Reliable nutritional/dietary info on lard, please?
February 26, 2016 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Over the last year, I've incorporated home-rendered lard into my cooking and baking. But I'm not entirely sure, from a nutritional/dietary standpoint, what I'm doing. Do you have reputable sources on lard's pros and cons?

Background: This is my lard, rendered from my pastured pigs. No chemical additions: just heated pig fat. I asked a nutritionist about lard and she made a face of disgust before giving me a vague answer about moderation in all things. My cholesterol numbers please my healthcare provider; YANMD.

I would like reliable, scientifically-reviewed sources of information on the health benefits of/concerns over non-commercial lard, from pigs raised on feed/grass. Are they out there?
posted by MonkeyToes to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When you spoke to your nutritionist, did you make it clear that you were talking about pure homemade lard, and not the hydrogenated chemical crap from the grocery store? Because those are very, very, VERY different things (as you clearly understand). The face of disgust makes me wonder if she thought it was the grocery store stuff.

Pie crust made from pure lovely leaf lard is delicious.
posted by telepanda at 7:18 AM on February 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

Have you found this NPR write up yet?

Seems about right to me--it's an animal fat, using olive oil when you can is better. Using it instead of butter in baking is roughly a wash. Home produced has no trans-fats, so it's not evil like old fashioned Crisco or anything.

I would bet the nutritionist's disgust face was visceral. A lot of people have that reaction.
posted by mark k at 7:23 AM on February 26, 2016

Response by poster: Not my nutritionist, but she had been speaking to 4-H kids about nutrition. Yes, I was very clear about home-raised/rendered. She had nothing for me, and all but made a hand sign to ward off evil.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:23 AM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's hard to find reliable information about this; since lard seems to be the new (insert your now-passe cooking trend here), every lifestyle/cooking/health blog is spouting random "facts" with no references.

I did find this Ask Dr. Weil article, in which he mentions that the lard you buy in the store are hydrogenated to improve shelf life and so are not so good, and that minimally-processed leaf lard is best, and he also mentions a study analysis from 2010 that concludes that:

there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.
posted by Huck500 at 7:23 AM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'd check out what Gary Taubes has to say in Good Calories, Bad Calories or Why We
Get Fat. I haven't read the latter, but the former is science-laden. You can probably find some relevant excerpts just by googling his name and lard.
posted by bluebird at 8:08 AM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Gary Taubes cites a lot of scientific studies and provides many footnotes. The trouble is, if you look at the actual studies, they don't support what he says. Several doctors quoted in his famous NYT article about fat not being bad said that he had completely misrepresented what they told him. A thorough debunking of Good Calories, Bad Calories begins here.

I think it's going to be very hard to find any reliable studies that specifically look at the type of the lard you use. This is such a contentious and unresolved area that people will be able to cite studies showing both sides. Most people choose to believe the studies that support their own worldview. If you want to do that, I'm sure people here will provide them for you. I have found it's pointless to discuss nutrition on the internet, so I'm not going to participate (though Taubes has so little integrity that I just can't let a statement supporting him stand).
posted by FencingGal at 8:40 AM on February 26, 2016 [12 favorites]

If it's from grass-fed critters it will be high in omega-3 fatty acids, which is what you want it to be.
posted by flabdablet at 10:51 AM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

This book by two Harvard researchers goes into a lot of scientific detail about the benefits of animal fat derived from vegetables. Saturated fat from pasture fed animals is superior in health benefits than any other fat, including olive oil. They provide a lot of peer reviewed research articles as references to their claims on fat as well as the problem humans have digesting grains and beans.

I would love to get my hands on your lard!
posted by waving at 11:12 AM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't disagree with Taubes's conclusions about lard, but he should not be considered a reliable source for nutrition information. He is not a scientist, and scientific sources that have examined his work in detail conclude that it is absolutely rife with major distortions of fact or things that are outright made up. I don't really doubt his sincerity, but I think that due to his background, his ability to recognize and work around his preexisting beliefs is limited to the point where it's not worth taking him seriously.

This blog explores parts of his work in great depth, and does a good job of illustrating how slipshod Taubes's approach to the facts is.
posted by mister pointy at 6:51 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know you want the science but for crying out loud ask any grandma and you'll get the best advice: your own lard is a miraculous food and can be used for pie crust/tamales/or just plain old lard sandwiches for my people. Stretch a little food a long way by adding lard. You already knew this. Your body knows this. Humans have known this forever. Forget the science. Eat and enjoy.
posted by littlewater at 9:37 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older What blood tests should I get for low libido...   |   Rolling my own personal news digest! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.