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The story of Lard

Lard is healthy!

In recent generations, lard has seemed to completely disappear from home kitchens. Until the early 1900’s, lard was a staple cooking fat across the globe. It was the secret to perfectly flaky pie pastry, crispy fried chicken, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits and luscious gravy.


Now, when people hear the term lard, they immediately conjure up a vision of clogged arteries. It’s time to set the record straight – lard is a healthy cooking fat and deserves to make a comeback in kitchens everywhere.


1. Lard is heat stable


lard is healthyWhen it comes to determining the stability of a fat, it’s all about chemistry. Saturated fats have single bonds between all the carbon molecules of the fatty acid chain and are therefore the most heat-stable. That’s because single bonds, when it comes to the fatty acid carbon chain, are relatively difficult to break. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond replacing a single bond in the carbon chain. Double bonds in fatty acids are unstable and can break with heat. Polyunsaturated fats are the most unstable, because they have numerous double bonds in the carbon chain. When the double bonds in mono- or polyunsaturated fats break, the fatty acid undergoes a process called oxidation.


Why are oxidized fats bad? In a nutshell, oxidized fats = free radicals. Free radicals = cell damage. While we inevitably have some free radicals in our body, we should minimize these damaging molecules as much as possible to protect health and reduce inflammation.


According to Mary Enig, author of Know Your Fats, lard is typically 40% saturated fat, 50% monounsaturated fat and 10% polyunsaturated fat. (Pastured hogs consuming a diet supplemented with grain or coconut will have a lower percentage of polyunsaturated fat – a good thing!). The percentage of saturated fat in lard protects the more vulnerable mono/polyunsaturated fats from oxidizing with heat, making lard an excellent choice for cooking and baking.


2. Lard is heart-healthy


“Lard is an animal fat, and it is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Doesn’t that mean it raises my risk for heart disease?” The pervasive myth that animal fats increase the risk of heart disease is just that – a myth. Our great-great-grandparents consumed lard and butter and experienced extremely low rates of heart disease. Lard is part of a healthy diet and will not give you heart attack:


An analysis of more than 300,000 people published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that there is no evidence that saturated fat consumption raises the risk of heart disease (1)

A low fat diet has been shown to increase triglycerides, which is a risk factor for heart disease (2)

The Women’s Health Initiative studied nearly 50,000 post-menopausal women – one group of women were told to follow a low fat diet, and the other group continued to eat “normally.” After 8 years, there was no difference in the rate of heart disease or cancer between the groups. (3)

Numerous other large studies have found no benefit to a low fat diet (4)