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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Eat More Lard!

    About a year ago we went to a Chinese restaurant where they cook your food right at the table and when we sat down there was a big tub of white stuff sitting on the grilling area and my wife asked me what it was. I hadn't seen anything like it in years, but knew it was...LARD! My grandfather raised pigs and so my family cooked, actually fried, everything in lard. I remember my mother sending me to the meat market to get a big tub of the stuff. Later she switched to Crisco because it was more convenient.

     In recent generations, lard, once a staple cooking fat, has pretty much disappeared. That's because now when somebody says “lard” you think of clogged arteries. But there are lard proponents who claim it's healthy! Something about it’s all about chemistry
     You know... saturated fats have single bonds between all the carbon molecules of the fatty acid chain and are therefore the most heat-stable. 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.
     Understand all that? I don't so here it is 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. Now lard is typically 40% saturated fat, 50% monounsaturated fat and 10% polyunsaturated fat. The percentage of saturated fat in lard protects the more vulnerable mono/polyunsaturated fats from oxidizing with heat, blah, blah, blah. 
     Bottom line... lard is an excellent choice for cooking and baking. Lard is an animal fat and it is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, but proponents claim lard is part of a healthy diet and will not give you heart attack. They point out that our grandparents ate tons of the stuff and they were healthy. That may be. My grandfather ate pork fat sandwiches, smoked and drank a lot of beer and he lived well into his 90's. Oh, by the way, he worked on the railroad and when he got home at night he worked in the garden to feed all those kids plus he had about an acre of corn he raised to feed all those pigs. The man must have burned about a million calories a day.
     According to analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition there is no evidence that saturated fat consumption raises the risk of heart disease while a low fat diet has been shown to increase triglycerides, which is a risk factor for heart disease. The director of the large Framingham Heart Study concluded, “We found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.” Supposedly heart disease and diabetes have skyrocketed as animal fats were replaced with vegetable oils and margarine. Besides frying stuff in lard makes it taste better.  Top Three Reasons You Should Be Eating Lard...and if three reasons aren't enough, here are Seven Reasons You Should Eat Lard.

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