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Lard: A New Look at an Old Fat

One of the most eye-opening books on diet around is Why We Get Fat—and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes, in which the author tears down the government’s food pyramid brick by brick, labeling most carbs, including bread, as the cause of today’s obesity epidemic. Among his most interesting observations, backed by scientific studies, is that fat is not so bad for us—even saturated fat. We need that so-called bad fat, at least in moderation, for health and to keep insulin production at a bare minimum. Insulin does all kinds of bad things, from encouraging fat storage to triggering inflammation.

Taubes’ fat facts include an interesting analysis of lard, supposedly one of the most insidious foods out there:

“Nearly half the fat in lard (47 percent) is monounsaturated, which is almost universally considered a ‘good fat.’ Monounsaturated fat raises HDL cholesterol and lowers LDL cholesterol (both good things, according to our doctors). Ninety percent of that monounsaturated fat is the same oleic acid that’s in the olive oil so highly touted by champions of the Mediterranean diet. Slightly more than 40 percent of the fat in lard is indeed saturated, but a third of that is the same steric acid that’s in chocolate and is now considered a ‘good fat’ because it will raise our HDL levels but have no effect on LDL. The remaining fat (about 12 percent of the total) is polyunsaturated, which actually lowers LDL cholesterol but has no effect on HDL.”

Pretty unbelievable stuff. Taubes concludes his look at lard with this: “In total, more than 70 percent of the fat in lard will improve your cholsterol profile compared with what would happen if you replaced that lard with carbohydrates.... If you replace the carbohydrates in your diet with an equal quantity of lard, it will actually reduce your risk of having a heart attack.” Keep in mind that he’s talking processed carbs, for the most part.

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