Is Turkey Bacon A Healthier Alternative

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Turkey bacon is a low-fat alternative to traditional pork bacon made from chopped, cured, and smoked turkey that boasts a relatively healthy nutritional profile.

What is Turkey Bacon?

Turkey bacon, as the name implies, is a type of bacon made from turkey instead of pork. The inherently lower fat content of turkey resulted in the rise in the alternative’s popularity. It is made from the chopped, processed, and blended turkey that is then formed into strips that resemble normal pork bacon, and may contain seasonings, additives, and preservatives. The lower fat content and production method means that turkey-based bacon doesn’t shrink up as much when cooked, but it also has a tendency to stick to the pan. It can be deep-fried, baked or microwaved, much like normal bacon. While some aspects of turkey are healthier than pork, moderation is still key.

Bacon in the oven

Bacon is prepared from several different cuts of meat, typically from the pork belly or from back cuts. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition

On average, two slices of turkey-based bacon contain about 75% of the protein content of pork bacon (4.5 grams versus 6 grams). The fat content of one serving of turkey bacon is roughly the same at 4.5 grams, versus 6 grams for pork bacon. There are about 1.3 grams of saturated fat, versus two grams in pork bacon. Bacon made from turkey has moderate amounts of vitamin B6, zinc, niacin, phosphorus, and selenium, but slightly less of all these essential nutrients than pork bacon. In an effort to add sweetness and flavor, some companies will add sugar to this pork bacon alternative, which can increase the carbohydrate count.

Nutrition Facts

Bacon, turkey, microwaved
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]34.46
Energy [kcal]368
Energy [kJ]1539
Protein [g]29.5
Total lipid (fat) [g]25.87
Ash [g]6.8
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]4.24
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]4.24
Sucrose [g]3.93
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.1
Fructose [g]0.2
Calcium, Ca [mg]163
Iron, Fe [mg]2.63
Magnesium, Mg [mg]30
Phosphorus, P [mg]416
Potassium, K [mg]666
Sodium, Na [mg]2021
Zinc, Zn [mg]4.71
Copper, Cu [mg]0.12
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.03
Selenium, Se [µg]28.5
Thiamin [mg]0.05
Riboflavin [mg]0.4
Niacin [mg]8.1
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.99
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.37
Folate, total [µg]15
Folate, food [µg]15
Folate, DFE [µg]15
Choline, total [mg]87.9
Betaine [mg]4.8
Vitamin B-12 [µg]1.88
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]19
Retinol [µg]19
Vitamin A, IU [IU]63
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.14
Vitamin D (D2 + D3), International Units [IU]50
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]1.2
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) [µg]1.2
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]6.93
4:0 [g]0
6:0 [g]0.01
8:0 [g]0
10:0 [g]0.01
12:0 [g]0.04
14:0 [g]0.22
15:0 [g]0.04
16:0 [g]4.72
17:0 [g]0.06
18:0 [g]1.8
20:0 [g]0.03
22:0 [g]0.01
24:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]9.38
14:1 [g]0.03
16:1 [g]0.75
16:1 c [g]0.74
17:1 [g]0.04
18:1 [g]8.43
18:1 c [g]8.21
20:1 [g]0.13
22:1 [g]0.01
22:1 c [g]0.01
24:1 c [g]0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]6.87
18:2 [g]6.19
18:2 n-6 c,c [g]6.1
18:2 CLAs [g]0.03
18:3 [g]0.35
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA) [g]0.34
18:3 n-6 c,c,c [g]0.02
18:4 [g]0
20:2 n-6 c,c [g]0.04
20:3 [g]0.03
20:3 n-3 [g]0.01
20:3 n-6 [g]0.02
20:4 [g]0.18
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0.02
22:4 [g]0.03
22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0.02
22:6 n-3 (DHA) [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0.29
Fatty acids, total trans-monoenoic [g]0.23
16:1 t [g]0.02
18:1 t [g]0.21
18:2 t not further defined [g]0.06
Fatty acids, total trans-polyenoic [g]0.06
Cholesterol [mg]153
Sources include : USDA

Calories

When it comes to calories, bacon made from turkey has about 60 calories in two slices, while pork bacon has around 80 calories. While this is slightly better than the traditional option, turkey is often treated as a low-calorie option, and more of it is therefore consumed. In short, eating bacon made from turkey is healthier when portion size remains the same.

Benefits

There are a few benefits of turkey-based bacon, including its potential impact on weight-loss efforts, its low price, and its acceptance by those who are religiously prohibited from eating pork.

  • Weight loss: In terms of calorie count and fat content per slice, turkey-sourced bacon is certainly better than pork bacon. If you maintain the same portion size, replacing traditional bacon with a turkey variety can lower your saturated fat intake and daily calories. Over time, this could aid in weight loss, but the high sodium content and somewhat high saturated fat level mean that the turkey variety must also be eaten in moderation.
  • Muscle mass: This alternative type of bacon has a good amount of protein, which can aid muscle development and overall function. Turkey is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids the body requires.
  • Affordability: Unlike other meat alternatives, turkey is affordable, and is usually priced the same as pork bacon. As opposed to plant-based proteins and bacon substitutes, such as the Beyond or Impossible brands, turkey is much more affordable.
  • Pork alternative: There are more than a billion people on this planet who cannot consume pork for religious reasons, yet they still want the delicious taste and crunch of bacon in their lives. Bacon made from turkey is an appropriate substitute for a large portion of the population that is easy to find and prepare.

Tips to Make It Healthier

If you’re going to eat this pork bacon alternative, there are a few best practices to make it even healthier.

  • You should always cook pork bacon on a raised surface, such as on a grill, so any fat will drip off as grease.
  • Patting the cooked bacon with a paper towel will further reduce the fat content.
  • You should avoid adding any salt or seasoning when cooking, and always choose low-sodium varieties, when available.
  • Most importantly, however, only consume this type of bacon in moderation, keeping your intake to the recommended serving size of two slices.

Word of Caution

Although there aren’t any acute negative side effects of eating this pork alternative, there are some health risks associated with it, particularly due to its high sodium and added sugar content. Many people view this alternative as a healthier choice, and therefore overindulge, resulting in even higher sodium, saturated fat, and calorie intake than if they had eaten a normal serving of pork bacon. Furthermore, the chemical preservatives and added sugars in bacon made from turkey must be considered if you’re trying to eat a cleaner diet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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