When a ‘Tub of Lard’ is a Good Thing

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

Remember the days when everything was cooked with good, old-fashioned butter or lard?

My grandmother cooked with lard her whole life. Most people did… until the government told everybody that animal fat caused heart disease. Then manufacturers introduced substitutes such as shortening and margarine.

How do these stack up? More like plastic than food. Manufacturers heat assorted vegetable oils to extremely high temperatures to change their molecular structure. Then, they add nickel or aluminum and hydrogen atoms to make it a solid mass. Of course, then you need deodorants and dyes to mask the awful odor and ugly gray color. Plus some chemicals and preservatives to prevent this rancid oil  rotting.

The fake stuff has proven to be worse than the real thing! They’re bad for you, and they’re loaded with trans fatty acids, the true fat demons of our time. Trans fats are linked to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and more.1,2

You see, your body needs animal fat. It uses it for fuel and it helps your body absorb important nutrients. And it’s good for your heart. In fact, your heart is covered with a layer of “animal fat” that it uses as an energy booster during times of stress.3

Just look at our native cultures. They put animal fats at the center of their diet and show no trace of heart attacks or heart disease. The Inuits of Alaska eat a diet that is over 80% animal fat. And before they were exposed to the typical Western diet, they had no history of heart disease.

The Native American Indians also had a diet high in saturated fat. Fat was so important to their diets that they often selectively hunted for animals that had more fat. They had remarkably good health without any signs of heart disease.

Real lard is a saturated fat that is a naturally hydrogenated, solid fat. It’s simply rendered pork fat. Like what our ancestors used.

Here’s how lard stacks up to other fats. It has more of the “good” monounsaturated fat than butter and flaxseed oil. And zero trans fats, unlike margarine and shortening.

Fat 1 TBS

Saturated Fat (grams)

Mono-unsaturated Fat (grams)

Poly-unsaturated Fat (grams)

Trans Fats

Lard

5.0

5.8

1.4

0.0

Butter

7.2

3.3

0.5

0.0

Margarine (stick)

1.6

4.2

2.4

3.0

Veg. Shortening

3.2

5.7

3.3

1.7

Olive Oil

1.8

10.0

1.2

0.0

Beef Tallow

6.4

5.4

0.5

0.0

Flaxseed Oil

1.3

2.5

10.2

0.0

Corn Oil

1.7

3.3

8.0

0.0

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21

I tell my patients they should get about 50% of their fat intake   saturated fat. But it’s important that you get it  the best sources. Look for meat and animal products that come   organic, grass-fed, and free-range animals. Wild game is also a great source.

If you want to try lard, you should get it   natural sources. But beware – the lard sold in most grocery stores is typically hydrogenated to give it a longer shelf life. It’s not the real stuff. One rule of thumb: If it’s not refrigerated, you don’t want it.

The best kind of lard is leaf lard that comes    the fat around the kidneys of a hog.4 Fat   the belly and back will also work. But real lard is hard to get a hold of these days. Although I did read about a small farm in upstate NY called the Flying Pigs Farm that makes it. You can also check your local specialty food stores.

But the best way to get it is to make it yourself, which is what my grandmother did. You can get some good quality pork fat that comes   humanely raised pigs   your local butcher or independent pig farmers.

Here’s an easy way to make it – cut it into little chunks and cook very slowly over a low heat. Be careful not to burn it. Heat until the fat melts and only crispy bits are left. Strain it and then put it in a container. Keep it refrigerated and it will last a long time.

And don’t forget to include other healthy fats like polyunsaturated (omega-3s) and monounsaturated fats in your diet. Get them   wild salmon, olive oil, and nuts. Skip the processed foods, margarine, and Crisco!

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

  1. Hwang, G, MD, Lee, D, MD, “Trans-fat: The latest and worst fat on the block,” Continuing Medical Education, Vol 27, No 2, Feb, 2005:49-54
  2. Oomen C. at al., Association between trans fatty acid intake and 10-year risk of coronary heart disease in Zutphen Elderly Study. Lancet 2001; 357: 746-75,1 Lawson, L D and F Kummerow. Lipids. 1979. 14:501-503; Garg, M L. Lipids. 1989. 24(4):334-9.
  3. Schrambling R. Lard – After decades of trying, its moment is finally here. Slate.com. 6/2/09
  4. Other Articles referenced: Wells, P. Lard: The New Health Food? Food &Wine. 12/05. http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/lard-the-new-health-food