I had a hankering for a plate of bacon and eggs yesterday. There’s a wonderful Islington butcher called Turner & George and I walked down from Highbury just for their bacon which is hormone, antibiotic and cruelty-free. I love this simple dish – homemade sourdough bread, organic eggs and top-quality bacon. What’s not to like? Still, it was the first time in many weeks that I’d eaten bacon – as a kid I ate it almost daily for breakfast.
Of course the first thing I read when I woke up this morning was an article in the Guardian about a study that shows that “ultra-processed” foods, made in factories with ingredients unknown to the domestic kitchen, may be linked to cancer. These foods, which the paper claims now account for half of all the food bought by families eating at home in the UK, have been associated with obesity for years. Now they are being linked to increases in cancer.
More research is needed though to figure out whether any rise in cancer is down to the high load of sugar, fat and salt or possibly the additives. It might be that just one or two molecules are the problem and not all the ultra-processed foods.
The bacon I tucked into yesterday (a processed but not ultra-processed food) was free of additives – it was made up of pork, salt, unrefined sugars and saltpetre. If you’re going to eat bacon, this is the kind of bacon to go for. But the salt content of much of our manufactured food is so high that eating less processed or “ultra-processed” foods is surely sensible. Still, I don't buy into much of the hysteria around food research or our interpretation of it.
There’s so much information about food and what is or isn’t good for you and it can get very confusing. I am fortunate in that living with an Italian food writer, I am able to eat healthy (and delicious) meals with lots of fruit and vegetables and not much meat. ‘Everything in moderation’ is trite, I know, but as a way of cutting through the myriad and often contradictory pieces of research on food and health, it’s a way to stay sane and, I believe, healthy.