Recently, lard has been in the spotlight. People are beginning to claim that it can fit into a healthy diet. So, can it??
Lard, also known as pork fat, is fat from the pig. It has been used in cooking for centuries due to its high smoke point, ability to carry flavor well, and great function as shortening in baked goods (making baked goods light and flaky). Its use has declined during modern times due to its high source of calories and significant amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, both saturated fat and cholesterol can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lard has gotten a bad rep for being high in “bad” fats, but most solid fats are also high in “bad” fats.
1 tablespoon of lard (about 13 g) is made up completely of fat – 5 g consists of saturated fat and 12 mg are composed of cholesterol. 1 tablespoon contains about 115 calories. However, pork fat is lower in both saturated fat and cholesterol compared to an equal measure of butter (butter: 7g saturated fat and 30 mg cholesterol). This means that lard is higher in monounsaturated fat than butter – monounsaturated fat is the “healthy” fat!
Since lard has a high smoke point, foods fried in lard tend to absorb less grease due to frying at a higher temperature.
So – is lard “good” for you? No.
Does that mean you should completely avoid and never use lard? Not necessarily.
Lard, as well as other forms of solid fat, should be used in moderation. Solid fats (solid at room temperature) are high in saturated fats and cholesterol – both of which should be consumed in moderation.
Thus, lard CAN fit into a healthy diet. Just limit your intake.
Personally, I would choose trans-fat free shortening at home when baking. Compared to a vegetable shortening (such as crisco) lard is often higher in saturated fat and cholesterol. (1 tbsp crisco: 110 calories, 12 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol)
I usually never fry anything at home, but I would be willing to try something fried in lard when out to eat. (only every once in a while!!)
If wanting to try lard at home – read the nutrition facts labels and avoid the hydrogenated lard sold in stores. Look for a brand that is un-hydrogenated and trans-fat free. If feeling adventurous – you can always render your own lard.
Eat in moderation.