I love breakfast. It used to be that I subscribed to the “healthy breakfast” rules: egg whites or “Egg Beaters,” lean breakfast meat or no meat at all, whole wheat whatever. After all, saturated fats are “artery-clogging,” and whole wheat = fiber, right?
Then I made a change, and I now frequently enjoy a breakfast featuring three whole eggs and two or three strips of bacon. My God, what I was missing.
But why would I do that to myself? Don’t I believe in eating healthy and lean?
Let’s just say I challenged a few assumptions and got educated.
The first hurdle is the one you see in the media every day—the one in that first paragraph. “Artery-clogging saturated fats.” No one seems to even need to change the wording, as if those four words are the required AP style for any mention of saturated fats.
What if I told you that no matter how healthy you eat, you have “artery-clogging” saturated fats coursing through your body right now?
Saturated fats are animal fats. They’re the fats in beef, pork, poultry, fish…and humans. Your “spare tire” contains saturated fats. Most of your cells, in fact, contain saturated fats. Your body can’t survive without saturated fats.
Here’s the secret the “artery-clogging” writers don’t tell you: most saturated fats you consume remain ready to be burned if necessary, but your body stores excess carbohydrates as saturated fat. You eat a donut then sit at your desk, the sugar and starch turns to fat, and when you get up and actually do something, that fat gets into your bloodstream. But we don’t call them “artery-clogging carbs,” do we?
And as far as cholesterol, I had mine tested when I was “eating lean,” and again after I began eating bacon and eggs regularly, and the numbers were virtually identical. (Your mileage may vary based on your overall diet and genetics. Get your cholesterol checked as a part of your regular physical.)
You don’t want to be eating bacon all day long, but perhaps saturated fats are something you can be sensible and balanced with.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain lean muscle, a critical part of your daily diet is to eat at least a quarter of your day’s calories and around 30 grams of protein at your first meal.
This serves two purposes. First, those protein calories keep you satiated in a way that a stack of pancakes or a bagel never will. That keeps you away from the receptionist’s candy jar. Second, the protein helps your body to resume building and maintaining muscle tissue.
Three eggs provide about 18 grams of protein. Add three small strips of bacon (or two large) and there’s 27. Yes, there are other meats you can add to get to the target, and if you prefer them, go for it. I’m also a ham fan. But bacon helps you with your goal instead of working against it like those slices of “wheat” toast slathered in jelly.
Easy, Fun and Tasty
Last, there’s the enjoyment factor: the smell as it sizzles in the skillet, the meaty texture (or crunch, if you like it crispy like I do), and that decadent flavor. It’s the perfect complement to eggs.
Not to mention that bacon is easy to cook: put it in a pan, wait until it’s shrunk down and turn it over. About 5 minutes from fridge to plate. Or put it in the oven at about 400 for 15 minutes. Drain it or pat it with paper towels if you like to remove excess grease. (Oh, and never throw bacon fat down the drain. Do what Mom did and keep a covered soup can handy, then throw it in the trash when it’s full.)
Balance That Breakfast
At this point I should mention that I don’t eat just bacon and eggs—that’s not a balanced breakfast, and all of your meals should be rounded in nutritional content. A little microwaved frozen chopped spinach and black beans, mixed with a little cayenne or hot sauce, adds carbs and fiber to kickstart my brain and ensure, um, regularity despite all that animal product.
I also balance that breakfast with exercise. As I mentioned above, these fats are immediately available for conversion into energy, so it’s a great idea to keep the metabolism moving and the fats burning.
The world-traveling gourmand Anthony Bourdain was recently on tour, and a mother had a question about her young son. He had decided to become a vegetarian, and Mom was finding it incredibly difficult to meet his dietary needs while she also cooked for the omnivorous remainder of her family. She wanted to know if it was possible to win her son back over to the “dark side.”
Bourdain replied with one word: