clear example of that. About "cheating" it is not a moral judgement at all, since by eating bacon you would only be cheating yourself, not anybody else and this word, cheat, is usually used in this forum when you deviate from the paleo diet.

0bcefaa82dc94f93ce705f86e235f335

(1591)

on February 19, 2011
at 10:56 PM

I'm not going to downvote this, but the problem is that you are assuming a single and absolute definition of paleo. Many would disagree that such a set of absolute rules exists. You also used the word "cheat" which is a moral judgment.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 11, 2011
at 11:37 PM

Me either. And its hard to get non grain fed pigs, even organic. I just bought some meat from a wool pig. Its a old race. Even this is winter fed with hay and grains.

To get good pig meat. bacon or anything is very hard. Its so important to get good meat in the fat are all the toxins.

1
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on February 11, 2011
at 11:28 PM

I buy uncured/low sodium bacon at Trader Joes. I usually make a pound for the week and eat it over that time, sharing with my kid, husband and the cat. ;) The grease is good for cooking my eggs in on weekends or my zucchini/squash/veggies for dinner. I watch my sodium pretty closely and it's really not an issue.

3a833804187fe8926214e6c0bd8a0766

(1023)

on February 12, 2011
at 03:46 PM

I get the same stuff and I eat a couple pieces every day. But like I posted in another comment it's still "cured" with nitrates in celery juice, some lactic acid and salt. Just something interesting, I love the stuff and just started keeping the leftover fat for cooking too!

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