You’ve probably heard the saying “everything is better with bacon”. This tasty pig product has a massive army of fans, who will eat it by itself, or add it to sandwiches, pastries, pasta and even ice-cream. There’s no denying that it’s tasty, but is it Paleo?
Defining the Paleo Diet
At its core, the Paleo diet is a diet that focuses on eating un-processed foods. If a caveman couldn’t have walked out of his cave and pulled a food from the earth, or hit it over the head to kill it and then skinned it and cooked it, then you shouldn’t eat it.
This means that you can’t eat chemical-ridden ready meals, foods that are essentially concocted in a lab or grains that are processed beyond all recognition – but what about bacon?
How Processed Is the Meat?
Cured or smoked pork belly is perfectly acceptable on the Paleo diet, but some of the products that appear in supermarkets have a huge list of added ingredients. You might expect to find some salt added as a preservative, but if the ingredients list includes nitrates and sugar then stay well away.
The Benefits of Pork
Smoked or cured pork is a good addition to the Paleo diet, however. If you can source meat that is relatively unprocessed and you know that the pig was raised naturally, you can enjoy all of the nutritional benefits of naturally reared meat and the great taste too.
Pork cuts tend to be quite high in fat – but this is no bad thing. Remember, saturated fat is not the enemy, no matter what traditional nutrition teaches. When you’re following the Paleo diet, fats are important. Yes, saturated fat is calorie-dense, but you are not eating a lot of simple carbohydrates so you are unlikely to go over your daily recommended calorie allowance.
Most people consume less sodium while eating Paleo too, so you can get away with the extra sodium that is added to the pork during the curing process.
Pork has a lot going for it, nutritionally. It is high in protein and also contains several important vitamins and minerals, including thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, iron, zinc and phosphorus. It also contains Omega 3 and while it is not quite as rich a source of Omega 3 as fish, it does contain far less mercury. Bacon also contains choline, an important nutrient that has been linked to improved cognitive function, helping to stave off Alzheimer’s and other chronic cognitive impairments.
Everything in Moderation
The Paleo diet encourages you to eat a natural diet. This means eating foods that are in season and trying to eat a wide range of different foods. Every food should be eaten in moderation. You can include any unprocessed food in your diet as long as you don’t overdo it. Fruit sugars, fats and salts are not “bad” unless they are consumed in excess. Allow yourself to eat a little of whatever you fancy and you’ll find it easier to stick to your diet in the long term.