The Best & Worst Bacon Brands, According to a Dietitian
Despite its popularity and arguably incredible taste, most healthcare professionals recommend limiting the amount of bacon we eat. Typically, it is high in sodium and saturated fat and often contains nitrites, a preservative linked to an increased risk of cancer.
Not all bacon is created equal. We've scoured the deli counter and asked trusted dietitians for the best and worst bacon brands available today.
How to pick the best bacon
When selecting a brand to bring home to cook, eat, and serve your family, there are a few key nutrients and ingredients to look out for:
- Sodium: All bacon will have sodium, which gives it its signature salty and savory taste. But, some have more than others, which may be unnecessary and make it hard to stick to your daily sodium limit. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, with a preferential limit of 1,500 milligrams per day for optimal heart health.
- Saturated fat: Just like all bacon has sodium, all of it will have saturated fat, too. Some may include more than others, so it's a good idea to take a peek at how much is in each slice. Thicker sliced bacon will have more than thinly sliced, based on size alone. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommends that no more than 10% of your daily calories come from saturated fat. On a 2,000-calories diet, you should aim for less than 22 grams daily.
- Preservatives: While sodium helps with the preservation of bacon, other preservatives like nitrites or nitrates are often used. "When sodium nitrite is exposed to high temperatures during cooking, it can form compounds called nitrosamines, which are known to be carcinogenic," explains Jessie Hulsey RD, LD, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian. Some bacon brands will use powdered celery, which is naturally high in nitrites, but research hasn't yet shown that nitrites from vegetable powder are better for us than added nitrites.
The Best Bacon Brands You Can Buy
Pederson's Natural Farms Organic Uncured Bacon
"When choosing bacon, opt for no-sugar and uncured options, ensuring a delicious and healthier choice for your plate," says Lara Clevenger MSH, RDN, CPT. She recommends Pederson's Natural Farms Organic Uncured Bacon, as it's sourced from humanely raised animals and is free from nitrates, nitrites, MSG, gluten, and soy.
Aldi's Never Any Uncured Bacon
This uncured option is free from added sugars and has a lower amount of sodium per two slices than many brands have per one slice. "Aldi's Never Any Uncured Bacon is a great budget-conscious uncured bacon that is free from antibiotics and added hormones and only has naturally occurring nitrites & nitrates from sea salt and celery powder," says Clevenger.
Nature's Rancher Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon
While Nature's Rancher Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon does contain a little more sodium than some brands and a small amount of brown sugar, there are no nitrites or nitrates added, even in the form of naturally occurring vegetable nitrites. Nature's Rancher is also Animal Welfare Certified, which means they're routinely audited to ensure that their animals are cared for and processed with integrity.
Boar's Head Uncured Turkey Bacon
"Boar's Head Uncured Turkey Bacon is made from premium turkey and offers a rich, smoky flavor that satisfies bacon cravings while being lower in fat and sodium," says Hulsey. "What sets Boar's Head apart is its commitment to using high-quality ingredients and avoiding artificial additives."
The nutrition stats for this turkey option are impressive, with only 150 milligrams of sodium per slice and 4 grams of protein.
Applegate Naturals Uncured Sunday Bacon
"Applegate Naturals Uncured Sunday Bacon is 100% natural, which means they make it with minimal ingredients, is casein and gluten-free, and is made with humanely raised pork with no antibiotics or GMO ingredients, ever," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN.
While cane sugar is on the ingredient list, the amount used is negligible at less than 0.5 grams.
Smithfield All Natural Uncured Hickory Smoked Bacon
"Smithfield All Natural Uncured Hickory Smoked Bacon is uncured, meaning it isn't preserved in nitrites and nitrates," says Catherine Karnatz, MPH, RD, an anti-diet culture dietitian and creator of Nutrition Education RD. While this option is free from added nitrites, it does include celery powder and cherry powder, two natural sources of nitrites. "It also ranks high for freshness and taste and doesn't contain any artificial ingredients," adds Karnatz.
The Worst Bacon Brands To Avoid
Jamestown Brand Sliced Bacon
"Jamestown Brand Sliced Bacon contains both sodium nitrate and sodium phosphate, which are commonly used as preservatives,"says Hulsey. "These additives significantly contribute to the sodium content of the bacon, making it a poor choice for those who need to monitor their sodium intake." This one also includes sodium erythorobate, which adds artificial coloring to the bacon.
Oscar Mayer Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon
Oscar Mayer Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon is cured with salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium ascorbate, and sodium nitrite. All of this sodium adds up to 350 milligrams per 2 slices.
When bacon goes through the process of "pumping" or brining bacon (instead of dry curing), sodium ascorbate must be added to reduce the amount of nitrites converted into nitrosamine, a cancer-causing compound.
Great Value Naturally Hickory Smoked Thick-Sliced Bacon
"Great Value Naturally Hickory Smoked Thick-Sliced Bacon is known for its affordability, but it is a low-quality bacon option," says Hulsey. This bacon has one of the highest amount of sodium and saturated fat per serving, providing 430 milligrams of sodium and 4 grams of saturated fat in every 2 slices. This bacon undergoes pumping, instead of dry curing, which can increase the weight, but results in less flavor overall.
Hormel Black Label Brown Sugar Bacon
Most bacon doesn't contribute to your sugar consumption, but each slice of Hormel Black Label Brown Sugar Bacon adds 1 gram of added sugars as well as 2 grams of saturated fat and 280 milligrams of sodium.
Kunzler Thick Cut Sliced Bacon
Just one slice of Kunzler Thick Cut Sliced Bacon has 465 milligrams of sodium. That's over 20% of the DV for sodium in just one slice. While most bacon has just half of this amount of sodium, eating this brand will make it difficult to stick under the recommended amount for one day, especially if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.
Aberdeen Farms Irregularly Sliced Bacon
This irregularly sliced bacon is extra fatty and has 10% of your daily limit for saturated fat and sodium. It's also made with a wet brine that includes sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrite, as well as artificial hickory smoke flavoring. You're better off skipping this low-quality bacon for a higher-quality variety with more natural flavor.