3 Myth-Busting Reasons You Should Cook With Lard (Yes, Lard)
Are you like millions of Americans who bought into the lipid hypothesis myth? You know, the one that says that saturated fat causes heart disease and is like poison to your body. Did you abandon the way your great grandmother cooked, replacing healthy animal fats with synthetic hydrogenated oils for fear of ruining your health? If so, you are not alone.
The good news is that your great grandmother was probably right all along. In fact, our ancestors ate lard and other natural saturated fats for thousands of years and were comparably healthier than we are now.
In spite of modern medicine, we are not living much longer than people 2,000 years ago – so something must be wrong. Degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis were extremely rare before the 1900s.
The good news
Recent breaking research has confirmed what many have known for years: Natural saturated fat does not cause heart disease or stroke. Now, it will be just be a matter of time before this information makes its way into mainstream medicine and the lipid hypothesis is split wide open.
We must be prepared for it to trickle down slowly as paradigms do take a while to change. This is a challenge for health academics for sure who have spent the better part of their career advising against consumption of saturated fat. Plain and simple, it takes people a while to admit that they are wrong.
The rise of dangerous cottonseed oil
It will take an even longer time before food manufacturers make the shift mostly because there is extreme profit in the cheap hydrogenated oils such as cottonseed. Interestingly enough, cottonseed oil was seen as waste in 1860, used for fertilizer in 1870, fed to cattle in 1880 and made its way into table food by 1890.
In the early 1900s Proctor and Gamble were growing and harvesting cotton and began to experiment with the cottonseed (a byproduct of cotton) to see if they could do anything with it to expand their profits. After some experimentation, they found that by heating and pressing the seed they could extract an oil. This process was easy and inexpensive, making it highly desirable. This process of hydrogenation was used to make the oil last a long time and when it cooled it looked just like lard. We knew this product as Crisco (the recipe has since been replaced with soybean oil).
It was at this point in food manufacturing that the decision to market cottonseed oil had a terrible and far-reaching impact on the health of millions of Americans. Crisco was touted as being a cheaper and healthier alternative to lard. Early on, Proctor and Gamble even gave away free cookbooks with each purchase of Crisco that replaced lard and butter with the dangerous oil.
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Today, the packaged or processed food found in your local grocery store including things like chips, cookies, crackers, breads, salad dressings — even soaps, shampoos and makeup use cottonseed oil.
This oil contains 50 percent omega-6 fatty acids. Although we have a small amount of omega-6 in our body, too much causes inflammation. Most lifestyle illnesses today are the result of inflammation.
Not long after cottonseed oil infiltrated our food supply diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and autism skyrocketed.
On the other hand, saturated fat such as that found in lard is actually good for the body:
Saturated fat is necessary for strong bones: Calcium can’t be effectively incorporated into bone without saturated fat. Dr. Mary Enig, PhD., leading expert on dietary fats, recommends that 50 percent of fat in our diet should come from saturated sources.
Saturated fat keeps lungs healthy: In order for lungs to function properly, they need to be coated with a thin layer of lung surfactant, which is 100 percent saturated fatty acids. If we replace this fat with non-saturated types the surfactant does not work properly and we may experience breathing problems.
Saturated fat keeps your brain healthy: The brain is made up of fat and cholesterol. Most of the fatty acids in the brain are saturated. When we eliminate saturated fats from our diet the brain is robbed and cannot function properly.
Saturated fat builds a strong immune system: Saturated fat keeps the immune system strong. When we lose saturated fatty acids in white blood cells they have a hard time identifying and destroying foreign invaders such as bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Saturated fat is good for your heart: This is perhaps the biggest shock of all – what was once thought to be detrimental to cardiovascular health is now being recognized as being beneficial. Saturated fat reduces lipoprotein (a), which correlates strongly with the risk of heart disease. Additionally, studies show that when women diet, those eating the most total fat as saturated fat lose the most weight.
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Saturated fat helps with nerve signaling: Saturated fats found in butter, coconut oil and lard work as signaling messengers to influence metabolism including the release of insulin.
Why use lard?
Lard, or pig fat, appears to be making somewhat of a comeback these days. Although lard is a saturated fat, it actually contains one-fourth the amount of saturated fat of butter and is rich in monounsaturated fat such as that found in olive oil.
1. Lard is good for you: Lard is comprised of 48 percent monounsaturated fat, making it second to olive oil that contains 77 percent monounsaturated fat. The primary fat found in lard is oleic acid, which has been associated with a decreased risk of depression, reduced risk of cancer and proper cholesterol balance. Lard is also loaded with naturally occurring vitamin D. We are a society that is deficient in vitamin D and don’t do a very good job synthesizing it, either. Pigs, on the other hand, store vitamin D in the fat under their skin which is why the lard is so full of it. Consuming lard on a regular basis can help to keep our vitamin D levels where they need to be.
2. Lard is natural and highly sustainable: Although not everyone can raise a pig, if you can and you let it get to be about 250 pounds you will have about 20 pounds of lard. It takes about 6-9 months to raise a pig to this weight, and this would give a family of 5 plenty of lard for a year.
3. Lard is tasty: Those that cook regularly with lard will testify to its taste and easy to use. From crispy fried free-range chicken to baked goods — lard just makes everything taste richer. Pastry chefs swear by it for a wonderful and light crust.
Warning… don’t buy store-bought lard
The lard found in your local grocery store is not healthy but is hydrogenated and comes from pigs raised in confinement. Look for a local organic pig farm where the animals are raised outdoors and not given any antibiotics or drugs. Visit EatWild.com to find a farm near you.