Why Is Bacon Bad For Your Heart?

Bacon. That smoky, salty, crispy goodness is practically irresistible. A BLT just wouldn’t be the same without that key B. But as delicious as bacon may be, it’s definitely one of the unhealthier foods out there, especially when it comes to your heart health.

If you’re a bacon lover, you’ve probably heard that it’s not exactly heart-healthy. But why exactly is bacon bad for your heart? What is it about those sizzling strips that make cardiologists advise limiting intake?

In this article we’ll break down all the details on why bacon can be risky for your ticker what makes some types worse than others, and how to enjoy it more safely if you do partake. Let’s dive in!

Why Bacon Is Bad For Your Heart

There are a few key reasons why bacon and other processed meats are linked to heart disease

  • High in saturated fat
  • Contains cholesterol
  • Loaded with sodium
  • Has preservatives like nitrates
  • Can promote inflammation

Let’s explore each one and understand their impact.

High Saturated Fat

One of the main culprits behind bacon’s negative effects is its high saturated fat content. Around 40-50% of the fat in pork bacon is saturated.

Diets high in saturated fats cause LDL “bad” cholesterol levels to rise, which increases your risk of plaque buildup in arteries. This can lead to heart attacks and strokes over time.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 5-6% of total daily calories. Just two slices of bacon can provide that much saturated fat already.

Contains Cholesterol

In addition to bumping up bad cholesterol through saturated fats, bacon contains cholesterol itself – around 23mg per slice.

Dietary cholesterol contributes to high blood cholesterol, which again boosts heart disease risk. The AHA advises keeping daily cholesterol intake under 300mg. Bacon’s cholesterol adds up fast.

High Sodium Content

A single slice of bacon packs around 188mg of sodium – about 8% of the recommended daily limit.

High sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. The more bacon you eat, the more your sodium intake builds up.

Contains Nitrates

Bacon is cured and preserved using nitrates like sodium nitrite. There have been concerns that nitrites could convert to carcinogenic nitrosamines in the body.

More pertinently for heart health, nitrites may also react with cholesterol to form atherosclerosis-causing oxidized LDL particles. These can contribute to plaque in arteries.

Can Promote Inflammation

Several studies indicate processed red meats like bacon may trigger inflammatory pathways in the body. Chronic inflammation is tied to plaque buildup and heart disease progression.

Research Linking Bacon To Heart Disease

Multiple major studies have found associations between frequent bacon intake and poor heart health outcomes:

  • A 2019 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found processed meat consumption was linked to a 15% higher risk of heart disease.

  • The epic 2019 PURE study with over 130,000 participants saw processed meat associated with a 15% increased risk of major cardiovascular events.

  • A 2022 study of over 29,000 people found processed meat intake was tied to a 16% higher risk of atrial fibrillation.

  • Per a 2013 meta-analysis, each 50g serving of processed meat (about 2 slices of bacon) was associated with a 42% increased risk of heart failure.

The more bacon eaten regularly, the more it appears to take a toll on cardiovascular health over the long term. Even just one or two slices per day may contribute to plaque buildup slowly but surely.

How Different Types Of Bacon Impact Heart Health

Not all bacon is created equal when it comes to nutrition and heart effects. Some types are decidedly worse than others.

Regular Grocery Store Bacon

Mass-produced thin sliced bacon you find in the supermarket deli section is generally the least healthy option. It’s cured and smoked using fast modern methods that up the sodium and nitrite content. Streaky supermarket bacon specifically has more fat than other cuts.

Thicker Artisanal Bacon

Thicker sliced premium bacon from butchers or made by artisanal producers tends to be lower sodium and nitrite than regular bacon. It also has a higher meat to fat ratio. So while still high in saturated fat, it’s a marginal improvement over regular thin bacon.

Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon is much leaner than pork bacon, but still has similar amounts of sodium. The leaner protein profile makes it slightly better for cholesterol levels and heart health, but the high salt content is still a concern.

Beef Bacon

Like turkey bacon, beef bacon is very lean. It was about half the saturated fat of pork. However, sodium content remains high, along with risk of processed meat preservatives. So it’s not a total pass for your heart.

In general, any cured and smoked processed meat bacon product, beef, turkey, or pork, will be an unhealthy choice. But turkey or lean beef bacon are less damaging options if you really crave that bacon taste.

Healthier Ways To Eat Bacon

If reading this is making you seriously crave a BLT, don’t despair. There are some less hazardous ways to get your bacon fix without going completely overboard:

  • Use turkey or beef bacon instead of pork occasionally for less saturated fat.

  • Look for lower sodium bacon varieties and brands.

  • Limit yourself to only 1-2 slices max at a time versus a whole stack.

  • Enjoy bacon as a topping or mix-in versus eating piles of it alone.

  • Add more veggies alongside bacon to balance with heart-healthy fiber and nutrients.

  • Opt for bacon only once a week or less, versus an everyday indulgence.

  • For sandwiches, salads, etc choose leaner proteins like chicken, shrimp or beans as your base instead of piles of bacon.

It’s all about moderation and balance. Having the occasional few pieces of minimally-processed bacon as part of an otherwise clean diet is less likely to impact your heart health than gorging daily on bacon, burgers and fries.

Healthy Bacon Alternatives

If you want to keep enjoying bacon-y flavors while steering clear of the cardiac risks, these tasty alternatives may satisfy your cravings:

  • Coconut bacon – This is made from thinly sliced coconut flakes flavored with maple syrup, smoked paprika and liquid smoke. The crunch mimics crispy pork bacon.

  • Shiitake mushroom bacon – Sliced shiitake mushrooms marinated in smoked paprika, maple and soy taste uncannily like bacon when baked.

  • Tempeh bacon – Thin strips of fermented soy tempeh can be marinated in smoked paprika, maple and coconut aminos for a bacon flavor.

  • Eggplant bacon – Slices of eggplant coated in smoked paprika, olive oil and maple syrup make a smoky, crispy veggie “bacon.”

  • Turkey or beef jerky – Look for low-sodium options close to bacon’s salty, savory flavor.

So next time a bacon craving strikes, give one of these heart-healthier, plant-based versions a try instead of diving straight for the real thing. Your ticker will thank you.

The Takeaway On Bacon And Heart Health

Moderation is key when it comes to enjoying occasional bacon without sabotaging your heart health. The frequency and portion size are more important than having it sparingly.

Prioritize an overall diet focused on lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and veggies. Then if a special breakfast or burger calls for bacon, a slice or two won’t derail your goals. Just don’t make it an everyday habit.

For the sake of your heart and health, it’s wise to set some bacon boundaries for yourself. But practicing balance means you don’t necessarily have to say goodbye to bacon completely.

Does this mean you should start stockpiling bacon as your go-to protein staple? Probably not. But the right portions here and there likely won’t doom your heart by themselves. Just be mindful of all the sodium, saturated fat and nitrates that can accumulate.

At the end of the day, your total dietary pattern matters more than any single food. Make most of your meals full of antioxidant, fiber-rich whole foods. Then when a special occasion calls for it, you can nibble on a couple pieces of bacon mindfully. Just don’t go whole hog!

What’s So Bad about BACON? (Truth about Bacon Safety) 2024


Does bacon clog arteries?

One average 10-g slice of cooked bacon contains 4.5 g of fat and 205 mg of sodium. More than two-thirds—68%—of the calories in bacon come from fat, almost half of which is artery-clogging saturated fat. But bacon isn’t bad only for your heart.

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.

Why is bacon the unhealthiest food?

The World Health Organization has classified bacon as a Group 1 carcinogen, which means it’s known to cause cancer. One of the biggest risks of bacon is associated with two preservatives, nitrates and nitrites, that can form cancer-causing compounds.

Is Bacon bad for Your Heart?

Processed red meats—including bacon—have been found to have potentially negative effects on heart health when consumed on a regular basis. According to a study published in Circulation, the regular consumption of these meats is specifically associated with a 42% increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 19% increased risk of diabetes.

Can one eat bacon with diverticulosis?

You can eat bacon with diverticulosis, but it is not the most recommended. In a person with diverticulosis, it is recommended to consume foods with soluble fiber such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.

What happens if you eat bacon?

“The saturated and trans fats in bacon can also lead to arterial plaque buildup, further narrowing blood vessels and potentially worsening hypertension,” adds Best. Your risk for cancer may increase. Bacon is a type of processed meat, so your risk for cancer may increase.

Can you eat bacon if you have a heart attack?

You can still have these things if you mostly eat heart-healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. More than half of bacon’s calories come from saturated fat, which can raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, and boost your chance of a heart attack or stroke.

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