Monday, May 18, 2009

Bon Appetit says bacon is a health food

Want to eat healthier? Eat more bacon! So says Bon Appetit magazine, in the June 2009 issue.

The story is called "The Terrific 10," and it's written by San Francisco freelance writer Daniel Duane. The headline on the website reads, "10 Suprising Health Foods."

No. 1 on the list of these newly anointed health foods is bacon. Duane writes:
"Ever see that old Woody Allen movie Sleeper? The one where he goes to sleep in 1973 and wakes up 200 years later, only to discover that decadent foods (fudge, cream pies) turned out to be healthful? Well, here comes Jennifer McLagan, author of a book simply called Fat, telling us that 45 percent of the fat in bacon is monounsaturated, the good-for-you fat that can help lower bad cholesterol levels. Better still, bacon's monounsaturated fat turns out to be oleic acid, the same fat found in olive oil. So that means that some could argue that bacon is about half as good for you as olive oil and about 100 times more delicious."

No wonder Americans are fat! Let's replay those numbers: less than half of bacon's fat is good for you. So let's just ignore that 55 percent bad fat and concentrate on the good.

That means that the BLT at Tony's in Birch Run, Michigan -- which contains a full pound of bacon -- is giving you a half-pound of dietary goodness! Heck, Daniel Duane, why don't you order two!

Having worked around food writing professionals for some years, I can tell you how this kind of article happens. Most food writers resent health restrictions on their recipes; they concentrate on deliciousness, a defensible position. Moreover, most good food writers I know are not overweight because they eat small portions.

Food publications constantly get emails and letters from readers, most of them strident, complaining about unhealthy recipes. The readers may have a point, but most don't win friends with their approach. This is how I grew to hate vegans, even though I once spent a couple of years as a vegan myself. For many people, diet is a religion, and most evangelists of any religion are annoying to nonbelievers.

So when a writer manages to pitch an article like this one, an editor who may have just finished a testy email exchange, or had an obnoxious phone call, is likely to say, "Finally! I eat bacon and I'm not fat. Let's print this."

The problem is, the average reader isn't going to add one chopped-up strip of bacon to their grilled escarole; the average reader is going to take this as nutritional permission to order the 1-pound Tony's BLT. This article isn't about the "Terrific 10" flavor additions (which bacon surely qualifies for.) It's about the Terrific 10 foods for a healthful diet. And it's just plain wrong. But it's what you get when you take your nutritional advice from 35-year-old movies about the future. What's next: 10 great foods from Star Trek? (Hmmm, let me pitch that ...)

Read the whole shameful Bon Appetit article here.

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