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Bacon 101: All bacon is not created equal

So many fit-looking people running around the school who eat bacon, right? Like, every morning for breakfast, they say!

These same people might have even tried to tell you that bacon is healthy. After all, pork is Paleo, and therefore healthy, right? And animal fat is good, and fat doesn’t make you fat…

But bacon? Healthy? Hard to wrap your head around the first time you heard it, and your first instinct was probably to become skeptical of this assertion.

The truth is, bacon isn’t a health food, per se. That doesn’t mean you can't eat it. It just means you probably shouldn’t have 12 strips of bacon a day and it’s important to take the time to source the healthiest bacon you can find.

Let’s start at your local grocery store: Chances are, these mass-produced vacuum-packed bacon packages for $4.99 a pound aren’t your best bet. More often than not, grocery store bacon has been produced from big factory-farmed pigs and is full of artificial ingredients and preservatives, sometimes even pumped with sugar or corn syrup. To be sure, check out the ingredients list and if there are ingredients you can’t pronounce, avoid this bacon!

Traditional bacon is best. It starts with pork belly. Then salt and spices are added, and then curing salt. Other times, it is smoked. It should only have three ingredients: Pork, water, salt. And ideally it’s from pasture-raised pigs. Locally-sourced from a butcher is best. Yes, you will spend more money but it’s worth it and usually tastes better, too.

Suggestions: Windsor meat, as well as Two River meats, have some of the tastiest and allegedly healthiest bacon I've had in Vancouver.

Of if you’re a super keener, check out Robb Wolf’s recipe for making homemade bacon here. I haven’t tried it, but apparently it’s the best tasting bacon you’ll ever eat!

What about nitrates and nitrites?

Nitrates have a bad reputation, but…. the verdict is still out on this one!

First of all, what are nitrates?

Nitrates are chemical compounds in foods, and are also contained in some salts.

The reason for their bad reputation is because nitrates are known carcinogens. Or at least when we digest nitrates, micro-organisms in our food and our digestive systems convert nitrates into nitrites, and it’s the nitrites that are cancer-causing.

But the truth is, we consume nitrates every day, not just in cured meat, but in our vegetables. (Although vegetables have nitrates in them, they also have antioxidants that help prevent nitrates from being converted into nitrites when we eat them. This is also why the USDA requires bacon producers to add antioxidants like Vitamin C and E to the bacon—to inhibit the conversion of nitrates into nitrites).

Back to bacon: Apparently even when bacon says it’s nitrate-free, there can still be nitrates present. It likely just means no additional nitrates have been added, but nitrates are still there regardless of the label.

Before you start fearing inevitable nitrates too much, take note, folks: It takes a LOT of sodium nitrate for it to be harmful to your health. Like you’d need to eat 18 lb. of bacon at once to be harmed! Unlikely for most people, I would say.

So when it comes to nitrates and nitrates, you decide. If you’re interested in reading more before you make your decision, check out these two websites:

Bacon in moderation and eggs anyone?