Turkey bacon is often praised as a healthier alternative to traditional pork bacon.
It’s made by shaping a seasoned mixture of finely chopped turkey into strips that resemble traditional bacon.
Though it contains less fat and fewer calories, turkey bacon is still highly processed and may contain ingredients that may not be ideal for your health if eaten in large amounts.
This article reviews the nutritional profile of turkey bacon, determining whether it’s truly a healthier choice.
Turkey bacon is available at most grocery stores as an alternative to classic pork bacon.
It’s made by chopping or grinding turkey meat, adding seasonings and preservatives and then pressing the mix into bacon-like strips (1).
Some manufacturers even use stripes of light and dark meat to mimic the look of traditional bacon pieces.
You can cook it the same way as traditional bacon. It’s typically pan-fried, microwaved or baked in the oven until golden and crispy.
Turkey bacon is made by pressing seasoned turkey mixture into strips to look like traditional pork bacon. You can prepare it in the same ways as regular bacon.
Here’s a comparison of the nutrient content of one microwaved slice of turkey and pork bacon (
|Turkey bacon (8.1 g)||Pork bacon (9.1 g)|
|Carbs||0.3 g||0.04 g|
|Protein||2.4 g||3.6 g|
|Total fat||2.1 g||3.1 g|
|Saturated fat||0.6 g||1.1 g|
|Sodium||164 mg||162 mg|
|Selenium||4% of the DV||11% of the DV|
|Phosphorus||3% of the DV||3% of the DV|
|Zinc||3% of the DV||4% of the DV|
|Niacin||4% of the DV||6% of the DV|
|Thiamin||0% of the DV||4% of the DV|
|Vitamin B6||2% of the DV||2% of the DV|
|Vitamin B12||6% of the DV||4% of the DV|
Because turkey is leaner than pork belly, turkey bacon contains fewer calories and less fat than pork bacon.
Both products come from animal proteins, so they’re relatively good sources of B vitamins and minerals like zinc, selenium and phosphorus.
However, since bacon is usually eaten in small serving sizes, none of the vitamins and minerals found in a slice of turkey bacon exceed 10% of the daily value (DV).
Additionally, most bacon — whether made from turkey or pork — contains added sugar unless it’s labeled as “no sugar added.”
Turkey and pork bacon products also contain preservatives — especially nitrates or nitrites — which slow spoilage, enhance the pink color of the meat and contribute to taste (
Natural or organic products cannot use synthetic preservatives, so they often contain celery powder — a natural source of nitrates — as a preservative instead (5).
Turkey bacon is a leaner alternative to traditional bacon. However, most varieties contain added sugar and synthetic preservatives — unless indicated otherwise.
Turkey bacon can be a good fit for some people, especially those with special dietary needs.
Fewer calories and fat than pork bacon
Turkey bacon has roughly 25% fewer calories and 35% less saturated fat than pork bacon (
This makes it a popular choice for people watching their calorie or fat intake.
However, it’s still a relatively high-calorie food, with 30 calories per slice — more than half of which comes from fat.
While turkey bacon may be lower in calories than pork bacon, you should still eat it in moderation.
A good option for those who don’t eat pork
Some people don’t eat pork, including those with pork allergies or intolerances and those who avoid it for religious or health reasons.
If you avoid pork, turkey bacon can be a good substitute.
While it doesn’t have the exact same taste and texture as pork bacon, turkey bacon still has a smoky, salty, meaty flavor that many enjoy.
Turkey bacon is lower in calories and fat than regular bacon and a good substitute for people who don’t eat pork.
While turkey bacon can be a good option for some, be aware of the following potential downsides.
Contains less protein and more carbs than pork bacon
While turkey bacon is still a good source of protein, it contains roughly 20% less protein per serving than traditional pork bacon.
In addition, since it contains less fat than pork bacon, manufacturers often add more sugar to improve the taste and texture.
Overall, the amount of sugar in both regular and turkey bacon is very low — less than 1 gram per serving — but it can add up, especially for people on very low-carb diets.
If sugar is a concern, there are brands of turkey bacon that contain no added sugars.
High in sodium
Turkey bacon packs a lot of sodium, which is added as a natural preservative and flavor enhancer.
Just two strips of turkey bacon provide 328 mg of sodium — roughly 14% of the DV. In larger serving sizes, the sodium content can quickly add up (
For people watching their sodium intake, reduced-sodium turkey bacon is an option.
May contain harmful preservatives
Turkey bacon products typically contain preservatives, including nitrates and nitrites.
These substances are added to processed foods to improve shelf life. But nitrates also occur naturally in some foods.
Most of the nitrates in an average person’s diet come from vegetables like raw spinach, lettuce, beets, and celery. When eaten, these “dietary nitrates” can be converted to nitrites in your digestive tract (
Nitrate and nitrite preservatives in cured meats have been linked to an increased risk of stomach, throat and colon cancers. They are thought to produce harmful, cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines (
However, dietary nitrates such as those found in whole vegetables may have health benefits that outweigh the potential health risks of these compounds. This may be because nitrites are also converted to nitric oxide, a compound that may lower blood pressure (
Some natural brands of turkey bacon advertise that they are nitrate- or nitrite-free, but they often still use celery powder, a vegetable extract that is a rich source of natural nitrates.
It remains unclear whether nitrates from celery powder are linked to the same health risks as synthetic versions, so it’s wise to watch your intake (
Processed meat product
Turkey bacon is a highly processed meat product and should be eaten in moderation.
Many studies have found that regularly eating processed meats may increase your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes by 18% and 27%, respectively (
People who eat higher amounts of processed meat products also appear to be at greater risk of developing certain cancers. In a review of studies, the risk of breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer increased by 6%, 12%, 18%, 21%, and 22%, respectively (
The World Cancer Research Fund International suggests eating little to no processed meat, to protect against potential cancer risks. Other expert panels have made similar recommendations. However, some experts suggest that the available evidence is not strong enough, and more research is needed before recommending dietary changes (12,
Turkey bacon is lower in protein and often higher in sugar than pork bacon. Since it’s a processed meat rich in sodium and preservatives, you should eat it in moderation.
Turkey bacon has slightly fewer calories and fat than pork bacon and can be a good substitute for people on special diets or who can’t eat pork.
Yet, it’s a processed meat with less protein and more added sugar than regular bacon and may contain preservatives that have been linked to increased cancer risk.
Though you can find more natural options, it’s still best to enjoy turkey bacon in moderation.