I’m sure the title of this post brought about at least one raised eye brow and perhaps even a double-take! But it’s true. I’m not lying to you about this! For so long, the myth that animal fats are bad for you has been flying around and increasing heart problems around the country. The thing is…animal fats from healthy animals raised in more natural environments and eating foods that are healthier for them are healthier for us!
You know the old adage: You are what you eat. Pigs and cows that eat from the salad bar called “the pasture” build a healthy layer of fat. This fat from pigs, once rendered, is called “lard.” When the fat comes from cattle, it’s called “tallow.” Tallow from healthy cattle shares many of the positive qualities of lard, but tallow isn’t as easy to come by since pigs have quite the layer of fat compared to cattle.
Lard is a traditional fat used for cooking and baking that has very little flavor compared to other fats. For instance, coconut oil will impart a coconut flavor to many foods, but correctly rendered lard (that hasn’t been burnt) will have a “neutral” flavor. This is what can make it so great for baking. The best lard for baking is from “leaf fat” which comes from around the organs, but back fat makes great lard as well. Lard makes the absolute best pie crusts!
In addition to being a traditional fat used for centuries, lard doesn’t come with a hefty price tag. It’s less costly than many of the so-called “healthier” plant-based fats and oils. You can also find lard from your local butchers and farmers, so you’ll know exactly how that hog was raised and what it was fed! This is important, because pigs can be part of sustainable and regenerative agriculture, or simply another drain on our soil and air quality. Unlike their cousins in the CAFO’s, living on slatted floors eating a diet of mostly corn and soy, pastured pigs turn topsoil, fertilize the ground, and eat pests and roots.
Going back to the healthy part of lard, though…the part about WHY you should return to incorporating lard into your diet! Lard is a heat stable fat. The saturated fats protect the unsaturated fats from oxidizing and creating free radicals that damage cells. It’ll also be nice to know that there is no evidence linking saturated fats with poor heart health. What does worsen heart health is a low fat diet, which increases triglycerides. So while lard is full of saturated fat and cholesterol, it actually improves HDL and lowers your risk of heart disease!
Lard contains that kinds of fat the improve heart health, reduce inflammation, and improve HDL cholesterol. But in addition to that, what many Americans are lacking these days is vitamin D! Lard contains an amazing amount of it! Lard is only beat by cod liver oil! Wouldn’t you rather bake a nice pie and revel in the fact that you are improving your health instead of sucking down a tablespoon of that foul tasting cod liver oil?! Again though, if you get your lard from pigs raised in a CAFO, who don’t have access to sunlight, you won’t get this benefit! The hogs need to be out on pasture, soaking up the sun’s rays and imparting that glorious vitamin D into their fat cells.
So go make some pie or fry up some donuts and know that you are doing your body good!