Good Fat, Bad Fat: A Paleo Perspective
By Mark Sisson
The first time I ever ate a piece of meat was at my dad’s barbecue when I was eight years old. My mom had just given birth to me and she wanted something different than plain mashed potatoes or even chicken nuggets from McDonalds. She went into the kitchen and came back with a slab of pork shoulder. I couldn’t believe it.
Even then, I knew it wasn’t like any other kind of meat I’d ever eaten before. It tasted so much better than anything else Mom made!
I’ve always been fascinated by all things fatty, but never thought to eat them myself until recently. When my wife and I were living in New Zealand, we would occasionally go out to dinner at a place called the Fat Duck Inn (which still exists today). One night, they served up a whole pig leg. I was blown away by how good it tasted.
And it didn’t taste like anything I’d ever eaten before either! So there you have it – pigs are great sources of saturated fat and delicious too!
Pigs are one of the few animals that naturally produce lard (from their skin) which makes them perfect candidates for cooking. They also contain a higher percentage of monounsaturated fat than any other supermarket meat. In fact, it’s the only supermarket meat that’s at least half fat. Lard is prized for both flavor and cooking qualities and is completely lacking in the nasty trans fatty acids (along with most other harmful chemicals).
The pig has always been considered a source of low-grade meat, not so much for the fat or organ meats, but for the muscle itself. It’s the least appreciated, lowest priced meat at the supermarket. Some people avoid it because they think it’s dirty (myth), some avoid it because it has too much fat (also a myth), but many people avoid it just because that’s what they’ve always been taught.
It’s almost impossible to find lard in the grocery store, and never in a supermarket. You can order it online, but that defeats the purpose. Besides, lard isn’t really lard anymore. It’s been hydrogenated and altered so much that the current product has little in common with what comes out of a pig.
The composition of modern lard bears no resemblance to that of even the fattiest parts of the pig.
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet either. There are several things you’ve probably heard about lard that aren’t true. The first is that it’s unhealthy. This is a falsehood perpetrated by margarine manufacturers in the early 1900s.
In fact, a new report came out in the October 26, 2005 issue of Time Magazine (available at most newsstands and grocery stores), but they got it wrong too.
The headlines scream “CANCER: Because It’s High in Sat Fat” but if you actually read the report from the American Institute for Cancer Research, it says, “Animal fat is not inherently bad for you; in fact, it’s a source of vitamin D, which has been shown to protect against cancer” (the article never once mentions lard). The report recommends limiting saturated fat to 10% of your daily calories. This may seem restrictive, but if you stick with lard (which is 75% unsaturated), you’ll have no problem meeting this goal.
In fact, the article actually recommends lard over hydrogenated oils (trans fats), which it says, “have been shown to increase the risk of cancer” (this isn’t really news; trans fats have been shown to be harmful for quite some time). The report goes on to say that beef and butter are also acceptable, but that you should stay away from commercial baked goods.
So why don’t more people know this?
Because the media has a tendency to report the sensational, not the real story.
And why do people avoid lard and other saturated fats?
Because misguided nutritionists think that fat is making us fat (it’s actually the carbs), and because these people have been brainwashed by the margarine manufacturers since the 1920s. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that margarine consumption can lead to heart disease, but that’s a whole different story…