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Breakfast is the bugaboo of nutritionists planning healthy meals. People charging out the door to get to work or school may toast a Pop Tart to eat while walking out the door, washed down with coffee drunk in the car.

What's Wrong with Bacon and Eggs?

At the opposite extreme, breakfast can be a time to load up on tasty, fatty foods, especially at breakfast buffets. Bacon, more bacon, sausages, ham, eggs, biscuits, rolls, French toast, and pastries taste great and don't fill you up, so you can eat more and more and more until you waddle out the door of the buffet restaurant.

A 200-calorie breakfast can be just as unhealthy as breakfast of 2,000 calories or more. Certain foods, however, are always problematic.

  • Smoked pork products are tasty, but inflammatory. Few foods provide more arachidonic acid in the diet than bacon, sausage, and ham. Arachidonic acid is essential for making the hormones that cause inflammation, but too much arachidonic acid in the diet cancels out the benefits of "good" fats and can contribute to skin breaking out, joint pain, wrinkles, allergies, and systemic inflammation. Smoked beef products (for people who keep hallal or kosher) are not a lot better.
  • Eggs in and of themselves, even if you eat two or three, usually make a minimal contribution to blood cholesterol. The New England Journal of Medicine published a case study of an 88-year-old man in good health who had eaten 25 eggs a day for over a decade who had normal cholesterol levels. The body simply does not absorb excess cholesterol from eggs. It does, however, absorb the fat in which eggs are cooked, as well as the considerable arachidonic acid content of the egg yolk.
  • Doughnuts are delicious. They are round, filling the entire field of vision. They have a hole in the center that acts as a bull's eye target for your hand to reach. It's easy to eat one, and another, and another, gulping them down without thinking. The pancreas processes the sugar load in doughnuts by releasing massive amounts of insulin. Insulin accelerates the creation of inflammatory hormones such as leukotriene B4 and prostaglandin E2, which are made from arachidonic acid from foods like pork and eggs. These hormones increase water retention, especially in belly fat. Eaters of doughnuts get fatter even if they manage to avoid calories during the rest of the day.
  • Potatoes, oats, and wheat both contain chemicals that activate pro-inflammatory genes in belly fat. More specifically, potatoes, oats, and wheat contain chemicals that activate 62 different genes that increase insulin use, which in turn increases inflammation and fat storage.
  • Sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals actually are healthier when consumed with milk. Many epidemiological studies have found that Americans who eat cereal and milk for breakfast have better bone health earlier and later in life than Americans who don't. The sugar surge that gets you out the door early in the morning, however, becomes the sugar crash a few hours later, increasing your appetite for foods like doughnuts.
Eating bacon or eggs or oatmeal or hashed browns or wheat toast or even doughnuts or breakfast cereal just once a week is not likely to interfere with your health. The problem is, if you aim to eat these foods no more than once a week you probably will actually eat them a lot more often.

Eating these every day can set you up for developing insulin resistance, making it easier for your body to put on fat, raising blood pressure, raising cholesterol, and often leading to diabetes. Certain sensible alternatives, however, can get your going in the morning and keep you going all day without super-sizing sugar and fat.
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