Not a day goes by in the health world that a Google Alert with a big, scary headline doesn't pop out at you on the computer screen. Like yesterday, when one of the featured stories was about a startling conclusion that some important sounding group called the World Cancer Research Fund reached. Here it is ... get ready ... this is pretty horrifying ...: People should stop buying and eating processed meats for the rest of their lives.
Well, it's not like we haven't heard about the supposed dangers of nitrates and cold cuts every before, but now it's For. The. Rest. Of. Our. Lives. I guess that ham sandwich I had yesterday means I'm a goner.
Well, a little digging has shown you don't need to drop the bacon and run away screaming quite yet.
The story is based in fact: Consumption of cured or grilled meats, as well as salted fish, raises your risk for stomach cancer, and nitrates (one of the chemicals used in curing many types of bacon, ham, and sausage) can turn into cancer-causing chemicals. But the amount used to cure meats has been reduced considerably in recent years. Vitamin C can also counteract the negative effects, so many food manufacturers add it to meats with nitrates.
And I am calling BS on the whole "bacon is deadly" thing.
For one, my grandmother, who was 100 percent Polish and lived in a Polish neighborhood much of her life, probably ate bacon, ham, or sausage every single day on this Earth (we Poles like pork), and she died the month she would have turned 96.
Also, there have got to be tons of worse foods for you than bacon. One slice of bacon has between 60 and 100 calories, depending on how large and/or fatty it is, and around 3-5 grams of fat. On the low end, that's the same as a Morningstar Farms vegetarian breakfast sausage patty, which are good but you're expecting them to be healthy.
Here are some foods that ought to kill you sooner than bacon will:
Anything Paula Deen makes, pretty much: Now I find Ms. Deen's Southern sweetness a little much, and hello, I already have a weight problem; she is the last celeb chef I should be following. Especially when she has recipes like Twinkie Pie on her website. Twinkies, whipped cream, crushed pineapple, bananas (oh good, fruit, how healthy), instant vanilla pudding, and sugar. Because the above ingredients won't make it quite sweet enough, apparently.
The Ruby Tuesday Bella Turkey Burger: I found this on the "Worst Foods In America" list from Men's Health, and the reason I think this wins the nod is because someone would order this in an attempt to make a healthy restaurant choice. I mean, you opt for the cheese fries with ranch dip, you know you're making a diet mistake. But a turkey burger? This one packs 1,145 calories and 71 grams of fat.
KFC Famous Bowls: Everyone goes crazy about the Double Down; I think these are 100 times more awful because not only are they full of fat, calories and sodium, they say very depressing things about the American palate. "Let's throw together a Sunday-dinner type meal in a bowl and TOP IT WITH CHEESE! Genius!" Patton Oswalt nailed it, "failure pile in a sadness bowl." (Video NSFW)
Delilah's Mac and Cheese: Oprah called this the best ever mac and cheese, and honestly I wouldn't mind living a slightly shorter life to try this award-winning recipe. But with a dozen eggs, two sticks of butter, four cups of half and half and a whopping 12 and a half cups of cheese, this has got to make bacon look like health food.
Anything featured, ever, on Man vs. Food: I love the show, I must admit, but host Adam Richman must spend every minute he's not eating working out or he'd go right over the line from kinda cute to seriously obese.
Sure, bacon's not health food, but a couple slices as part of an occasional Saturday morning breakfast isn't going to kill you. And it's not likely to cause cancer eaten every once in a blue moon, either.
Image via GoodNCrazy/Flickr