Is Eating Lard Healthy For You?

Fat is BACK! Is it time to re-evaluate the stigma of lard? To some, the mere mention of lard can cause a person to roll their eyes in disgust. Did we get it wrong? Could it be that lard is actually kind of good for you? Where's the bacon at!?

I'm not a dietitian or nutritionist by any means. But lately, I've been seeing YouTube videos online of people claiming that by eating more fat and less carbs, they are seeing results in their weight, mood, and overall health.  My first thought when I heard this was "baloney." NO WAY!  I was fascinated with the idea, mainly because of my love for bacon.  This led me down a rabbit hole to do my own research and this was what I found. 

According to some, a diet consisting of eating fats while cutting back on carbs can be good for your body and can help boost your metabolism which can then help your body burn even MORE FAT. A high-fat diet can help nourish your skin, hair, and even help to improve your sleep. Who doesn't feel sleepy after eating turkey during Thanksgiving? Eating a high-fat diet (often referred to as the keto diet) helps you feel fuller and can also help to curb hunger between meals. 

Saturated fats found in organic butter, extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nuts, avocado, coconut oil, eggs (with yolk), salmon, bacon, dairy, or lard don't really coat your arteries as we've been taught. In fact, it can help support brain function (your brain is in fact 60% made out of fat) and your heart health. It's the polyunsaturated fats and processed fats like margarine and plant-based oils that get stored in your body.

Pork fat (lard) is around 48% monounsaturated, 40% saturated, and 12% polyunsaturated fat. You'll also find omega-6 and omega-3 acids in lard. If you can find lard from pigs that were pastured and ate grains, you'll see those omega-3 levels go up. That's a great thing!

The best part? Most of us already prefer the taste of our favorite dishes smothered in butter. Onion rings fried in lard just taste better. Baked goods have an amazing crisp when lard is added. Fact: Fat just makes everything better. 

Yep, there's a term for eating a low-carb and high-fat diet, it's called the "Keto Diet"

The keto diet consists of cutting back carbs and eating more fats. Your body produces ketones that are used as energy. What happens when you eat a lot of carbs is that your body produces more insulin and glucose. 

If your body has a lot of glucose, it'll use THAT as your primary source of energy, while your fats are stored away. Now, when you eat more fats and less carbs, your body switches to burning fat as its main source of energy. It's called ketosis. 

It's basically your body's way of surviving when there isn't enough glucose to burn... so it grabs the next best thing, which is the fat that's in your system. You're not really starving your body of calories, you're starving it from carbohydrates. 

When your body is in ketosis, it helps to lower blood sugar levels. This helps to prevent and manage diabetes as well. 

By the way, ketones are really great for brain function! Those fatty acids can also help to promote the development of your brain and could be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Go omega-3 and omega-4!

Another benefit of ketones is that they help to increase HDL and decrease LDL in your bloodstream. This would help to prevent type II diabetes or insulin resistance. 

One study also resulted in less inflammation of the skin when eating less carbs. That means less acne. Where was this study when I was a teen? 

OK. Let's break down some benefits of eating lard...

Lard is good for your heart

But doesn't saturated fat and cholesterol increase the risk for things like heart disease? Think about this:  Our ancestors (think your great-great-grandparents) used lard or butter with their food almost every day. They didn't have modern medicine, frozen food, boxed crackers, or anything with preservatives. Yet, they didn't really worry about heart disease or heart attacks. 

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is no evidence that saturated fats raise the risk of heart disease. A low-fat diet can, however, increase triglycerides, which CAN cause heart disease. 

The Women’s Health Initiative did a study with 50,000 post-menopausal women and asked some of them to eat a low-fat diet, while having another group continue with their usual diet. What they found after 8 years was that there was no difference between the two groups when it came to cancer or heart disease. They even found that some participants who ate a high-cholesterol, high saturated and high-calorie diet weighed LESS and were usually more physically active than those who didn't. 

Lard holds up to the task when heated

In chemistry class, we learned that saturated fats are made up of single bonds in the fatty acid chain and are pretty darn stable when cooked. These single bonds are hard to break. They don't break like polyunsaturated fats. Why is it bad when these bonds break? They become oxidized... and that's bad news. Oxidized fats create free radicals... and that equates to cell damage which can make you sick and cause inflammation. 

Lard is rich in vitamin D

Some of us like to get our supply of vitamin D from fish oil, but did you know that you can get 1,000 IUs of vitamin D from just one tablespoon of lard? The amount of vitamin D increases significantly from pigs who get to hang out in the sun (pastured is the word we're looking for here).  The sun helps the pigs synthesize the D that gets stored in their fatty tissues. Want to know how the pigs were raised? Get your lard from your local butcher or farmer. Sure, you can also get vitamin D from eggs, but it still doesn't compare to the amount you would get from lard. 

Lard is way cheaper

Have you ever gone to the store to buy coconut oil or organic butter only to find that the price tag on it was just ridiculous? I love the taste of coconut in my eggs, personally. But, that coconut flavor just isn't for everyone. Lard is neutral when it comes to taste and smell. It's also a lot cheaper and available virtually everywhere. 

Lard is sustainable and there's lots of it

Pigs are pretty strong animals. They don't usually require antibiotics or hormone injections. Pigs help create topsoil.  Yep, their poop helps to fertilize the dirt that plants grow on. They can live in almost any climate and their meat is just too darn tasty. Most of the time, lard doesn't have to travel long distances to get to the store. Heck, it doesn't need to be refrigerated either! I'm still trying to find out where I can buy coconut oil that's made locally in the States. The nearest coconut oil manufacturer is in the Philippines or Fiji. 

Oh, the idea of pig lard is still gross? Still using corn oil for your cooking? Here's a thought: good luck getting corn oil where the corn wasn't sprayed with pesticides or genetically modified. 

You get the good cholesterol in lard

Did you know that your body creates it's own cholesterol when you're stressed out or when inflammation is present? As it turns out, eating cholesterol from good fats can help your body so that it doesn't have to create its own. It also helps to prevent unneeded hormone production, depression, mood, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. 

Lard makes food taste better

Did you know that donuts were originally fried in lard before it was replaced with oil? Pie crusts taste so much better when it's flaky, thanks to lard. If you substitute vegetable oil or shortening with lard, your cookies will be on a whole nother level! It just makes everything taste better. 

So the next time you go shopping for groceries, ask yourself, would your great-great-grandmother eat this? 

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