Turkey Bacon: How Healthy Is It Really?

As with traditional pork bacon, eat it sparingly

Turkey Bacon: How Healthy Is It Really?

Some calorie- and fat-conscious eaters choose turkey bacon as a healthy alternative to the pork variety that traditionally graces breakfast tables. But, this substitute is still high in saturated fat and sodium and doesn’t carry as many health benefits as many believe.

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In fact, opting for turkey bacon as the “healthier” choice can have a negative impact on your health.

Believing it’s the better option, you may eat too much. I tell my patients to limit bacon products – including turkey bacon – to less than one serving per week in their diet.

Pork bacon comes from the belly of a pig. Turkey bacon is dark and light meat turkey seasoned like bacon and pressed into bacon form.

As with bacon made from pork, turkey bacon is high in saturated fat and sodium – two substances that put you at greater risk for developing heart disease. And the similarities don’t stop there.

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Pork vs. turkey: Bacon by the numbers

Protein: Each 2-ounce serving of pork or turkey bacon has roughly the same amount of protein. Pork bacon offers 20 grams per serving. Turkey bacon provides 17 grams.

Calories: Turkey bacon contains fewer calories than pork bacon, but the difference per 2-ounce serving is small – 218 vs. 268 calories.

Fat: The overall fat content in turkey bacon is significantly lower than pork bacon – 14 grams vs. 22 grams. The level of saturated fat is still high, however, with 4 grams vs. 8 grams, respectively. High saturated fat content contributes to heart disease.

Sodium: If you don’t select reduced-sodium bacon, just a few slices can max out your daily recommended intake of salt – less than 1,500 milligrams according to the American Heart Association. Two ounces of turkey bacon has more than 1,900 milligrams of sodium. The same amount of pork bacon contains roughly 1,300 milligrams. In addition to increasing your risk of heart disease, high sodium intake raises the likelihood of kidney stones.

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Vitamins: Turkey and pork bacon both provide vitamin B complex nutrients, but pork bacon offers more. Pork also contains more selenium, a mineral that activates certain proteins associated with preventing cancer. Turkey and pork bacon contain roughly the same amount of zinc, which helps control gene activity.

Choose the best turkey bacon

If you choose turkey bacon, follow these tips for the healthiest outcome:

  • Select reduced-sodium varieties.
  • Don’t add salt during the cooking process.
  • Use an indoor grill that allows fat to drip off (don’t pan-fry).
  • Don’t add oil or butter during cooking.
  • Drain cooked bacon on a paper towel to absorb excess grease.

With any food that claims to be healthier, it’s important to be armed with the facts. Portions are always an important consideration as well as the nutritional details.

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Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD

Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and Outpatient Nutrition Manager in the Center for Human Nutrition.
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