Bacon is a favourite whipping boy standing for all that is bad, yet tasting so good. Could it possibly be true that bacon isn’t that bad? Well, good news, bacon lovers. Buy high quality bacon and nosh away. I too had bought into the dogma surrounding preserved meats, but when I went to the nutrition convention in Vegas last August, I heard Dr Kaayla Daniel wax lyrical about the benefits good bacon can bring. The following blog is based on that lecture and her article in the Weston A Price quarterly publication, Wise Traditions.
The smell of a bacon butty has been many a vegetarian’s downfall; every year in Iowa, there is a bacon festival and recently a committed vegetarian doctor tried to get a posse of vegetarians to go to the festival to bang the anti-bacon drum. Amazingly, he could only persuade six to go – the others feared conversion to the carnivore by smell. Click on the link to the original Wall Street Journal article on the Bacon festival in Iowa.
Here are five reasons why bacon is good for us, and then a section on those nitrites and bacon’s bad reputation.
Bacon does need to be high quality. The pigs are free range and either organic, or a small herd reared by a loving farmer. Cheap supermarket bacon does not fulfill the following good points.
Bacon as a source of vitamin D.
Provided the piggies lived their lives pretty much outdoors, then they will be a source of vitamin D. If they lived indoors, intensively reared, then they will be very low in vitamin D. Apparently the best porcine D comes from Italian pigs, where even commercial pigs will manage to get outdoors. Free range pork is a much better source of vitamin D than pasteurised, homogenised, skimmed milk. At least it is good for us.
Pork is a source of choline.
Choline helps reduce fatty liver disease and reduces cholesterol – the liver uses choline to make VLDLs – very low density lipoproteins, once thought the worst sort of cholesterol! – and VLDLs trundle fat out of the liver and into the body for energy or storing. The linked blog contains more information. To get the most out of choline, though, we do need good digestion and a regular intake of reliable quality probiotics. These probiotics will not come in a little bottle of sugary rubbish. No, they will be either pills or a powder. And not be cheap.
Bacon and lard are not purely saturated fat.
I have covered this one before: it is a myth that all animal fat is made purely from saturated fat. Lard contains about 50% monounsaturated fat, and most of that is oleic acid – this is olive oil. 3% of the monounsaturated fat is palmitoleic acid, which has anti microbial properties.
Lard does consist of about 40% saturated fat – why this is a good thing.
The great thing about saturated fat is it remains stable when heated. Occasionally we do hear that rancid fat is bad for us. And it most certainly is. Some of the so called healthy fats, such as the polyunsaturates, for example, sunflower oil, change their chemical structure when heated, becoming rancid. A rancid fat is a fat full of free radicals: DNA altering, artery clogging chemicals. These fats cause us much more damage than saturated fats from free range, well cared for piggywigs can.
Bacon and weight loss.
Protein and fat are satisfying. After a good portion of bacon, our blood sugar remains stable for some hours, drastically reducing the urge to nose dive into the biscuits. Also the saltiness of bacon helps replace sugar cravings. Salt is another wrongly maligned food. Except in very few individuals, salt is actually good for us; for most of us, it lowers our blood pressure, it helps digestion and is vital to maintain the health of the brain. Click on the linked blog for more details.
Bacon and nitrites.
A downside with bacon can lie in the nitrites, added as a preservative. In our digestive system, these nitrites may turn to nitric oxide, a very good thing, particularly for our hearts, or they may turn to nitrosamines, an awful thing – highly carcinogenic or cancer forming. The best way of ensuring we make nitric oxide lies in sourcing our bacon well. Traditionally, bacon is made from salting pork with herbs, sugars and sodium nitrite curing salts. It may also be smoked over a fire. The herbs contain vitamin C, which helps those nitrites convert to nitric oxide. But any bacon made with traditional methods, whether smoked or not, is likely to be a good thing.
Poor quality bacon and liquid smoke.
If the bacon bashers examine cheap bacon, then everything they say is true. The pig had a nasty life, in cramped and dirty conditions, fed the cheapest foods, so the quality of the meat is not good. But this is nothing compared with the quality of the meat after it has been processed. Cheap smoked bacon will have been injected with liquid smoke – made by condensing the smoke from burning woodchips then dissolving it in water. Multiple studies have been done on liquid smoke, finding it carcinogenic, possibly more so than cigarette smoke,12 because it produces nitrosamines in our guts. Also the meat from pigs fed on cheap commercial feeds such as corn and soy produces more of those nitrosamines than pigs fed on better diet. Adding vitamin C helps reduce nitrosamine production.
To enjoy a few rashers of bacon with a reasonable conviction that the bacon will be doing us good, then sourcing the best quality bacon, from well reared pigs is wise. It is also wise to take a good quality Vitamin C, ensure our guts are in good working order3 and take a good probiotic regularly. If all this is followed, we have a strong digestive foundation as well as the joy of bacon noshing.
- EFSA Statement, June 21 2007. Flavourings – EFSA’s risk assessment of smoke flavouring primary product FF-B [↩]
- Putnam KP, Bombick DW et al. Comparison of the cytotoxic and mutagenic potential of liquid smoke food flavourings, cigarette smoke condensate and wood smoke condensate. Food Chem Toxicol. 1999.. 37 (11): 1113-8 Abstr [↩]
- I know full well most people assume their guts are in good working order. People can completely fail the HCl test and earnestly tell me their guts are in good working order. People can have had gastric ulcers and assume their guts are in good working order. People can refuse to eat red meat or fat and assume their guts are in good working order. People can take a crap once a week, but still assume their guts are in good working order. Astonishing. [↩]