Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unjustly Accused

I started writing a blog post with a recipe but got so thoroughly off on a tangent about one ingredient that I decided I needed to just follow the detour signs. I'll return with a recipe tomorrow.

As I learn more about cooking and as I do more experimental eating, and as I get older and more aware of my health and well-being and that of my family members, I find that I believe firmly that the best diets are traditional, whole food diets. The simple unprocessed foods of our ancestors make the most healthful meals.

My little diatribe in yesterday's post about food additives and raw milk was unfortunately not very well thought out and just a spur of the moment rant. What I really want to convey here on my blog is my philosophy that our complex modern diets have brought down a world of disease and that we need to return to simple foods that are as close to their natural origins as possible.

One important group of foods to consider is fats. I have written about fats before but I continue to read and learn more and want to share these great articles with you.

When I am cooking meat or vegetables at a high heat I use lard as my fat. Yes, lard. Lard is a traditional fat integral to the diets of our ancestors for generations. Here is a quote from an informative article called "Taking the Fear Out of Eating Fat."-

Lard is a traditional fat, the mention of which causes us moderns to cringe. Yet lard is a healthy, natural fat. Lard is rendered fat from pork and is mostly monounsaturated. Lard can be a wonderful source of vitamin D. (There is currently a terrible vitamin D deficiency in our population. Low vitamin D levels contribute to the occurrence of cancer which is also epidemic.) Traditionally, lard has been used and enjoyed for pastries and frying potatoes—until the vegetable oil industry took over. Don't be afraid to experiment with lard in your kitchen, it will add lots of flavor to your food.
On a side note, I worked with a client from Mexico who was here visiting her daughter over the summer. The mother was 85 years old, very strong and healthy, and had not one wrinkle on her beautiful face. Her skin was incredible! It was so soft and silky, not at all dry, scaly or wrinkly like the skin I'm so used to seeing with most of my clients. I just had to ask her what kind of fats she eats. Her daughter translated my question to her mother and then replied, "She said she eats mostly lard. I can't believe it! I keep telling her that's not good for her, but she just won't listen!"   Us silly Americans!

The following quote from an article on called "The Truth About Saturated Fat" explains why the processed oils so commonly used- that is polyunsaturated oils such as those labeled "vegetable oil", "canola oil", "safflower oil", etc.- are so bad for our health, especially when heated to high temperatures-

The public has been fed a great deal of misinformation about the relative virtues of saturated fats versus polyunsaturated oils. Politically correct dietary gurus tell us that the polyunsaturated oils are good for us and that the saturated fats cause cancer and heart disease. The result is that fundamental changes have occurred in the Western diet.
At the turn of the century, most of the fatty acids in the diet were either saturated or monounsaturated, primarily from butter, lard, tallows, coconut oil and small amounts of olive oil. Today most of the fats in the diet are polyunsaturated from vegetable oils derived mostly from soy, as well as from corn, safflower and canola...

...Excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown to contribute to a large number of disease conditions including increased cancer and heart disease; immune system dysfunction; damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs; digestive disorders; depressed learning ability; impaired growth; and weight gain.

One reason the polyunsaturates cause so many health problems is that they tend to become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture as in cooking and processing. Rancid oils are characterized by free radicals-that is, single atoms or clusters with an unpaired electron in an outer orbit. These compounds are extremely reactive chemically.

They have been characterized as "marauders" in the body for they attack cell membranes and red blood cells and cause damage in DNA/RNA strands, thus triggering mutations in tissue, blood vessels and skin. Free radical damage to the skin causes wrinkles and premature aging; free radical damage to the tissues and organs sets the stage for tumors; free radical damage in the blood vessels initiates the buildup of plaque. 

I have read that the reason for the mix-up in attributing disease to saturated fats rather than to polyunsaturated fats was simply some very bad science early on, -flawed studies- and then marketing, marketing, marketing. There is simply more money to be made with processed foods (often patented) then there is to be made from traditional, natural foods. (To illustrate this, here is a quote from this article on the origin of Crisco shortening- Crisco was introduced to the public in 1911. It was an era when wives stayed home and cooked with plenty of butter and lard. The challenge for Crisco was to convince the stay-at-home housewife about the merits of this imitation food. P&G’s first ad campaign introduced the all-vegetable shortening as  " a healthier alternative to cooking with animal fats. . . and more economical than butter."   With one sentence, P&G had taken on its two closest competitors—lard and butter.")

I started using good lard in pie crusts years ago but as I have learned more through my reading about what constitutes a truly healthy diet, I have added the use of lard into my daily cooking. It adds delicious dimension whenever it is used.  Trained chefs know this, we should know it too. It is also safe to use at high temperatures because it doesn't become rancid and create disease-causing free radicals.

I do not buy lard at the grocery store. I have to special order it from a butcher in Pennsylvania. Lard is such a four letter word these days that finding good quality lard is difficult. Maybe if we create enough demand we can turn this train around.


  1. So by lard do you mean, for example, the grease leftover from cooking bacon? Or Crisco? Or do you just buy something called "Lard"? My mom always saved the grease from cooking and called it lard, but I am not sure that is what the rest of the world means.

  2. Yes, Jules, the fat leftover from cooking bacon would be rendered lard, but it will be smoked/cured, as you know since the bacon was. Sooooo delicious! Great for making eggs and potatoes.
    Otherwise lard is rendered pork fat.You can buy it from any good butcher.
    Crisco is NOT lard. It is a man-made product. Here is a good article on it:

  3. Let me develop some logic; I grew up eating both, natural and chemically created foods, yellow stuff in plastic tubs that is called butter. As an adult my tastes are set as far as like and dislike. I can tell and prefer eggs from fee-range chickens, real butter, whole milk, etc. I sometimes eat other foods but I know as soon as real butter touches my tongue (oh, that tastes sooo good). What concerns me is an entire generation that have developed their adult taste preferences without many of the natural food tastes. When they get the taste of real butter it may be so different that they respond with SPIT IT OUT KIDS, THAT TASTES BAD!
    I hope I'm wrong. - Bill

  4. Here's an interesting woman and her journey with nutrition that you might find worth reading:

  5. Bill, that is a thought-provoking point! I know that I and my kids have developed very snobbish palates but I've never thought of the opposite occurring except simply meeting people who are not adventurous and tend to be "picky." Also, I learned a lot about these flavors when I was a judge in a pie contest, tasting pies side by side. In that context it was very easy to tell which pie crusts were made with good butter, shortening, Pillsbury "All-Ready" (the preservative, chemical flavor really stood out) and the worst was Butter Flavored Crisco (disgusting!)

    Thanks, iowacowgirl, I'll check it out!

  6. So true. I chuckled when I read this, my personal belief is that we have trained the palets of children to no longer be able to taste what real food say a strawberry tastes like, verses a syntheic version of strawberry jolly rancher, slurpee or gum. The hightened palete isn't capable of detecting the suble flavors. As an occasional follower of the Weston Price Foundation I am all for pure, grass-fed animal meats, fats and raw dairy. That being said, I recently found an organic, non-hydrogenated shortening made of palm oil. No where near as good as lard and I don't use it often, but still its pretty good. Frankly if you made a pie for me I'd eat it no matter what.

  7. Tropical oils, coconut and palm, are very good for you but I have never been able to find palm oil. Glad to hear that it is becoming available, probably with credit going to organizations like WAPF who are teaching about the value of it and the dangers of the imitations.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.