Eating Fat for Breakfast

I know I get a few weird looks from some of my roommates (that’s right – I see you ladies) as I’m cooking my eggs in lard every morning or when I’m dumping a tablespoon of Kerrygold butter into my coffee and blending it into a delicious smooth and creamy latte. The amount of fat I consume any given morning is enough to make my college nutrition professor cry… or rescind that A I got in her class and give me an F.

So, why do I do it? Fruity pebbles sound so much better, right? Okay, I just made myself gag.

Now, not all fat is created equal. In fact, when I use the term fat or saturated fat, I’m talking about healthy well-sourced fat. Like the stuff in this infogram below:

Okay, so now that that’s established, let’s break down why I do what I do:

  • Saturated Fat is a good source of energy. No, seriously. I know this goes against anything you’ve ever learned concerning nutrition but it’s true. Fat takes the longest time to break down in your system, giving you sustained energy throughout the day. In fact, fat provides twice the chemical energy per gram as compared to carbs and proteins.

    Think of it this way: if you eat Fruity Pebbles for breakfast, do you ever really eat the recommended daily value and feel full and have lasting energy? I mean, really? Probably not. If you’re like most people, you’ll have quite a few bowls and then half an hour later after feeling like you could run a few dozen times around the block, you have a mega sugar crash, right? Sugar breaks down immediately in our system and is used quickly as the conversion process to a usable sugar type is immediate.

    Fat on the other hand, takes lots of time and energy (I’ll touch on this one in a bit) to break down into a usable sugar that the body can metabolize. Thus, it leaves you feeling full longer and gives you more energy to seize your day.

  • It’s provides cellular protection. For all the crap that it gets, I’m always amused at the gaping holes (pun intended) in nutrition and science. Human cells need fat in order to survive. We have this thing called the lipid bi-layer, also known as a plasma membrane, that acts as the first line of defense for our cells. In other words, the plasma membrane is our cell walls (we’re not plants so technically we don’t have cell walls but you get my point).

    So the old adage “you are what you eat” rings true with this one. If you consume poor quality fats, what are you giving your cells to work with? (hint: the answer is poor quality cells) They simply don’t have the materials they need to keep a strong defense up, allowing themselves to become susceptible to mega-molecules which disrupt cellular function, disease, infection, mutation, poor cellular replication, death, etc.

  • It’s brain food. Your brain is made up of saturated fat and cholesterol. A lack of regular replenishment leads to poor brain function which leads to poor regulatory function all over the body. Brains – they’re kind of important and we really don’t want ours to be this one: 
                  

  • Vitamins, anyone? Proper fats help facilitate the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • No insulin spike to digest. I love this reason. In modern times, we’re so used to starting off our day with a massive insulin spike. Going back to my Fruity Pebbles example, starting your day off with a high-carb/sugary meal sets you off on a massive roller coaster. We’ve all experienced days of highs and lows. And they’re not fun you so know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. Eating a healthy dose of fat for breakfast keeps us on an even playing field until we’re ready to eat again. And, it will be a while – it’s noon and I’m still feeling as content as I was when I ate at 7:30 this morning.

So what’s my take home? Starting your day off with a good portion of healthy fat is not just nice (let’s face it – fat tastes good) but it’s necessary for long-term health.

I can’t leave you with all that and no information to change anything. Here’s some ideas for ways to incorporate fat into your breakfast:

  • Bulletproof Coffee
  • Half an avocado with pink salt (Note: I’ll eat a whole avocado before going to CrossFit so I have a bit of an energy boost while I’m killing it)
  • Pasture-raised corn/soy-free organic eggs… cooked in lard.
  • Pasture-raised corn/soy/hormone-free organic bacon.
  • Fatty meats – like chicken thighs… cooked in lard.

And pulling it all together, this morning I had bulletproof coffee, half an avocado, two eggs fried in lard and three slices of bacon with a healthy side of my homemade sauerkraut. This pic isn’t the best but here’s what the plate looked like.

Cheers to your health! And to enough energy and mental clarity to more than get you through your day!

Chicken Fat

Today’s blog post will probably go against everything that you’ve ever been taught about how to eat. I suggest you sit while you read it. I, probably like many of you, grew up under the notion that consuming animal skin was bad for you. There was so much fat and fat and more fat that it was just no bueno. Ready to have your world rocked?

Wrong-o.

Consuming chicken skin isn’t bad for you. Nor is rendering the fat from it. Only one caveat: not all skins are created equal. Meaning that if we’re talking about our “normal bought at a conventional store” product, probably not the best idea. The skin and fat stores things – like toxins, excess self-produced hormones (chickens are not allowed to be fed/injected with hormones in the US, if you buy chicken because it’s “hormone-free”, you’re being duped) and other icky stuff you really don’t want in your body. 

Conventional chicken skins are raised in a mass barn, where the chickens are crammed in with each other, often walking on dead chickens, with no sunlight and crappy feed. Mmmm… I don’t know about you, but if I were being raised that way, I’d probably be pretty sickly, not grow well and be nutrient deficient. The same goes for the birds – if they’re raised in a crappy environment, they’re not going to produce the same quality of meat which means you’re not going to get the same nutrient panel from them. So, moral of the story: eating organic, free-range humanely raised chicken isn’t just a Portlandia joke, it’s really really much better for your health.

Now to talk about chicken feed. There’s a newish movement to feed chickens vegetarian feed. When you see that, think chemical shit storm. Seriously. While chickens aren’t allowed to be given hormones, they’re allowed to be given soy…. which acts an an estradiol. Which means… they’re being given a nutrient that works to create excess hormones in their body. See where I’m going with this?  mmmm – excess estrogen ingested into our bodies. Sign me up for none of that, please.

Further, chickens don’t eat soy. Nor do they eat a vegetarian diet. Like most birds, they’re foragers. And they eat bugs. They’re actually really good at bug population control – especially ticks and mosquitos. Those bird brains LOVE to eat them. A chicken that eats a natural diet is going to yield more healthful nutrients in its skin – like high levels of vitamin D3 and gut-healing properties. So… what does all of this have to do with chicken skins?

I buy my chicken skins from New Seasons here in Portland. A few times a year, I give the butcher at my local store a ring and request some of the organic, free-range chicken skins. He quotes me at $.99/lb and I tell him I want 5 pounds. It’s pretty easy. As he processes the meat, he throws them into a bag and puts it in the deep freeze. I get a call after a few days saying that my skins are ready and I drive over to pick them up and get a few weird looks/questions while I’m at it. You can set up a similar scenario at your local organic/natural foods store – but the prices will vary from store to store so go with what your butcher tells you. 🙂 I portion the skins out and freeze them into quart bags. I’ll process one pound at a time – it usually renders around a pint and a half. If any of you are good at math, that’s super cheap.

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Okay – so enough rambling. Here’s what I do to render the fat and eat the skins.

Chicken Fat

  • 1 pound chicken fat, washed and cut into smaller pieces (check for boney pieces and cut them out)
  • ½ cup of water
  • a large stock pot and a splatter screen (those things pop!)
  1. Layer the chicken skins on the bottom of a deep skillet or a dutch oven (I prefer the dutch oven, personally.)
  2. Dump the water in the pot and turn the stove top on to medium-high heat.
  3. Mix occasionally.
  4. You will start seeing golden fat float to the top along with some pieces of skin – it it looks more like skin and less like fried crispy goodness, keep going. Also, if you still see bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pan, keep going. This indicates water is still at the bottom. And when you use the fat, it’ll pop and you’ll get burned with hot oil. Again, no bueno.
  5. When the bubbles stop rising and the skin is completely golden and crispy, you’re done.
  6. Let the fat cool for a minute or two and prepare a fine mesh colander with some cheesecloth (this strains out the cracklings and small pieces). Place in a bowl and pour the fat through it.
  7. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring it to your glass storage container. Label and place in the fridge. Fat will last for a long, long while.
  8. With the cracklings, sprinkle some sea salt or pink salt and let cool – they make a healthy and delicious snack. Enjoy!

I use the fat to cook everything from eggs to smothering it between the skin and meat of a whole chicken to pan frying my broccoli to sauteing just about any vegetable.  Also, if you need more fat in the pan while you’re cooking, don’t be afraid of glopping it in. The uses are endless. Enjoy!

Oven Bacon

Bacon. Is there anything more superb in the whole meat kingdom? (If any of you say “Yes,” we’re no longer friends… kidding. But seriously.) Anyway, my love of bacon is nothing new – my roommates know when I’m cooking it because the whole house smells like heaven. I’ve also been known to sport the bacon socks on a run or when I’m working out. And my friends in general hear me praise the meat almost non-stop.

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However, I hate cooking bacon in the morning when I’m in a rush and have slept in. There are usually 15 other things I need to be doing on those days in order to get out the door and get to work on time.

To solve this little problem, I started baking my bacon. It’s fast, easy, and has minimal clean-up. Also, it’s easier to capture the fat to add to my mason jar that I keep in the fridge. By the way, I use the fat to cook everything – eggs, chicken, saute onion, pan fry broccolini, broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower… the list goes on and I’m too lazy to write it all out.

Back to bacon, it’s important to select a good quality meat. A lot of the bacon you buy in packages at the store is crap. Absolute and total crap. Bacon is supposed to have a long cure time. The way many commercial producers make it forces a brining period of a few hours due to a massive use of chemicals. Mmm… chemicals. Tasty. Also, look out for the sweetener – a lot of bacon uses high fructose corn syrup to sweeten it. When you read those words, think “Chemical shit storm.” There’s really no other way to say it.

I generally buy my bacon from New Seasons here in the Portland area. They use a traditional brining process and a honey cure. It’s not pasture-raised meat (and I do buy pasture-raised when I can), but it’s the next best thing. They also sell their bits and pieces for a pretty steep discount – if you don’t mind cutting up chunks of bacon into thinner pieces, it’s definitely the way to go. Search out a vendor in your area that sells good bacon. You might end up paying a little bit more for it but sometimes you have to dish out money to get a better quality product. If you find that your vendor sells bits and pieces, buy those. Unless you’re cooking for guests or it’s a holiday, chances are you and your family aren’t going to care if your bacon is completely picturesque. They’re just going to want to eat it ASAP. Or, visit US Wellness Meats. (I don’t get paid by them… I just really like their products.) Best of luck!

Oven Bacon

  • Line a jellyroll pan (one that has the short sides) with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  • Lay bacon onto the pan and place in a cold oven.
  • Turn the oven on to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on the degree of crispy you like. Monitor closely toward the end.
  • Remove from oven and promptly remove bacon from the hot fat to stop the cooking process.
  • Allow the fat to cool a bit and then drain into a jar for later use or, let fat harden on the paper/foil and toss. Wash pan (which should be relatively clean) and you’re done!

And yes. Seriously. It’s that easy. Here’s some before and after pics from this morning. My pan was still clean when I was done – yey for no dishes! (Sorry for the pics, I slept in, was a in a rush and my trusty 4S came to my rescue.)

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