For many of us, the aroma of bacon frying in a pan is culinary heaven but there’s no disputing that it’s far from healthy!!….. But did you now that other kinds of meat can also be used for bacon? In this article, we look at the alternatives and ask “is turkey bacon bad for you or a healthier option?”
Bacon is a firm favorite for breakfast, as an ingredient in salads, and as the cornerstone to a delicious B.L.T, but there is much concern of late, that its high fat and sodium content is far from healthy.
Many of the bacon companies have gotten wind of our health concerns and now offer a slightly healthier alternative – turkey bacon. A tasty alternative to pork bacon, it has a lower sodium and fat content.
But while turkey bacon is marginally better for your body than regular pork bacon, it still cannot be considered a healthy food, but overall it comes out on top (but only just!)
The increased interest in bacon has led to Bacon-of-the-month clubs,bacon recipe contests, blogs, a dating app for bacon lovers, and even “bacon camps.” Seattle hosted a “bacon camp” where bacon was included in an assortment of bacon dishes and other bacon-related items. Bacon has even been referred to as a fashion statement after a bacon bra was photographed.Wikipedia
Is turkey bacon bad for you?
Pork bacon comes from a pig belly. Turkey bacon is made from dark and light turkey meat, which is then seasoned (like regular bacon) and pressed into its recognizable bacon shape.
Just like pork bacon, turkey bacon is quite high in saturated fats and sodium. These two nasties are well known for increasing the risk of developing heart disease and should be eaten in moderation.
While turkey bacon may be a tad healthier than traditional pork bacon, it certainly can’t be called healthy, so dieters take note! When we diet, every calorie matters, and you should be trying to get as many essential nutrients as possible with each calorie consumed.
Turkey bacon’s calorific content is a little lower than pork bacon as it is made from poultry rather than red meat, but it’s highly processed nature means that it contains significant amounts of fat, saturated fat, and sodium, without providing enough essential nutrients.
Another point to note is that choosing pork bacon or turkey bacon made without nitrates is the best option, but generally processed meat products are usually the least healthy option when it comes to protein sources.
Processed meats may increase the risk for both heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in “Current Atherosclerosis Reports” in December 2012. The healthiest foods are those that are low in energy density and high in nutrients and sadly, turkey bacon doesn’t fit the bill.back to menu ↑
Turkey bacon vs pork bacon nutrition
Protein: A 2-ounce serving of pork or turkey bacon has approximately the same quantity of protein. Pork bacon comes in at 20 grams per serving with turkey bacon slightly lower at 17 grams.
Calories: Turkey bacon actually has fewer calories than pork bacon, but the difference is smaller than most people think. In a 2-ounce serving, the numbers are 218 calories (turkey) vs. 268 calories (pork).
Fat: There is a big difference in the overall fat content though, with turkey bacon being significantly lower than its pork competitor. Turkey bacon comes in at 14 grams vs. 22 grams for the pork variety.
The really unhealthy saturated fat content of both processed types of meat is still very high according to most health professionals but for those interested in the numbers, turkey bacon has 4 grams vs. turkey bacon at a whopping 8 grams. In an ideal world, saturated fats should be avoided wherever possible as they are a large contributor to heart disease.
Sodium: Reduced sodium bacon is now available but when we look at regular turkey bacon, just a few rashes can have you maxing out the daily recommended consumption of salt (not more than 1,500 milligrams per day according to the American Heart Association.)
2 oz. of turkey bacon has just over 1,900 milligrams of sodium with the same amount of pork bacon containing about 1,300 milligrams. A high sodium level not only increases the risks of heart disease, but it can also increase the chance of developing kidney stones.
Vitamins: Both bacon versions provide vitamin B complex, but pork bacon has slightly more. Pork bacon also contains higher levels of selenium which is a mineral that is documented as helping to prevent cancer.back to menu ↑
Is turkey bacon really turkey? – Turkey bacon ingredients
One of the most popular brands of turkey bacon is Butterball and their ingredients are as follows:
- Turkey & mechanically separated turkey
- 2% or less of Canola Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Natural Flavor
- Sodium Phosphate
- Sodium Erythorbate
- Sodium Nitrite
The meat-cuts used in turkey bacon come from the turkey thigh and come in cured or uncured varieties. Turkey bacon can be smoked, chopped, or reformed into strips just like regular pork bacon.
Turkey bacon can be grilled or fried in a pan. If you choose turkey bacon that is made from dark meat, it can be as low as 90% fat-free, but unfortunately, it actually tastes more like ham than bacon!
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What is mechanically separated turkey?
Don’t read this if you are of a sensitive nature!
M.S.T. (mechanically separated turkey) is a paste-like substance which is produced by forcing turkey carcasses (or just parts of carcasses) through a sieve-like device under extremely high pressure. This process separates the bones from the edible part of the turkey.back to menu ↑
Is turkey bacon the healthiest breakfast meat?
Obviously, it’s impossible to compare every kind of meat from every different brand but we can make a couple of recommendations.
Poultry is generally the best meat for your breakfast as it is low in fat if grilled or baked, and can be added to a yummy omelet for a tasty breakfast meal. The American Dietetic Association suggests a delicious recipe of a slice or two of turkey with some low-fat cheese all wrapped up in a tortilla.
Turkey sausage and turkey bacon vary from brand to brand but are never going to be as healthy as unprocessed poultry.
A good quality natural ham is also an excellent choice for the breakfast table but stay away from processed ham that can contain all manner of junk! The American Dietetic Association says that a simple breakfast of a whole-grain English muffin with some unprocessed lean ham and low-fat cheese makes for a fine breakfast indeed!back to menu ↑
Is turkey bacon bad for your cholesterol?
While bacon made from pork is definitely terrible for cholesterol, turkey bacon is a little kinder to your blood cholesterol levels. For those that can’t live without bacon, turkey bacon is a slightly better choice. When compared to traditional pork bacon, turkey bacon is lower in both bad fats and food-based cholesterol.
Overall, fat content between the two kinds of bacon is quite distinguishable with turkey bacon containing the lower one. However, both kinds of bacon contain a high amount of saturated fats, which may contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease.
Don’t forget that salt-preserved foods also increase the level of sodium in the body, so including turkey bacon into your daily diet should be seriously considered.back to menu ↑
How much sodium is in turkey bacon?
There’s no way to sugarcoat it – turkey bacon is high in sodium. 1 oz. of turkey bacon has just over 650 milligrams of sodium which is far from healthy (with only a few rashes per day to reach your recommended sodium intake.)
It’s not as bad as pork bacon, however, with the same amount of pork bacon containing 950 milligrams.
Excess sodium is known to increase blood pressure. It does this by holding excess fluid in the body, which then increases the burden on the heart. Too much sodium in the diet will increase the risks of a stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and even kidney disease.
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How do I cook turkey bacon?
If you do decide to switch to turkey bacon, follow these cooking tips to stay as healthy as possible:
- Only choose reduced-sodium varieties of turkey bacon
- Don’t add more salt when you are cooking it
- Use a grill that allows the fat to drain away. Do not pan fry it!
- Try not to use cooking oil if you can help it
- Drain the cooked bacon thoroughly and allow the fat to run off
- Use some paper towels to absorb as much grease as possible
What is the best brand of turkey bacon?
Butterball is our pick of the brands that produce the highest quality turkey bacon. They are our favorite because they raise turkeys the natural way and guarantee that no hormones or steroids are used in the production of their delicious turkey products.
Butterball stock everything from whole birds to deli-style sliced meats. All of their poultry are born, raised, and harvested in the United States and have been certified by the American Humane Association.
Butterball has two kinds of turkey bacon – Original & Lower Sodium. Their turkey bacon is one of the healthiest choices containing 65% less fat than regular pork bacon. The original turkey bacon is made from premium birds and is always naturally flavorful with no nasty MSG or junky fillers.
Butterball’s lower sodium turkey bacon is an even better choice with 40% less sodium than their original turkey bacon. This healthier low sodium version is offered in regular and delicious thin & crispy versions.back to menu ↑
How about beef bacon?
So we’ve talked about pork and turkey bacon but what about beef bacon? Until recently, it has mostly been available in through Halal Butchers but now it’s starting to creep onto the shelves in local grocery stores.
For the purpose of this article, we are referring to uncured beef bacon. This kind of bacon hasn’t gone through the curing process (sitting in brine, water, and sugar for 3 days before being smoked. Because it’s not smoked, the bacon is less sweet and retains more of its natural moisture.
When cooking beef bacon, it can “spit” more than pork bacon as it has more fats and juices. When fried, beef bacon cooks up short and fat instead of long and skinny, and has a very yummy ratio of soft bits to delicious crunchy bits!
The texture is definitely more “meaty” than most forms of pork bacon. It is much better served as the main protein in a dish rather than something you would sit atop a cheeseburger. However, it goes well when used with a lighter protein such as chicken or seafood, and is perfect when added to a BLT.
So next time you are in the mood to try something new, give beef bacon a try…..and don’t forget that it makes awesome drippings which can give boring salads a new lease of life!!!
If you need a recommendation for the best beef bacon available today, try Godshall’s beef bacon which is available at Amazon.
A big thanks for the image bacon-wrapped turkey flickr photo by echoforsberg shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license