by Jill Osborne MA
In the IC Diet Guidelines, fresh, organic meats are always recommended over preserved meats such as salami or bologna. Why? Because preserved meats usually contain a variety of chemicals and additives, such as sodium nitrite, that could irritate the bladder. But, what about bacon? Is “uncured” vs. “cured” bacon more IC friendly? It can be but there are some pros and cons.
All bacon products begin their processing with a bath in a very salty brine solution. The salt helps to remove moisture from the meat and creates a seal which helps to prevent spoilage. Popular “cured” products (i.e. such as Hormel bacon) are then also treated with a variety of chemicals and preservatives, such as sodium nitrite, to further improve their shelf life and prevent spoilage. “Uncured” bacon products, on the other hand, are treated only with natural ingredients, such as celery or sea salt.
Is there a flavor difference? I have found that uncured bacon smells much better when it’s cooking. It has a very bright, rich aroma that entices family members to get out of bed to grab a piece or two. The downside is that uncured bacon can be more expensive and must be used within a week. Cheaper, mass produced bacons could last for months if stored and refrigerated properly.
Types of bacon? Bacon can be thin or thick cut, smoked or seasoned. It’s important to look at the label to see how its prepared. Naturally smoked bacon is preferable over bacons that use chemicals to create a smoky flavor.
Is uncured bacon healthier? Eating large amounts of bacon is certainly not ideal. All bacon products are high in fat, cholesterol or salt. But, when used modestly, bacon can add smoky, rich flavors to our normally bland IC diet. I think that uncured bacon products are healthier in the long run. There is conflicting evidence about nitrite exposure. Some studies have shown an increased incidence of cancer (including brain tumors, leukemia, nose and throat tumors) while others suggest that there is no connection.(1)
Which is more bladder friendly? As a 20 year IC patient, I confess that I’ve eaten both types of bacons without ever suffering an IC flare. But, we all have different sensitivities. Some patients may tolerate it well while others may not. It’s one of those cases where you’ll just have to try a small amount to see if it irritates your bladder. I prefer to avoid as many chemicals as I can in my food and purchase uncured meat products whenever possible. Luckily, most grocery stores carry both.
Local vs. National? The dangers and risks of factory farming continue to alarm due to the dramatic increase in antibiotic resistant infections, viral infections (i.e. PED) and profound environmental consequences. As a result, we think it’s important to know where your bacon came from.
The challenge with national mass market products (and/or eating at national chain fast food restaurants) is that you have no idea where that meat came from, how it was processed, how the animals were fed, and so forth. I think it’s important to purchase your meat from small, local meat producers rather than factory farms. Odds are the animals will have been more compassionately raised, using better quality hay and other feed products. If in doubt? Ask the rancher! They are often happy to share and proud of their farming practices.
(1) US EPA Nitrates and Nitrites TEACH Chemical Summary – http://www.epa.gov/teach/chem_summ/Nitrates_summary.pdf
Growing up, my parents made sure that my siblings and I could cook. In fact, by the time we were in middle school, we each had responsibility for preparing one dinner a week. One of my favorite finds was in the Sunset Italian Cookbook from which this Carbonara Pasta was adapted. The original recipe called for using raw egg. I choose to use butter or olive oil instead. As to pasta, I prefer using Quinoa pasta rather than wheat based pasta to reduce bloating and gas. This recipe takes about 15 minutes to put together and creates a fabulous meal. In fact, we had it again last night which inspired this blog today!
Carbonara Pasta With Bacon & Sausage
1/2 pound MILD fresh italian sausage
4 slices uncured bacon
1 box Spaghetti (Wheat or Quinoa), hot, cooked and drained
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper To Taste
Prepare and cook your spaghetti as per the instructions on the box. While the pasta is cooking, remove casing from sausage and crumble into a frying pan. Finely chop the bacon and add to sausage. Cook on medium low, stirring constantly, for about ten minutes until browned. Drain pasta and then place back into the pan you cooked the pasta in. Add the butter or margarine to the pasta and stir until the pasta is well coated. Add the cooked bacon mixture, chopped parsley and parmesan cheese. Stir until ingredients are well distributed. Serve hot, topped with more grated parmesan cheese.
Serve with a mixed green salad of your choice, hot bread and you’ve got a simple, easy meal.