Kurt G. Harris MD

The PāNu approach to paleolithic nutrition is derived from clinical medicine and basic sciences disciplined by knowledge of evolutionary biology and paleoanthropology. The best evidence from multiple disciplines supports eating an animal-based diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates and cereal grains.

Support PāNu
PāNu is ad-free, completely independent and has no outside sponsorship. If you value PāNu, now you can support it. Read this for more information.

PāNu Forum > Bacon - processed food?

It seems like bacon is one of the paleo/PaNu perennial favorites from reading the comments on this blog as well as many others. My question is whether it is really healthy. I'm not talking about saturated fat or total fat or any of that nonsense but rather the processing that is involved along with added nitrites and nitrates as well as other additives. I suppose this would apply as well to deli meats, sausage, salami, etc. as they are most often processed with various additives. I love bacon but tend toward a pork chop instead because it has no additives and is uncured. What say ye...?

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBAbernathy

You can buy naturally cured bacon that has been naturally preserved without sodium nitrite and also free range bacon that has been naturally cured So It depends on the provenance of the pig

I was lucky enough and feeling rich enough the other day to try Iberico Bellota Ham, This is like over 130dollars a kilo The pigs are truly free range for the last three months of their life and they eat acorns and woodland grubs and stuff like and the fat and meat is out of this world £ 79.90 a kilo because Im in the UK

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRohen Kapur

I buy uncured bacon from Whole Foods... well it's cured with celery salt... not sodium nitrate.

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArthur

Celery salt works as a preservative because it contains sodium nitrate. In fact most people get way more sodium nitrate from vegetables than they do from cured meats, because many vegetables are chock full of sodium nitrate.

When you eat nitrates, they interact with your saliva and become nitrites. Again, ubiquitous to the human experience. The trouble begins when you take nitrites and put them in a food and then cook it. Now you have a compound which could be carcinogenic.

I found a few studies with massive samples (400k+) showing that people who ate more cured meat got cancer more often than those who didn't. The kicker was that the incidence of cancer in both groups was tiny. A few thousand out of all 400k. So to call the meat a significant factor in developing cancer doesn't make much sense - why didn't everyone else get cancer too?

Once you remove the metabolic wrecking balls from your diet, you probably don't have to worry so much about heat damaged nitrites or whatever, even if you're eating more bacon than you used to. If you want to play it safe get uncured bacon and eat everything raw.

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpfw

Oh and just to drive home the point, nitrates and nitrites occur naturally in drinking water; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18686719

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpfw

There is also usually sugar in bacon, often the second ingredient. Just something to consider. I personally would not make bacon an everyday staple of my diet. I buy uncured bacon from the farmers market and salt it myself, eating it on the weekend.
Same for sausage and other processed meats, they are usually full of sugar and preservatives and therefore IMOP not a good staple food. In Europe, it may be a different story, if I was in Italy, Spain etc. I'd be devouring all manner of locally made ham and sausages.
@Rohen Kapur- how wonderful for you!! I have always wanted to try Iberico ham, it's the first thing I plan to do if I ever make it to Spain!

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

It was truly delicious But at $14 per hundred grams not something I can do every month

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRohen Kapur

I don't worry about the nitrites in bacon. I haven't been buying it lately because I'm strictly eliminating all sugar for another week or so, but eventually I will resume eating bacon and I'm not going to worry about the trace amounts of sugar it contains. Most bacon has 0g per serving; I mean, why worry? There's probably more sugar in an onion than in a package of bacon.

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel

@ Nathaniel- I have never actually looked at the grams of sugar per serving on a bacon package, I guess if it has 0 grams, that is indeed a very trace amount and probably nothing to worry about! However, I recently bought some sausage that I didn't notice listed dextrose as the second ingredient and it tasted so sweet I couldn't even enjoy it, my taste buds don't really like sugar anymore and it was quite cloying. Every product will vary I suppose.

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

Yes, sausages you really have to read carefully! I've seen some sausages that contain 4 or 5 grams of sugar per link! Most are much less, but you should always read the label.

Conventional hot dogs are typically loaded with corn syrup, as well.

I've never seen bacon with that much sugar, although if it is maple-flavored or something you might want to read carefully.

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel

What about the n6 content/n6 vs n3 ratio of bacon? I buy Niman Ranch bacon and salami occasionally, but have been wondering about this... nitrates aside, aren't most (all?) pigs fed loads of corn just like chickens?

March 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersandra

Lard has a relatively decent n-6/n-3 ratio.


Much better than chicken fat, but inferior to beef tallow, butter, and obviously fish oil.

March 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel

You can buy sugar free bacon.

March 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristina