Does Kidney Friendly Bacon Exist?

Let me start by saying that I know the thought of “kidney friendly bacon” is going to be pretty controversial. You’ve probably been told on more than one occasion that bacon is terrible for you and should be avoided. I’m not going to try and argue that bacon is a nutrition superstar. However, if you have kidney disease and you LOVE bacon, then gosh darnit, I’m going to find a way for you to enjoy it. Moderation is key though (definitely try out our Kidney Friendly Brussels Sprouts with Bacon recipe)!

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Is bacon high in phosphorus?

Bacon is made from pork belly. According to the USDA Database, 100 grams of pork belly contain 108mg of phosphorus. A 100g portion of raw bacon contains 180mg of phosphorus. That’s a pretty big difference in phosphorus content, and a lot of that difference is likely due to phosphorus additives.

Bacon contains phosphorus additives, which are bad for your cardiovascular system. People with kidney disease are not able to get rid of extra phosphorus as well as people with healthy kidneys, so it is important to limit or avoid phosphorus additives because these are more likely to drive up high phosphorus levels due to how easily they are absorbed by the body.

When I did a search of the USDA database for bacon, 73% of the foods that came up contained phosphorus additives. That’s a lot! Finding a bacon that contains no additives is the first step to making bacon more kidney friendly.

Is bacon high in sodium?

Yes, bacon is typically high in sodium. Bacon can easily have 5x the sodium than calories making it a VERY high sodium food.

Generally speaking, we consider a food to be low in sodium if it contains less sodium than calories. I don’t think that true low sodium bacon exists using that criteria (and if it did, let’s be honest, it would probably taste horrible). The key to making bacon more kidney friendly with sodium is to compare nutrition facts and find the one with the least amount of sodium that also contains no phosphorus additives.

Interestingly enough, we did a little taste test of bacon in our house recently, and my kids LOVED the lower sodium bacon. We’ve completely switched over to only use lower sodium, no added phosphorus bacon now.

Once you find that bacon, the next thing you have to do is keep your portion sizes modest. I firmly believe that you can fit any food into a CKD diet, but the key is portion size and moderation! Check out our Kidney Friendly Brussels Sprouts with Bacon recipe for one idea on how to enjoy bacon in moderation!

How much protein is in bacon?

The protein content of bacon can vary quite a bit depending on how much fat is in the bacon and how thick the slices are. According to the USDA, one 28g slice of bacon has about 4 grams of protein in it. However, the bacon I buy at my house typically has thinner slices, so one slice of it has only 2 grams of protein.

If you have Chronic Kidney Disease and are not on dialysis, then you need to keep in mind that bacon is considered a high protein food. Many people with CKD who are not on dialysis are advised to lower their protein intake. We recommend using small portions of bacon to add flavor to dishes without adding a lot of protein.

For people on dialysis, bacon is high in protein, but it is also typically high in sodium, so we still recommend keeping portions under control.

What should you look for when shopping for bacon?

  1. Check the ingredients for phosphorus additives. The majority of bacon will contain phosphorus additives, so you’ll really have to hunt (or hopefully you can just look up this food guide and find which ones to look for!). Generally speaking, uncured bacon is less likely to contain phosphorus additives. Uncured bacon contains no nitrites or nitrates (which is beyond the scope of this discussion). When we did our little bacon taste test, I included an uncured bacon just to see how the taste compares. And guess what? No one could tell the difference between cured bacon and uncured bacon. They looked and tasted the same!
kidney friendly bacon low phosphorus low sodium
Bet you can’t tell which one is uncured!
  1. If you’re able to find more than one bacon with no added phosphates, compare the nutrition and select the one with the least amount of sodium.
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Kidney Friendly Bacon You Can Buy

These bacons will all contain zero phosphorus additives and have less than 170mg of excess sodium. Choosing a lower sodium meal or snack in your day, such as some lightly salted nuts and a piece of fruit would balance out the extra sodium in one serving of these bacons.

Hormel Black Label Lower Sodium Bacon

kidney friendly bacon low sodium no phosphates
  • Calories: 80
  • Protein: 6g
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Fat: 7g
  • Sodium: 200mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Calcium: 0mg
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
This kidney friendly bacon is lower in sodium and contains no added phosphates. Unfortunately, I’ve only see it in one retailer so far (which is walmart, link below). Most (but not all) of their other Black Label uncooked bacon options are also phosphate free (but higher in sodium). Note: potassium is not listed on the food label, but based on USDA records for bacon, we would expect this to be a lower potassium food.Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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Publix Greenwise Uncured Bacon

kidney friendly bacon low sodium no phosphates
  • Calories: 70
  • Protein: 2g
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Fat: 6g
  • Sodium: 210mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Potassium: 40mg
  • Calcium: 1mg
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
Although this kidney friendly bacon is not advertised as being lower sodium, the sodium content is comparable to many “lower sodium” bacons. Note that Publix also sells a “lower sodium bacon”, but it contains phosphate additives, so be sure you are getting the uncured Greenwise bacon.

Kiolbassa Dry Cured Hickory Bacon

  • Calories: 230
  • Protein: 9g
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Fat: 21g
  • Sodium: 340mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Calcium: 0mg
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
Althouth this looks like it contains A LOT more sodium, the slices of this bacon are much thicker and the serving size is much larger compared to some other bacons featured here. With 230 calories and 340mg of sodium, this bacon only contains 1.5x the sodium than calories, and it contains no added phosphates make it a more kidney friendly bacon. This company also makes an uncured bacon and peppered bacon with similar nutrition profile.

Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon

kidney friendly bacon low sodium no phosphates
  • Calories: 70
  • Protein: 2g
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Fat: 7g
  • Sodium: 135mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Calcium: 0mg
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
This kidney friendly bacon is lower in sodium and contains no phosphorus additives. They have a variety of flavors – all of which contain no added phosphates. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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Smithfield Uncured All Natural Bacon

kidney friendly bacon lower sodium no phosphates
  • Calories: 80
  • Protein: 5g
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Fat: 6g
  • Sodium: 250mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Calcium: 0mg
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
Smithfield is a popular brand of bacon, but this is their own somewhat kidney friendly bacon. It contains no added phosphates and is relatively lower in sodium compared to regular bacon (although it is one of the highest sodium ones fetaured on this page). Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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What should I do if I can’t find one of these products?

  • Ask your grocery store to stock this product. Many grocery stores are willing to stock a particular item. You’ll never know until you ask!
  • Email food companies! This is not a quick solution, but if we all started to advocate more for what we want and need with food companies, I think they would eventually listen. A LARGE percentage of the US population has kidney disease, and I don’t think food companies even realize that some minor tweaks to recipes would make their products more appealing. I don’t think anyone reads a food label and says “Ew, they didn’t use monocalcium phosphate. I refuse to eat this!”, but we know there are a lot of people with kidney disease who see the “phos” and refuse to buy the item (rightfully so!). If this is something you are willing to do, just search for the product manufacturer’s website, go to their contact page, and send them a message. It can be as simple as “Hi – I have kidney disease and would love to buy your [INSERT PRODUCT NAME] product, but unfortunately it has phosphate additives. I really wish you would consider making this product without phosphorus additives so me and the 40 million other people with kidney disease could enjoy it. Thanks!
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