I know that organic chemistry can be confusing. The fact that it is confusing makes dietary fat advice confusing as well. For instance, you might hear news outlets saying that fats are bad for you, which is true. You may also hear the same news outlets saying that fats are good for you, which is also true. Both statements can be true because there are so many different kinds of fat.
Let me make it easy for you. Fats created in a lab are artificial fats. Fats created in a living creature are natural fats. Artificial fats are bad, natural fats are good. It really is that simple. For example, lard comes from the natural fat deposits found in pigs. Lard is perfectly healthy when eaten.
Today in every newspaper and online there is the news that the FDA, that tireless watchdog of food safety, has come down hard on one kind of fat, trans fat. Here is one example. You may have heard of transfat, it has been in the news a great deal of late…it is manufactured by companies to make liquid oils into solid oils–think vegetable shortening. A couple of years ago the FDA took the bold step of making food makers indicate how much trans fat was in their products on food labels. Doing so has seemingly caused the consumption of trans fat to fall by 78% since that change. Now they are going to ban trans fat use all together–three years from now.
Like the title above says though, there are a thousand kinds of dietary fats. Trans fats occur in nature, are a component of lard and tallow (pork and beef). So are trans fats all bad? Are trans fats all equal in the damage they cause to hearts and veins? No. From Wikipedia:
Trans fats also occur naturally in a limited number of cases. Vaccenyl and conjugated linoleyl (CLA) containing trans fats occur naturally in trace amounts in meat and dairy products from ruminants. Most artificial trans fats are chemically different from natural trans fats. Two Canadian studies have shown that the natural trans fat vaccenic acid, found in beef and dairy products, could actually be beneficial compared to hydrogenated vegetable shortening, or a mixture of pork lard and soy fat, by lowering total and LDL and triglyceride levels. A study by the US Department of Agriculture showed that vaccenic acid raises both HDL and LDL cholesterol, whereas industrial trans fats only raise LDL without any beneficial effect on HDL.
(Bold bits are my emphasis)
You can still go to a thousand different sources and find cautions against eating saturated fats (lard, butter, tallow, coconut oil). Are saturated fats proven to be bad? No.
Despite the original good intentions behind getting rid of saturated fats, and the subsequent good intentions behind getting rid of trans fats, it seems that the reality, in terms of our health, has been that we’ve been repeatedly jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The solution may be to return to stable, solid animal fats, like lard and butter, which don’t contain any mystery isomers or clog up cell membranes, as trans fats do, and don’t oxidize, as do liquid oils.
Teicholz, Nina (2014-05-13). The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (Kindle Locations 4970-4973). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
The book that I just quoted from, “The Big Fat Surprise” by Nina Teicholz tracks down the origins of the cautions against saturated fats. It is a tutorial on the damage that pseudoscience can cause. It is a lesson in unintended effects. Eating less fat, especially natural fat, is a national disaster. Just about every negative health trend can be traced to switching the diet of the US from natural foods to processed foods. Trans fats are but one example of this.
They led us to believe that we could eat reconstituted foods, supplement them with the nutrients that are lost in the process and it would be the same as eating the real thing. Such arrogance never goes unpunished. Eating an egg from a chicken that is raised naturally passes up the food chain every nutrient needed by the animals above the chicken on the chain. This includes nutrients that we have not yet even identified. Once eaten, the natural egg feeds the man, and his naturally occurring bacteria within him. There are reactions and processes that have been taking place since time immemorial. Nobody yet knows how to catalog the chemical natural processes that occur between man and his food. Yet, the food scientist thinks he can create a food that is just as good in the lab–add a few known nutrients, and call it equivalent. Folly.
For the next three years food makers are going to go to great lengths to find a fat that is solid at room temperature to use in baking, frosting, for frying foods. They will be looking to food science laboratories for a white knight. Too bad, the white knight lives in the lard tub. Food makers think that we won’t eat lard and butter because the authorities gave it a bad name. Just like everything else, it is up to us to show food makers what we will and will not eat.
Throw away your vegetable oil, shortening and margarine. Don’t wait three years for them to remove the option you have now of buying it. It is bad for you, you should treat it like your salmonella tainted ground beef.
Buy a tub of lard to fry with, to bake with, to eat. It is easy to find lard at the store. Tallow is harder to find, I will be making my own. Why do I need two kinds of animal fat? Lard smokes at 350 or so degrees, while tallow smokes above 400.
Cooking above 400 is great for deep frying. The crust that forms on foods is much better, and the amount of oil that is absorbed in food is lower, the higher the starting temperature. Tallow and lard make foods that taste better, they never leave a greasy taste in the eater’s mouth. Chefs and grandmothers know that lard makes the best pie crusts. they know that the flavor is best if the fat is best. We have been on the wrong track for a long time.
Show the food makers you don’t hate lard, butter and tallow any more, by buying them. Use them and show McDonalds that they can use tallow again to make the tastiest french fries and they can get rid of all of the artificial things they put in their potatoes to make them taste like they were fried in tallow. Life will be much easier for food makers and restaurants if we would encourage them to go back to natural oils.
I make my own leaf lard. I buy kidney fat from my local pork processor. I heat it up in my crock pot until the fat comes out of it. I put that fat in mason jars and it becomes creamy white lard. Pure lard for a pure diet. I will do the same later this month with beef fat to make my own tallow for deep frying. I will post pictures when I do that, but there is nothing easier than making lard or tallow.