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Is Eating Bacon Healthy?

By Melodie Anne

The smell of sizzling bacon first thing in the morning surely makes your mouth water. Although you may crave bacon once in a while, it is far from healthy. Bacon is full of cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium, all of which are devastating to your heart health. But you don’t have to skip bacon altogether -- just make leaner choices.

Heart-Health Concerns

Bacon is high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which in combination have an alarming effect on your blood cholesterol. If your diet is high in cholesterol and saturated fat, your low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol can go up, increasing your risk of heart disease. Limit yourself to no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day, and get no more than 10 percent of your calories from saturated fat, which is 22 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Three slices of cooked bacon, weighing about an ounce total, have more than 25 milligrams of cholesterol and 3.5 grams of saturated fat. That’s nearly 10 percent of your cholesterol allowance and over 15 percent of your saturated fat allowance for the day.

Sodium Details

Eating bacon is further damaging to your heart because of the high amounts of sodium it contains. Lots of sodium in your diet makes you retain water, forcing your heart to pump harder to get blood to circulate. Your blood pressure goes up as a result. You shouldn’t have more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Those three strips of bacon have more than 530 milligrams of sodium, which is about one-fourth of your sodium allotment for the entire day.

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Weight-Gain Considerations

If you’re having trouble keeping your weight in line, bacon is something you shouldn't include in your diet, as it's high in calories as well as fat. Three crispy strips of bacon contain roughly 135 calories, and more than 70 percent of those calories are from fat. You’ll get around 10.5 grams of fat from three bacon strips. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, 20 to 35 percent of your calories should come from fat, or 44 to 78 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet. Consuming three pieces of bacon uses up as much as one-quarter of your daily fat allowance. Over time, the extra calories and excessive fat could be problematic for your waistline.

Leaner Alternatives

Instead of traditional bacon, opt for leaner choices. A thick 1-ounce slice of Canadian bacon, for example, has 45 calories, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, less than 1 gram of saturated fat and 375 milligrams of sodium. Turkey bacon is another option. Three slices of cooked turkey bacon, weighing about an ounce in all, have less than 95 calories, 25 grams of cholesterol and 2 grams of saturated fat. But turkey bacon is also high in sodium. Those three slices have 555 milligrams, so you’ll need to limit how much you eat.

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