Measure and mix, crack the eggs and stir with a whisk. The batter is ready. The bacon spits and spatters on the stove top and the aroma fills the room. Pancake toppers are placed on the table; bananas and almond butter, blue berries and coconut cream, tart yogurt and steamed apples with cinnamon… be creative here; this is your fantasy as much as it is mine. Nom Nom Paleo has a great recipe for coconut flour pancakes I think you'll enjoy!
Coconut flour is a great gluten-free option. Its light weight keeps the pancake (and other baked goods) from becoming flat and dense. Coconut flour is also a nutrient dense, high-fiber, healthy saturated fat source that will prevent blood sugar spikes, unlike typical wheat-flower or gluten-free packaged mixes that have high starch content. The problem with starch is that it converts easily to glucose, raising blood sugar quickly. Coconut contains immune-boosting medium-chain fatty acids, which have antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal properties that protect against a number of disease-causing agents, including yeast and parasites. Coconut has also been used historically for the treatment of other conditions like diabetes, leprosy, tooth and ear aches, and urinary infections to list a few (1). The fats of the coconut are not stored as fat in the body but are quickly used for energy while increasing metabolism and supporting the burning of other long-chain fatty acids (1). Coconuts are also a great source of manganese, molybdenum, and copper as well as selenium and zinc (1).
Now what about that bacon? You might be asking, "Isn't bacon one of those processed meat products that contains nitrates, which are known to cause cancer?" Indeed bacon does contain nitrates, usually in the form of sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate (and nitrite) is a solution added to food as a preservative. In cured meats such as bacon, sausage, salami, and lunch meet, it is used to prevent fat from going rancid and botulism spores from becoming toxic. It also gives ham and bacon it's rosy pink color (2). Sure, no one wants spoiled meat for breakfast, but the metabolism of these preservatives has also been shown to produce oxidative stress in the body, which in great enough quantities, can promote the development of cancer (3, 4). Once eaten, nitrates convert to nitrites in the GI system. Further down the line, nitrites convert to nitrosamines. It's the nitrosamine compounds that can induce various cancers (5). Cooking meats treated with nitrites can also produce nitrosamines (6).
There are products on the shelf that claim "no added nitrates, other than those found naturally occurring in celery;" this includes all organic products. The nitrates found in vegetables (e.g. beets, celery, and spinach) are actually beneficial to our health, particularly our cardiovascular system. The difference between natural nitrates and those added as preservatives are the co-nutrients that come bundled in whole-foods, including vitamins C and E, which help the body optimally process and utilize nitrates (7). But just because these preservatives are derived from whole-foods doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the co-nutrients you need when they are used as preservatives.
Research has shown that adding vitamins C or E to bacon can reduce the formation of nitrosamines during cooking. Federal regulation now requires the addition of sodium ascorbate or sodium erythorbate (salt-based forms of vitamin C) to bacon; however, some levels of nitrosamines were still found during a cooking experiment when bacon was cooked at higher temperatures for a longer time (6).
So what is the take away here? If you're eating a generous dose of well-done or burnt bacon on a regular basis, you may be increasing your risk of cancer. Avoid these carcinogens by cooking your bacon low and slow to a medium doneness. Don't exceed a cooking temperature of 275 deg F, and limit your intake of processed meats. Organic products may not be worth the extra buck if you are concerned about nitrate/nitrite content, BUT it definitely is for other reasons, such as avoiding herbicide/pesticide residue from genetically modified animal feed and the use of beta-agonist drugs, such as ractopamine and Zilpaterol. But that’s a whole other sounder of swine to discuss! Stay tuned for more information on this topic.
- Murry, M. Pizzorno, J. Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Atria Books. New York, NY.
- Shenker, M. (2013). Substitutes for Sodium Nitrite in Food. Livestrong.com. August 16, 2013. Available at http://www.livestrong.com/article/278152-substitutes-for-sodium-nitrite-in-food/). Last accessed December 15, 2014.
- Hebels, D., et al. (2010). Radical Mechanisms in Nitrosamine- and Nitrosamide-Induced Whole-Genome Gene Expression Modulations in Caco-2 Cells. Toxicological Sciences. Volume 116; pages 194-205. Apirl 15, 2010. Available at http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/116/1/194.full. Last accessed December 15, 2014.
- Paik, D., et al. (2000). The epidemiological enigma of gastric cancer rates in the US: was grandmother’s sausage the cause? International Journal of Epidemiology. Volume 30; pages 181-182. August 1, 2000. Available at http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/1/181.full. Last accessed December 15, 2014.
- Kirschner, C. (2013). What’s the difference between nitrates and nitrites? Available at: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/whats-the-difference-between-nitrates-and-nitrites. Last accessed December 15, 2014.
- USDA. (2013). Bacon and Food Safety. United States Food Administration Food Safety and Inspection Service. October 29, 2013. Available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/meat-preparation/bacon-and-food-safety/CT_Index. Last accessed December 15, 2014.
- Lathia, D., Blum, A. (1989). Role of vitamin E as nitrate scavenger and N-nitrosamine inhibitor:A review. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrient Research. Volume 59(4); pages 430-8. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2699323. Last accessed December 15, 2014.