Saturday, November 30, 2013

What's wrong with Bacon?

Several days ago one of my friends posted on Facebook the benefits of eating bacon.  Let's all agree that stats can be made to say just about anything.  Of course there are benefits to just about any food; unfortunately there are also disadvantages.

Proponents of bacon declare that its high in protein, contains lots of vitamins, and can actually benefit your heart.

Let's start with protein
This vital nutrient is found almost everywhere.  Most of us consume more protein than we need and many should actually cut back.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says, while protein is essential, it should make up no more than 10% to 35% of your daily calories.   "The average American consumes about double the recommended amount of protein.  People need to know this and not go overboard", says Jim White of the Academy.

Bacon contains lots of vitamins
Phosphorus, Sodium, and Selenium are the three major vitamins provided in bacon.  There are also trace amounts of others such as Magnesium, Calcium, and Zinc.

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient required for proper cell functioning, regulation of calcium, and for creating energy for our cells.  It is found in almost every food.  Deficiency is rare among Americans.  Conversely, too much phosphorous causes the body to send calcium from the bones to the blood which weakens bone mass.  Just three strips of bacon contain 12% of your dietary need for phosphorus.  In comparision, breakfast cereal has over 112%, candy bars have 70%, bread can have 50% of more..and the list goes on.

I believe this particular nutrient has been beat to death.  The simple fact sodium was actually used as a vitamin shows how flawed pro-bacon studies can be.  Nine out of 10 people ages 2 and older in the United States consume more than the recommended amount of sodium each day, says the Center for Disease Control.  Three slices of bacon is almost 25% of your entire daily need!

Being an essential trace mineral, your body must get this through the food you eat.  Small amounts of selenium are good for your health.  Its primary purpose is to aid in preventing cellular damage and work with the immune system to protect you after a vaccination.  The very best source of selenium are in plant foods, such as vegetables.  Meats are also high in selenium.  As with phosphorus, it is found in almost every food.

Can Bacon Benefit your Heart?
Proponents of bacon mention that because bacon contains Omega-3 fatty acids which have been linked to a healthier heart.  That's partially true.  Unfortunately, the bacon industry leaves out the evil Omega 6 which is the real killer if the ratio between Omega 3 and Omega 6 are high.

In a perfect world a 1 to 1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 would be beneficial.  High ratios (say, 10:1) combined with saturated fat have proven to cause all sorts of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.   The ratio in Western diets averages 15:1.  Bacon has a 22:1 ratio!

My Conclusion
What few benefits contained in bacon can be easily found in most of the foods we eat.  There is no beneficial reason to eat it and the high omega 3 to omega 6 ratios when combined with saturated fats  are actually harming our bodies.

Bacon, like many animal products, should be consumed in extreme moderation.  It is NOT healthy, and should be treated as such.

At breakfast, try a cup of fresh fruit as an alternative.  Fruit such as strawberries have close to a 1:1 ratio promoting healthy hearts and lowering overall pH in your blood.