Bacon is perhaps the best-loved and most-versatile of breakfast meats. No longer just a morning staple, it’s become trendy as an ingredient in appetizers, desserts and even cocktails. But however you consume your bacon, it comes with a downside.
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Cardiologist Dennis Bruemmer, MD, PhD, explains why your favorite crispy treat can pose some issues if you’re not careful.
“Any animal product is probably going to be high in cholesterol content,” Dr. Bruemmer says. “That goes from beef to pork to bacon.”
And part of the problem is the portion size when we eat breakfast. While a single slice of bacon may not seem overwhelming in terms of the amount of pure cholesterol, few of us limit ourselves to just one slice.
“Typically, it’s five or six slices of bacon,” Dr. Bruemmer says, “and then you add in a few eggs which also have a lot of pure cholesterol and that adds up.” The amount gets even taller if you pile on carbohydrates like biscuits.
“Bacon tastes fantastic but it’s high in salt and it’ll drive up your blood pressure,” he adds. “It’s high in fat and will elevate your cholesterol if it’s consumed frequently. And both of those lead to heart problems.”
Knowing how much cholesterol you’re taking in when eating bacon is sometimes a bit tricky due to variables like how much fat is on each slice and how thick each slice is, notes dietician Julie Zumpano.
But using the USDA nutrition database as a guide, it counts a serving of 2 slices as about 15 grams of bacon which averages around 90 calories, 10-15 mg of cholesterol and about 7 grams of fat.
Again, those numbers might be a bit higher or lower depending on your cut of meat but these amounts are a decent indicator.
Turkey bacon might seem like a healthier alternative and one that’s gotten a bit more popular in recent years. But it’s a matter of degrees as Dr. Bruemmer points out.
“Turkey is white meat and has less cholesterol, probably about 20% less cholesterol than regular pork bacon,” he says. “But if it’s 20% less, it’s still 80% more cholesterol than if you weren’t to consume it.”
“If patients have coronary artery disease and are concerned about their caloric intake and their diet, I think switching from pork bacon to turkey bacon is cheating on yourself,” Dr. Bruemmer adds. “You’re still consuming high salt amounts and fat that isn’t needed.”
He says he encourages a change to a Mediterranean Diet, instead, that’s more fruit- and vegetable-based and lighter on the high salt, high fat animal products.