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Excerpt from "Which breakfast delight is the real food bomb?"
Recently, our family sat around the breakfast table. We were four generations ranging in age from 2 to 84. All of us had fresh fruit from the platter of watermelon, pineapple, papaya, mango and banana.
The baby ate crackers and drank her "bobble" with a chocolate sandwich cookie. The 5- and 6-year-olds had multicolored sweetened cold cereal and pieces of their mom's fresh bakery pastry. Mom also had a glazed doughnut. Grandma had fruit and a frozen waffle. Grandpa had bacon and eggs. Great grandma had raisin bran and high fiber toast spread with margarine and jelly.
Which family member(s) ate the breakfast of champions?
We are all fairly well schooled on the two cholesterols, LDL and HDL. LDL is the evil twin. Elevated levels are associated with heart attack, stroke, vascular disease and premature death. We know that saturated fats from lard or heavy cream raise LDL (bad). Poly unsaturated and mono unsaturated fats like canola, corn, safflower and olive oil actually lower LDL a little when used in moderation (not bad).
HDL is the good twin. It helps remove fat from the blood stream and retards fatty deposits in blood vessels (good).
Indigestible fiber lowers cholesterol a little, decreases the frequency of colon cancer and saves older folk from terminal constipation. Where most of us need a refresher course is in the area of trans fats (very bad). They don't occur naturally, and the body doesn't need even trace amounts of them. The have three negative properties: they cause higher LDL (bad), lower HDL (bad) and stickier blood platelets (bad). They may worsen diabetes as well.
Labels are often intentionally misleading. Cholesterol-free says nothing about saturated fats or trans fats. 2 percent milk does not have 98 percent of the fat removed. It has about half the fat left in. Whole milk has about 4% fat content.
Back at the table, crackers, cookies, most cereals, frozen waffles, pastries even from bakeries, doughnuts, packaged bread, most margarine and some jelly contain significant amounts of trans fats. Grandpa's bacon and eggs are appropriate health food only if he is one in four in his age group for whom a low carbohydrate diet is best. Although his choice is trans fat-free, he is eating a lot of saturated fat, a potential problem for the other three out of four of his peers.
The only issue with great grandma is her present comfort. She is correct to choose lots of fiber, even though everything on her plate contains trans fats. Long term, Mom and her babies are probably most at risk. The fish sticks, chicken nuggets, pudding cups and chips they eat for lunch are as bad as their breakfast choices.
So what should you eat for breakfast?Your choices are likely to be healthier if you remember the science and read labels. Another option is the Tico choice, fresh fruit and gallo pinto (beans and rice). Plenty of fiber and no trans fats if it is fried in corn oil, not "cholesterol free all vegetable" trans fat laden manteca, shortening.
Add eggs, sour cream and cheese at your own risk. For those of you who are absolutists, eat steamed broccoli with three glasses of water. You may not live to be 100, but it will surely feel like it.
AM Costa Rica Sept 3rd, 2004
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