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Bacon! Wonderful Bacon!

I confess! I am a bacon eater. Bacon is my second favorite meat behind lamb. However, for dietary reasons I restrict my bacon intake to 2 - 3 servings a month. Bacon has become a super popular food item in modern times with websites, blogs, a Wikipedia website, t-shirts and a wide range of consumer products all lauding the popularity of bacon. It is served up in bacon burgers, bacon wrapped chicken, the very popular BLT, bacon salad dressing, bacon melted cheese and many other variations and recipes. There is even bacon ice-cream.

Bacon Ice Cream. Yummy!

There is a common misunderstanding on the origins of bacon. People assume bacon is an American invention, but bacon was being produced in various forms around the world thousands of years ago. The documented history of bacon goes back to 1500 B.C. The Chinese were curing pork bellies with salt, creating an early form of bacon at that time even though there is evidence pigs were domesticated in China in 4900 B.C. Pigs were also being raised in Europe by 1500, B.C. Romans ate a type of bacon they called petaso, which was essentially domesticated pig meat boiled with figs, then browned and seasoned with pepper sauce.

Bacon or "bacoun" is an English term going back to early England and used to refer to all pork in general. The word derives from various Germanic and French dialects in the Middle Ages with origins in the old French word bako, the High German word bakko and also the Teutonic word backe, all of which refer to the back of a pig. Two breeds of pig, the Yorkshire and Tamworth are raised particularly for bacon.

John Harris, an Englishman, is credited with being the forefather of bacon on an industrial scale. He opened his company in Wiltshire, England which is still considered the bacon capital of the world. The largest pork-producing nation is China, clocking in at 51.6 million metric tons, according to the USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service.

There are opponents of bacon and there are proponents of bacon. Opponents claim research indicates eating foods with high levels of saturated fat can lead to a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. The amount of saturated fat in bacon explains why with one ounce of bacon containing 30 milligrams of cholesterol.

A study done by researchers at the University of Zurich found an association between processed meat and higher risks of dying from heart disease or cancer. Processed meat contains preservatives that, when absorbed by the human body, convert into N-nitroso, a compound that could cause cancer. Another study conducted by Columbia University found a direct link between consuming cured meats and developing chronic pulmonary disease.

Other bad news for bacons lovers; bacon has a lot of sodium. Too much sodium puts you at risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. One slice of bacon has about 190 milligrams of sodium. According to a recent study, it is recommended the average person intake 2,300 milligrams of sodium every day. Eat four to five slices of bacon a day and you're already approached half that amount.

Bacon and Green Beans

Is there a good side to bacon? Actually, there are a few. One these benefits is that bacon has a high protein to fat ratio making it a good source of animal protein. A serving of bacon contains fat of which half is saturated fat. The other half of the fat content is unsaturated and contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which do have health benefits.

According to some reports, bacon has healthy nutrients that make it a useful part of a healthy diet. Bacon contains thiamin, vitamin B12, zinc and selenium, that are all vital nutrients the body does not naturally produce.

The meat is surprisingly nutritious and good for mental health. Bacon is a natural mood enhancer that helps encourage positive mental states. Umami or savory taste is one of the five basic tastes together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness. Umami in bacon is a mildly addictive substance that has a positive neurological impact on the brain.

Too Much Bacon?

Therefore, bacon, like any food or drink that is not 100% healthy; too much can be bad for you. And then of course, there is the issue of the animal itself. A growing number of people keeps pigs as pets. Pigs are cute and smart. Many people liken them to dogs for their ease of training, their companionship and their intelligence. For this reason alone, many people who were once bacon eaters have given up their weekly treat.

The good news for these consumers is there is now a non-meat bacon product on the market. There are also many recipes on the internet on how you can make veggie bacon yourself. Vegetarian bacon, also referred to as veggie bacon, vacon, or facon, is a product marketed as a bacon alternative. It is high in protein and fiber, yet low in fat, and has no cholesterol. Two slices average 75 calories.

Now that is progress.

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