One day I was walking through our local Whole Foods and saw some "Paleo-friendly Bacon" it was slightly humorous. Well... duh! Bacon is not just paleo-friendly, it is a staple in the Paleo lifestyle. But does anyone know why?
Lets talk about what Bacon even is. Bacon = PIG. Yes, vegans be aware, it's going to get really meaty up in here! Bacon is essentially a cut of pig that has been cured using salts, nitrates and other preservatives. For good practice, American bacon is usually is usually meat from a pigs side to have a 2:1 fat per meat ratio, or it can be belly —if you are really lucky! The problem, is with the nitrates and preservatives.
After the bacon is brined with the nitrates and huge amounts of salt it is dried up as it gets ready to be fried up and eaten. Nom Nom Nom. So who is wondering, “what is a nitrate?” A nitrate is essentially an molecule (NO3-) that when attached to a metal or “electrolyte” when in body such as Potassium (K) or Calcium (Ca) or Sodium (Na) it becomes a nitrous compound with the ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria. That’s the entire point here, reduce the bacteria. That’s why we cook things at the end of the day, is it not? But don’t get me wrong, you still need to cook the meat even after brining. There are many forms of bacteria that can grow in salty environments and can only be killed off with heat.
For this bacon I found at Whole foods to be deemed “Paleo-Friendly” it basically means, it has no additive sugars and is minimally processed. This bacon is from Wellshire farms. On their website, they list the ingredients of this bacon to be: pork, sea salt, spices (black pepper, fenugreek, nutmeg, white pepper, mace, and allspice). The nutritional facts are also available on the website and show that for 2 slices of pan-fried bacon (assuming you add no extra cooking fat, which you shouldn’t so you can really taste the bacon fat!) there is a total of 5g Total Fat, 2g being Saturated. When I pulled up just a standard bacon nutrient fact, I found that 1 slice had 3.3g Total fat and 1.1g Saturated. This discrepancy is most likely due to the cuts of meat assumed and less about the nitrates.
Personally, if I’m going to use bacon, I’m going to use it sparingly. But I will use it. By no stretch of the imagination will I be consuming the whole package. For this recipe, we used ½ a package which was about 5 strips, and yielded 2 servings. But, it is important to note that one of the big issues people freak out about with bacon is not the nitrates, not the thought that it may be “processed” but the fact that it is, fatty. The main reason we love it, is one of the reasons we are scared of it.
As a soon-to-be dietitian, I believe in evidence-based practice. Meaning, what does the research show? Too often than not, people are reverting to the old ways of thinking where the culprit was always saturated fat. It was also once thought that cholesterol raising blood cholesterol (it does not). Now that we are slowly past people freaking out that they can only eat 1 egg yolk per day, we have hit people with the idea that saturated fat is not bad. Believe me, I understand, it’s a bit of a shock. Please, don't take this as me telling you I think its appropriate to drown yourself in fat. But it also means, don’t panic. However, I believe that knowledge is power. So don’t just “believe me”. Read about it… here are some good research studies:
Dietary Intake of SaturatedFat Is Not Associated with Risk of Coronary Events or Mortality in Patientswith Established Coronary Artery Disease by: Nathalie Genevieve Puaschitz et. Al.
Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating theassociation of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease by: Patty W Siri-Tarino et. Al.
Both of these studies show that there is no association between dietary saturated fat and increased risk of Coronary heart disease (CHD), Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) or stroke. So, don’t go drowning yourself in bacon fat, butter, coconut butter or vegetable oil because you read on here it doesn’t cause heart problems. It just means— check your facts, before you freak out. Many things in the field of nutrition are constantly changing and evolving. But one thing has remained true over the years… “Everything, in moderation!” Know what causes those problems, and the culprit may just be under your nose (carbohydrates).
Who’s ready for a recipe? Was that enough science talk for ya? First, it goes without saying that coffee-rubbed anything is literally amazing. But of course, I’m a barista, which makes me incredibly bias. But the coffee rub on this recipe just elevated it a tad. Honestly, it has enough protein in here that the dish could technically stand alone but I like to have it as a side dish. The other day, I had some in the fridge, and I ate it cold over a bed of mixed greens and black beans (oops, not paleo). Like I said, everything in moderation!
1 lb. bacon (turkey or pork, whichever you prefer)
1/2 head green cabbage (2 cups chopped)
1 c. rainbow chard, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs. fresh squeezed orange juice
Orange zest for garnish
Coffee Rub Ingredients
1 tbs. espresso beans, ground fine
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tbs. onion powder
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tbs. ground black pepper
Yields ~ 2 servings
Rub coffee mixture on bacon, set in fridge overnight.
Next day, cook up rubbed bacon in skilled under medium-high heat, with no added fat. Chop up into pieces and set aside. Keep bacon fat in pan. Add in orange juice, washed, dried, and chopped chard, cabbage, and minced garlic to fat. Cook down until soft. Garnish with orange zest!