Bacon Versus Sausage: Which One Is Healthier?

If you love adding a side of bacon or sausage to a fried egg breakfast or Sunday brunch omelet, you're not alone. According to Statista, over 268 million Americans consumed bacon in 2020, and close to 14 million Americans ate 5 pounds or more of sausage. Whether you prefer bacon or sausage, chances are you select one over the other for taste and texture. If you were willing to switch up your side order, is one healthier compared to the other?

Using the word "healthy" when comparing bacon and sausage is a bit misleading, as both are processed meats. Health experts consider eating processed meats part of an unhealthy lifestyle. This is because there are chemicals in processed meats that are associated with serious health issues, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Processed meats include any meat that has been cured, smoked, salted, dried, or canned, such as bacon and sausage (via Healthline). In 2020, the International Agency for Research on Cancer delivered even more unpalatable news — new data revealed that consuming processed meats upped the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.

Does that mean there is no healthy reason to eat bacon or sausage?

Which meat should you eat?

Despite warnings from health experts about processed meats, bacon and sausage do contain some nutrients the body needs. Perhaps the most obvious nutrient is protein. According to SFGate, there are 29 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving of bacon, and 13 grams in a serving of sausage. Based on this data, bacon wins this round if protein is why you choose to indulge. 

Bacon and sausage also both provide vitamin B12, an important nutrient that helps your body produce hemoglobin, which transports oxygen. Vitamin B12 also protects your body against nerve damage. According to SFGate, both bacon and sausage have about the same amount of vitamin B12. Bacon and sausage also contain roughly the same amount of iron, a nutrient also associated with the production of hemoglobin.

While sausage and bacon contain some health benefits, the negatives generally outweigh the positives. Both are high in unhealthy saturated fat, which can impact your blood cholesterol, and they are also high in sodium. A serving of bacon contains 1,461 milligrams of sodium, while a serving of sausage contains 665 milligrams. This is a big portion of the 2,300-milligram daily limit recommendation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

If you're not ready to part with your side of sausage or bacon, try to consume it in moderation to reap the benefits and avoid the downsides. Try going for lower-fat and lower sodium options whenever possible.