Posted on Mar 20, 2019, 3 p.m.
If you don’t eat meat this article is not for you, so just skip it and move along.
“If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?" ~ Pink Floyd
Over time bacon has earned a bad rap, as it turns out in moderation bacon may not be as bad for you as you think.
Bacon is a favorite food to many that they try to eat occasionally as a treat because they have been told it will clog the arteries and kill you do to all the saturated fat. In recent years the scientific community has revealed that not all saturated fat is bad for you. The highly processed polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils such as corn and soy are the real killers, especially paired with too much sugars and starch which will cause arterial stress.
Pork fat/lard is only 40% saturated, 48% monosaturated, and 12% polyunsaturated, while coconut oil is 92% saturated fat and coconut oil has been deemed as being super healthy for dozens of reason. This isn’t to say that bacon fat is always good or bad, how the pigs were raised and fed also comes into play; those raised in confinement factories pumped full of hormones, never seeing light or freedom to move, eating all that GMO soy and corn based feed will carry a good deal more of the unhealthy fat profile that should be avoided. However a free range pig that grazed outdoors while basking in the sunshine, eating a variety of natural foods won’t have any of that.
Free range/pasture raised pork, or any meat, is kind of like the organics of produce. These animals are not loaded with hormones and GMO feeds, and they have spent a good deal of time frolicking in the sun soaking up all that vitamin D. Unfortunately most bacon, actually the vast majority of all meat, sold in today’s market comes from confinement factory conditions, largely devoid of sunshine and movement. Mostly likely our grandparents were still eating 100% pasture raised free range meat until the mid 1900’s when the factory farm industry stepped in, and in recent decades has pretty much ruined a great portion of the quality of our foods.
Next time you go shopping just as you would look for organic in produce, try to look for pasture raised or free range pork and meats. If you are looking for bacon try to find organic if you can’t find pasture raised as that means the animals was not raised eating GMO feeds.
Another reason people have been told to avoid bacon is due to the Nitrites and Nitrates, and we have been told that they are extremely bad for you, this can be a complicated subject and they are not exactly the same. They are feared so much companies even sell nitrite free products, and even the Mayo Clinic says that “sodium nitrite could possible increase risk of heart disease.”
Avoiding all sources of nitrates and nitrites would leave you with the driest mouth ever. “Nitrites are produced by the body in greater amounts than can be obtained in foods, in fact salivary nitrites accounts for 70-90% of your total exposure.” When it comes to food there’s more bad news as vegetables contain more naturally occurring nitrites than bacon; one serving of arugula contains more nitrites than 467 hot dogs. Nitrite free is usually more expensive, and in most cases you are being mislead as instead of being cured with sodium nitrite these meat are being cured with celery salt which gets transformed into nitrites during the curing process. Meaning they are not that different when it comes to health since they both yield nitrites to the body.
Fear of nitrates and nitrites has been a little exaggerated, there are other things you should be more worried about when it comes to food such as trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, added sugars, pesticide use, and GMOs. Science has a lot of evidence showing nitrates and nitrites get flushed from the body in urine quickly and do not accumulate; 25% of the nitrates consumed are converted to salivary nitrite, 20% into nitrite, and the rest is excreted within 5 hours of ingestion in urine; nitrate absorbed has a short shelf life and will disappear from the blood in 5 minutes; some nitrate in the stomach reacts with gastric contents forming nitric oxide which may have beneficial effects.
Most of the fear of nitrates and nitrites stems from some of them transforming to nitrosamines while cooking, which are potentially carcinogenic and a legitimate concern. This is why ascorbic acid is used when curing meats, as it turns out vitamins C and E offer protective antioxidant effects for meat and helps to prevent the formation of nitrosamines. To add to this choosing free range/pasture raised meats has been shown to create far less nitrosamines when cooked as does the chemically enhanced commercially confinement raised alternative.
Most often bacon/meat is not consumed alone, it is accompanied by some vegetables, or coffee, which contain plenty of antioxidants to counteract the small amount of HCA’s that occur when meat is fried in a pan at high heat. When I eat bacon I also have tea, eggs and avocado which are great sources of antioxidants and make the HCA’s less of a concern as they will be counteracted by the powerful antioxidant effects.
“Pork fat contains phosphatidylcholine that possesses antioxidant activity superior to vitamin E, which may be one of the reasons why lard and bacon fat are relatively stable and not prone to rancidity from free radicals.” according to Dr. Kaayla T. Daniel. This is another reason our grandparents were smarter than us as they cooked with butter or bacon fat not with today’s inflammatory vegetable oils.
If you choose to be a vegetarian or the even stricter vegan, that’s great for you, but for those of us that are not try to look for traditionally cured, free range/pasture raised, cage free/organic, non-GMO/organic meats as much as possible. Just as organic produce these meats are much healthier and safer choices.
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