A Quick Guide to Bacon

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Recently by Mark Sisson: How to Cook the Perfect Steak

Thin, thick, smoky, salty, hearty, meaty, maple, chewy or crispy. Different strokes, as they say. Nonetheless, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone — especially a Primal type — who doesn’t sing bacon’s praises. (Too bad so many CW followers eschew this fine delicacy.) Nonetheless, I wanted to address some questions dangling out there in the MDA comments and forum. Is bacon an indulgence or an acceptable stock ingredient in Primal eating? Do we need to shell out for nitrite-free? What about organic? Is there really such a thing as grass-fed pork?

A couple of weeks ago in the How Much Is Too Much post, I joked that there was no such thing as too much bacon. As much as I love my pork belly, I should clarify that the comment was tongue-in-cheek. Most folks got the jest, but it’s worth highlighting. When it comes to bacon, the fat is delectable. The protein is functional. The taste — phenomenal. The salt, however, (as a number of you pointed out) can be the problem. Although brands vary significantly, bacon generally averages around 1000 mg of sodium per 3.5 oz. serving. As I mentioned last week, I think reining in the sodium intake is a worthwhile endeavor.

Depending on your size, blood pressure and physical tolerance, I recommend staying somewhere below or within the 1500—2300 upper limit range. A Primal diet naturally nixes the obscene majority of sodium sources: soda, processed foods, etc. Unless you’re liberal with the salt shaker or indulge an addiction to sea vegetables each day, I think there’s room for bacon on a fairly regular basis. Personally, I often eat a few strips with an omelet in the morning, but just as often I use it as a garnish — a dash of bacon pieces in a salad, or in a scallop dish, for example.

Now for nitrites. We’ve admittedly hedged our bets on these additives in the past, but I’ll agree that shelling out for “naturally cured” bacon (or other cured products) isn’t worth the extra cost. Some folks like the taste or simply trust the use of ingredients like celery salt (which contains its own nitrates from the celery) more than a conventional product. Others buy nitrite free because the bacon tends to contain fewer additives in general or because they want to support local or organic farmers and nitrite-free is what they offer. Nonetheless, it appears to be of little consequence.

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