Is meat bad for you? Are some meats better for you than others? Most importantly, can you have bacon? The answer to all of these questions is that any diet (or lifestyle) literature that tells you not to eat bacon is wrong – bacon is awesome and good for you and fits nicely in a healthy diet. If you are convinced, feel free to explore the rest of this website for grain-free recipes (like this one for lettuce-wrapped bacon egg and cheeseburgers) and other awesome things, and have a nice day. If you need a little more convincing, read on.
The secret to weight management
Read the blog of any nutrition expert and each one of them will claim that the secret to weight management is something different. I can tell you right now that it is not. There is no one diet that is right and all the others are wrong. The secret to all of the different diets is – whether they admit it or not – calorie restriction. Further, the secret to all diets that keep you healthy and not just thin is not only eating the right number of calories but eating the right types of calories (the more nutrient-dense foods the better). So to be healthy, you need to achieve a balance between calories consumed and calorie expenditure and make sure the bulk of the calories consumed are from a variety of vitamin-rich foods. The best way to do this is to eliminate processed foods and only eat things that will perish (vegetables, fruits, meats, etc.).
Every diet protocol I consider to be at least partially right about what the perfect diet consists of has at least a starting point in common – they all agree you should eat vegetables and fruits (and other perishable foods). They kind of diverge from there on how to prepare these “good” foods and on what foods are the “bad” foods. I think on the whole, this is where they are largely missing the point, but for many of them I read their literature again and think “almost!”
Food as nutrition
When I say this is where the diet plans miss the point, I mean that the way a person views their diet cannot be centered on avoiding foods. The word diet just refers to what foods you put in your mouth, the source of your nutrition. Treating your diet as dieting or food avoidance or calorie restriction makes you feel like a failure or a cheater if you include the “bad” foods in your diet even once. A healthy diet has to be centered around including more and more of a variety of foods that we can all agree are the good foods so that food choices become between eating one good food and eating another good food. That is, fill your kitchen with good foods, and, in doing so, crowd the bad ones out.
When you go out to eat, search out those familiar good foods, and choose between those. If you can do this, you start to see those other products (the “bad” foods) for what they are – not foods. The word food should be reserved for the unaltered, unprocessed foods that are found in nature with the nutrients still in them. Modern grains which have had their nutrients removed are no longer foods. Products created in a lab are not foods by admission. If you don’t believe me, read the label on popular brand “cheese” singles at the grocery store – they are not made of cheese, but rather they are a “cheese food product.” If you can view making healthy food choices not as dieting to manage your weight but as eating to nourish your body, you can achieve weight loss and improved health as an added benefit. So avoid the non-foods at all costs, and view food as the source of your nutrition, because nutrition is medicine.
Which foods are the “good foods”?
This brings me back to types of foods that you should include in your diet – the “good foods” – and I definitely think that animal proteins are good foods. Eggs and bacon are staples of a perfect breakfast. I have read and agree with many vegan and vegetarian diet plans, especially many of their recipe books with the exception that I add meat to make them even better for you.
Many other diet plans with which I almost wholeheartedly agree allow for some meats more as condiments or flavoring to a largely vegetarian meal, which nicely achieves the goal of calorie management. Fill up on low-calorie yet high-nutrient foods first, and you will not feel the need to eat more of the high calorie animal proteins that admittedly account for too big a portion of the standard American diet. Still, what seems like a majority of these “nutritarian”-type diet plans do not allow for or do not comment on the inclusion of pork and/or shellfish. To that, again, I say “almost!”
Almost right…the only meats I agree should be limited are highly processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meats. Processed foods, meat or otherwise, almost always have harmful additives in them. Further, even without additives, there is enough evidence suggesting that there are elevated stress hormones in meat that comes from large processing operations to make you want to buy local/organic. The elevated stress hormones in the meats are associated with the unsanitary and cruel living conditions and poor diet of the animals in the large processing operations. This issue is not restricted to meats. In a similar vein, there are enough pesticides and additives in non-organic fruits and vegetables to make you want to buy local/organic as well. Even better, if you are able, plant a vegetable garden (it doesn’t get more local or organic than that). RATHER, the good meats that we all should agree are good meats are the ones you could get from a local butcher. The best eggs are ones you can get from local farmers as well. The more whole, raw foods you can get your hands on, the better. And definitely include bacon in this – bacon is awesome.
Why is bacon good for you?
If you have stayed with me this long, we get to the heart of the matter: why bacon is good for you, contrary to what many nutrition experts claim. Many have claimed that animal proteins are bad for you based on correlation data between consumption of animal products and heart disease and cancer. HOWEVER, open to chapter 1 of an introductory statistics book, and basically the first rule of inference is that correlation does not imply causation. By this, I mean that two things could be highly positively correlated but a third variable could actually be causing increases in both. For example, as foot size increases so does vocabulary size in humans, but foot size does not cause increases in vocabulary size. A third variable, age, causes increases in both. Thus, studies linking higher rates of cancer or heart disease in samples with high consumption of animal proteins do not also explore the rates of obesity, tobacco use, alcohol use, or refined carbohydrate and grain consumption in those same samples. Thus, studies exploring causative links between meats and disease rates are lacking in human populations.
Next, many nutrition experts claim that eating a diet entirely consisting of a variety of vegetables ensures that you will not be lacking in any micro-nutrients that you need on a daily basis. With this, I largely agree to the extent that you are not also deficient in particular nutrients due to a health condition you have. In that case, you probably need to supplement your diet with the vitamins you are lacking.
A varied, nutrient-rich, plant-based diet can be less practical in the long term than it sounds and there are some vitamins (such as Vitamin A) that can only be obtained via animal sources. Vegetables perish quickly. To get the variety that you need to get all the essential vitamins you need every day, you would tend to have a lot of waste. For example, an orange has all the Vitamin C you need in a day. You would still need to eat foods from a large variety of other fruits, vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, berries, nuts and seeds in a single day to “cover all your bases” nutrient-wise. Wouldn’t you rather just have some bacon and eggs which contain several of these essential vitamins in one source, and are just as good for you as all that? I know I would. Furthermore, even if you can get most of the vitamins you need in the amounts you need from eating a bunch of kale – be honest with yourself, are you really going to do that? Or are you going to get those nutrients from the bacon or eggs if you had the choice?
Bacon: an excellent source of vitamins and minerals
Animal proteins containing fat such as eggs and bacon (in concert with oily animal sources such as fish) are great sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin D (together known as fat soluble vitamins) as well as the B-Complex vitamins (water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin B1 and B12). These vitamins are vital to every aspect of human functioning from vision and hair growth to circulatory and immune functioning.
Red meats and poultry are considered to be better sources of Zinc (important in immune and reproductive health) than vegetable sources. However, animal proteins are not as high in Vitamin C (important in immune boosting and disease fighting) as citrus fruits and leafy greens. For this reason, a variety of vegetables and fruits are still important to make up the bulk of a healthy diet. Also, unless you are disease- and deficiency-free and are getting a daily dose of all the aforementioned varied micro-nutrient-rich foods, you would most likely benefit from taking a daily multivitamin or a daily probiotic (such as organic apple cider vinegar with “mother”).
Ideally you should get a doctor’s recommendation on what daily vitamin supplements you need based on your own health conditions. Although dietary needs may differ between, say, a diabetic and someone with an autoimmune disorder, all disease begins in the gut. Overall health relies on a healthy gut microbiome. This means that you are feeding microorganisms in your gut and they can, in turn, protect you from disease. Also, many autoimmune conditions can originate from leaks in the lining of your gut. So, taking steps to heal your gut by eliminating non-foods from your diet, including vitamin-rich foods in your diet (check out Amy Myers’ recipe for gut-healing bone broth here), and taking a daily probiotic will go a long way in fighting disease because, again, nutrition is medicine. In closing, I will say that vegetables and vitamin supplements are great, but the bacon and eggs, in my book, are the real stars of a healthy diet, and you absolutely can have them, too, as part of a healthy diet. Eating some bacon and eggs in the morning is a treat for all the senses and it also ensures that I get a lot of the nutrients I need early on in my day. That way, I can eat whatever variety of vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods I want to enjoy that day rather than worry about what all I still need to eat to get my nutrients.
Want to learn more? Check back regularly for more posts on nutrition, grain-free recipes, products we love, and check out my suggested reading page for links to blogs of some of my favorite authors and experts in plant-based, grain-free, and whole-food nutrition.