Bacon bits are a popular topping for salads, baked potatoes, and even omelets. They add a smoky flavor and a satisfying crunch to any dish. But are they really a healthy choice?
With so many brands and types of bacon bits available, it can be hard to know what you’re really getting. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the nutritional value of bacon bits and explore whether they’re a good choice for your diet.
From highly processed imitation bacon bits to homemade versions made with real bacon, we’ll cover it all. So, let’s dive in and find out: are bacon bits bad for you?
Are Bacon Bits Bad For You?
The short answer is yes, bacon bits are not the healthiest choice of food. They are high in sodium, fat, and calories, which make them an unhealthy snack. Additionally, they are a processed food, so they lack the nutrient density of other, healthier food options.
One tablespoon of artificial bacon bits contains 33 calories and a huge amount of sodium. Regularly consuming them can lead to overconsumption of calories and fat, which can negatively impact your health. Moreover, many store-bought bacon bits contain highly processed ingredients that can be harmful to your body.
For instance, some brands’ bacon bits actually have no meat at all. Instead, they are made with soy products, artificial ingredients, and coloring. These highly processed imitation bacon bits are full of preservatives and aren’t a good source of vitamins, minerals, protein, or healthy fats. While they may taste good in small amounts, it’s best not to go overboard.
Even the brands that claim to use “real” bacon often contain harmful ingredients like sodium nitrate and artificial hickory smoke flavoring. These chemicals are commonly used in the production of fertilizers, explosives, and high-strength glass. Consuming them regularly can lead to headaches and fatigue in people who are sensitive to the preservatives.
What Are Bacon Bits Made Of?
Bacon bits are small pieces of bacon that have been chopped up and processed into a convenient, shelf-stable form. However, not all bacon bits are created equal. Some brands use real bacon, while others use soy products and artificial ingredients to mimic the flavor and texture of bacon.
Hormel Real Bacon Bits are made with “real” bacon that has been cured with water, salt, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrite. While these ingredients are FDA-approved, they are also preservatives that can cause headaches and fatigue in sensitive individuals. Hormel’s bacon bits may also contain smoke flavoring, sugar, dextrose, brown sugar, sodium phosphate, and potassium chloride.
McCormick Bac’n Pieces, on the other hand, do not contain any bacon at all. Instead, they are made from textured soy flour mixed with canola oil and salt for texture and seasoning. The “bac’n” is dyed with caramel color and red 40 dye, both of which can contain dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury. Other ingredients in McCormick’s “bac’n” include maltodextrin, lactic acid, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, and yeast extract.
Other brands of bacon bits may contain honey or real meat flavoring that make them non-vegan. It’s important to read the ingredients list carefully to determine what type of bacon bits you’re dealing with.
Nutritional Value Of Bacon Bits
When it comes to the nutritional value of bacon bits, one 7-gram serving contains 33 calories, 1.8 grams of fat, 2.2 grams of protein, and 2 grams of carbohydrates. However, it’s important to note that this serving size is quite small, and it’s easy to consume more than one serving at a time. Additionally, the carbohydrates in bacon bits are mostly complex carbohydrates, with only 0.7 grams of dietary fiber and 0 grams of sugar.
Bacon bits also contain a moderate amount of calcium and potassium, but they are not a significant source of vitamins A, C, or D. They do contain a small amount of iron, but again, this is not a significant source of this nutrient.
It’s worth mentioning that bacon bits are not a healthy source of fat. While they do contain some protein, the fat in bacon bits is mostly saturated fat. Saturated fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health problems when consumed in excess.
Health Concerns With Bacon Bits
Bacon bits are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which are not as harmful as previously believed. However, consuming high amounts of saturated fat can increase certain risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, diets high in processed meats like bacon bits have been linked to chronic health conditions including migraines, asthma, heart failure, kidney disease, and several types of cancer.
Bacon bits are also often treated with nitrates or nitrites – chemicals added to preserve shelf life and enhance color. These chemicals have been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Even bacon bits labeled as “uncured” or “no nitrate or nitrite added” can still contain high levels of these potentially harmful chemicals.
Moreover, many store-bought bacon bits contain a high amount of sodium. Consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
Alternatives To Bacon Bits
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to bacon bits, there are plenty of options available. Here are some alternatives to consider:
1. Coconut Bacon: This vegan alternative is made by baking coconut flakes with a mixture of spices and liquid smoke. It’s crispy, savory, and has a smoky flavor that’s similar to bacon.
2. Tempeh Bacon: Tempeh is a fermented soy product that has a nutty flavor and a firm texture. When sliced thin and cooked with spices, it can be a great substitute for bacon bits.
3. Eggplant Bacon: Thinly sliced eggplant can be seasoned and baked to create a crispy, smoky bacon alternative that’s low in calories and high in fiber.
4. Mushroom Bacon: Thinly sliced mushrooms can be seasoned and baked to create a crispy, savory bacon alternative that’s low in calories and high in antioxidants.
5. Seitan Bacon: Seitan is a wheat-based protein that can be flavored with liquid smoke and spices to create a savory bacon substitute.
6. Tofu Bacon: Tofu can be sliced thin and marinated in a mixture of liquid smoke, soy sauce, and spices to create a smoky bacon flavor.
7. Nutritional Yeast: Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty flavor that can add depth to salads, soups, and other dishes. It’s also high in protein and B vitamins.
By choosing one of these alternatives instead of bacon bits, you can enjoy the same smoky flavor without the negative health effects. So next time you’re looking for a topping for your salad or baked potato, consider one of these healthier options instead.
Homemade Bacon Bits Recipe
If you’re looking for a healthier and more natural alternative to store-bought bacon bits, consider making your own at home. This way, you can control the quality of the ingredients and avoid any harmful chemicals or additives.
To make homemade bacon bits, start by partially freezing your bacon so that it’s easier to slice. Use a sharp knife to cut the bacon into thin strips about 1/4 inch wide. Then, turn the bacon and cut the strips into pieces that are also about 1/4 inch wide.
Sprinkle the bacon bits with pepper and fry them over medium-high heat until they are crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan and drain them on paper towels. You can also freeze the bacon bits for later use by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freezing them before transferring them to a ziplock bag.
Alternatively, you can bake your homemade bacon bits in the oven for a healthier option. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread out your bacon lardons in a single layer on the sheet and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until they are crispy enough for your liking. Remove from the oven and drain excess oil on a plate lined with a kitchen towel.
By making your own bacon bits at home, you can enjoy their savory flavor without worrying about consuming harmful additives or preservatives. Just remember to enjoy them in moderation as they are still high in calories and fat.
Conclusion: Should You Eat Bacon Bits?
Based on the information above, it’s clear that consuming bacon bits regularly is not the best choice for your health. While they may add flavor to your dishes, they are high in sodium, calories, and fat. Additionally, many brands of bacon bits contain harmful chemicals and are highly processed.
However, if you really enjoy the taste of bacon bits, there are healthier alternatives available. For example, you can make your own vegan bacon bits using TVP, smoked paprika, and maple syrup. This will give you the smoky flavor you crave without all the unhealthy additives.