Does Bacon Clog Your Arteries? Examining the Impact of Bacon on Heart Health

Crispy, savory bacon is a beloved breakfast food for many people. But over the years, there have been concerning health claims made about bacon and its impact on heart health. Specifically, some have claimed that eating bacon can clog your arteries over time and increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.

But is this actually true? Does consuming bacon really lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries? Let’s examine the science behind this claim and understand bacon’s effects on heart health,

What Happens When Arteries Clog?

Before looking at bacon specifically, it’s helpful to understand what arterial clogging looks like in the body.

Over time, a sticky substance called plaque can build up inside the arteries This plaque is made up of cholesterol, fatty molecules, calcium and other substances found in the blood.

As more plaque accumulates in the arteries, it causes thickening and stiffness of the artery walls. This process is known as atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the heart and other organs. If an artery becomes completely blocked, it can lead to serious cardiovascular issues like heart attack or stroke.

While genetics and age can contribute to atherosclerosis, lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and smoking play a major role. Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol are often implicated in the process of arterial clogging. So what does this mean for bacon?

Does Bacon Contain Artery-Clogging Substances?

Bacon does tend to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, two components associated with atherosclerosis development when consumed in excess.

Here is the nutrition breakdown for a typical serving of pan-fried bacon (3 ounces or about 3-4 medium strips):

  • Calories: 219
  • Total Fat: 18 g
    • Saturated Fat: 6 g
  • Cholesterol: 69 mg
  • Sodium: 1021 mg

As you can see, just a few pieces of bacon supply a significant amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in one serving. The World Health Organization recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total daily calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s just 22 grams of saturated fat per day.

Bacon is also very high in sodium, which can increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system over time.

Does the Nitrate Content in Bacon Impact Arteries?

In addition to saturated fat and cholesterol, another potential concern with bacon is its nitrate content. Many processed meats like bacon are cured or preserved using sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite.

When consumed, nitrates can convert into compounds called nitrosamines in the body. Some types of nitrosamines have been linked to increased cancer risk. There are theories these compounds may also promote inflammation in blood vessels over time, which can exacerbate atherosclerosis.

However, the evidence on processed meats and heart health has been mixed. Some studies show an association, while others show little conclusive impact. More research is still needed specifically on nitrates to understand if they directly damage arteries or contribute significantly to clogging.

AHA Guidelines on Processed Meat for Heart Health

The American Heart Association provides guidelines on processed meat intake for optimal heart health. Their recommendations are:

  • Limit processed meat to no more than 2 servings per week.
  • Choose leaner, lower sodium options whenever possible.
  • Opt for turkey, chicken or vegetarian processed meat alternatives over red meat like pork or beef.

They also advise selecting uncured/nitrate-free varieties when you do indulge, cooking at lower temperatures to reduce harmful compounds formed, and incorporating plenty of vegetables alongside for balance.

Other Foods That Can Clog Arteries

While bacon may have concerning components for heart health, it is far from the only food that could contribute to atherosclerosis when eaten in excess. Some other foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol include:

  • Fatty red meat like steak or lamb
  • Full-fat dairy products like cheese, butter, or ice cream
  • Fried foods like french fries, chicken fingers, or donuts
  • Certain oils like palm oil or coconut oil
  • Packaged snacks like chips, cookies, or pastries
  • Some fast food like pizza, burgers, and hot dogs

Again, moderation and a balanced diet approach are key. Completely eliminating foods you enjoy is unlikely to be sustainable long term for most people.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Bacon Occasionally

Instead of avoiding bacon entirely if you are concerned about heart health, try these tips:

  • Choose turkey bacon or beef bacon over pork
  • Look for uncured or nitrate-free bacon options
  • Eat just 1-2 slices at a time, as a side to eggs or in a sandwich
  • Avoid eating bacon every day – make it an occasional treat
  • Bake or grill bacon instead of pan-frying to reduce harmful compounds
  • Drain bacon slices on a paper towel to remove excess grease
  • Add vegetables like spinach or Brussels sprouts when cooking bacon
  • Opt for a bacon-flavored seasoning over real bacon bits on foods

Practicing moderation and balance, and paying attention to serving size and cooking methods can allow you to incorporate bacon reasonably into an overall heart-healthy diet.

Other Lifestyle Factors Are More Important for Artery Health

While limiting processed meats is wise for heart health, other lifestyle factors play an even bigger role in reducing atherosclerosis risk and preventing arteries from clogging.

Here are some of the most powerful ways to keep your arteries clear and blood flowing:

  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day
  • Maintain a lean body weight
  • Monitor cholesterol levels and treat high cholesterol if needed
  • Manage blood pressure and take medications as prescribed
  • Control diabetes and prediabetes through diet and medication
  • Reduce stress and practice relaxation techniques
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and anti-oxidants
  • Avoid binge drinking and limit alcohol moderation

Focusing on the big picture activities above can go a long way towards reducing plaque buildup and preventing atherosclerosis, even if you indulge in bacon reasonably from time to time.

The Bottom Line

Does bacon clog your arteries? While the cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium in bacon could negatively impact heart health when consumed in excess, eating the occasional serving of bacon as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to directly clog healthy arteries on its own for most people.

Practicing moderation, choosing healthier preparations like baking instead of frying, and pairing bacon with vegetables and other heart-smart foods can allow you to enjoy this salty, savory food without major concern regarding arteries and blood flow.

However, those with existing high cholesterol levels, heart disease, or other cardiovascular risk factors may need to monitor bacon intake more diligently. As always, speak to your doctor about how bacon and other processed meats may fit into your personal heart-healthy diet recommendations.

What If You Eat BACON Every Day For 30 Days?


What is the most artery clogging food?

Triglycerides are a type of fat that can build up in arteries. Among foods that contribute to clogged arteries are: Butter, ghee, suet, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil4. Fatty cuts of red meat5.

Does bacon cause plaque?

Besides being high in sodium, bacon is also high in saturated fat and sometimes trans fat. “The saturated and trans fats in bacon can also cause arterial plaque buildup, further narrowing blood vessels and exacerbating high blood pressure,” Best added.

What is the #1 worst habit for your heart?

Smoking is one of the most harmful things people can do to themselves,” Dr. Maniar says. Blood flow drops, slashing oxygen that fuels the heart, which compensates by spiking blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, and can lead to hardened and narrowed arteries and blood clots causing cardiovascular disease.

How unhealthy is bacon?

Bacon has lots of sodium, cholesterol, and fat, all of which can increase your risk of heart disease. But bacon does have other nutrients, like protein, vitamins, and minerals. Just keep in mind that if you eat bacon, it’s best to do so occasionally and in small amounts.

Can Bacon cause blocked arteries?

Dr. Mitchell says, ” Bacon has been beloved for its unique and delicious taste for centuries, but few people realize the health risks that can accompany over-indulging in bacon. Bacon may have such a high-fat content that it can lead to blocked arteries.

What foods should one eat to reduce plaque and increase opening of arteries?

Mainly foods rich in HDL (good cholesterol) that play the role of cleaning the arteries, such as avocado, olive oil, oilseeds and seafood. Foods rich in vitamin K are also important as it helps prevent hardening and blockage of the arteries, the best sources are dark leafy greens, nuts, kiwi, avocado, grapes, plums and figs. In addition, it is important to consume enough antioxidants, which are present in fruits and vegetables.

Why is Bacon bad for You?

Bacon may have such a high-fat content that it can lead to blocked arteries. High saturated fat levels promote inflammation which can cause dehydration of skin cells and contribute to atherosclerosis, which is the gradual narrowing of blood vessels leading to heart attack or stroke.

What foods clog arteries?

Read More: The Effect of Diet on the Circulatory System Foods that clog arteries are typically high in saturated fats and cholesterol. They may also contain a lot of sugar and simple carbohydrates, like white bread. Usually, it’s not just one type of food but the combination that negatively affects artery and heart health.

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