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The American Paradox (Why You Should Eat Lard!)

By: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet

I have a confession to make: I’m a recovering vegetarian.

I didn’t shun meat for ethical reasons… although I do believe that all animals should be treated respectfully and humanely (even the ones we are raising for food). The reason I shunned meat is because I once believed that animal foods were unhealthy. I believed that they contributed to chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease.

But despite my belief that a vegetarian diet was healthy… my body disagreed. I felt poorly. I was frequently sick. My hair lacked luster and my skin was dull. My mood and energy were almost always low. And while I wasn’t overweight, I did carry excess body fat.

In addition to fearing meat, I also feared fat. I used small amounts of olive oil or (gasp!) vegetable oil. But most of the time, I opted for “low-fat” products. Grain had a place at nearly every meal – whether it was bread, pasta, oats or rice.

The diet I was eating was not the one that humans evolved to eat. And my health, appearance and mental outlook suffered for it.

Around ten years ago, I began to learn the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy ones. I learned that much of what we have been told about nutrition and disease was a big fat lie. And I learned that the diet most humans do best on is the one that our genetic ancestors consumed, before the dawn of modern agriculture.

I soon shifted to a more primal diet. I began by adding fish, then poultry, then beef and pork. I also eliminated vegetable oils and grains. Everything started to change. My energy levels increased. My body became leaner and more responsive to workouts. And my skin started to glow again.

As I tossed out the canola oil and soy burgers, I replaced them with grass-fed beef and traditional healthy fats… including lard.

Wait a minute, you might say. For decades we’ve been told that animal fat is bad for our health. And lard is the worst of all. The very word “lard” conjures up clogged arteries and a big backside.

Those connotations are unfortunate, because lard is a healthy fat. In fact, it is one of the healthiest fats you can use for cooking. So what makes lard healthy? And why is it good for cooking?

What Lard and the Mediterranean Diet and Have in Common

Olive OilThe Mediterranean diet has long been praised for its health benefits. And you might also know that this way of eating relies heavily on a type of fat called monounsaturated fat (MUFA). Research shows that monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) can help to:
•    Balance blood sugar
•    Boost HDL (or good) cholesterol
•    Protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation
•    Reduce belly fat
•    Reduce levels of CRP – a key marker of inflammation

We most commonly associate monounsaturated fat with olive oil and avocados. But this is also the primary fat found in lard. Monounsaturated fat accounts for 48 percent of lard’s composition.

Surprising, right?

What may be even more surprising is that many traditional Mediterranean diets – contrary to popular belief – are also high in saturated fat (which comprises 41 percent of lard).
Sally Fallon and Mary Enig explore this in a piece entitled: "The Mediterranean Diet: Pasta or Pastrami?"

"Consider the description of food in Sardinia [in Recipes of All Nations, published in 1935]. Grains are certainly a part of their diet, consumed as bread, pasta or polenta, but in most interesting ways. "One of their favorite ways of cooking macaroni is to cook it in either lamb or pork fat . . . with small pieces of either lamb or pork, chopped tomatoes, chopped garlic and curd, mixed with a little water and salt and moistened with a little game stock, if this is obtainable."

Gnocchi is flavored with saffron and "served with a tomato sauce, or with gravy and cheesemade from ewe's milk."

Polenta is enhanced with "chopped salt pork, small pieces of sausages and grated cheese."

A dish called La Favata is made with "pieces of salt pork, cut in large chunks, ham bone, special homemade sausages, a handful of dried beans, wild fennel, and other herbs and a little water."

Despite the widely held belief that Mediterranean diets derive their fat primarily from plant sources, historical records and traditional recipes tell a different story. They recount a culture with robust health and strong hearts. And it was a culture that prized and savored animal fats.

The American Paradox: Can Saturated Fat Reduce Heart Disease?

So what about the idea that saturated fat causes heart disease?

It’s just not true.

HeartIn fact, a growing body of research shows that saturated fats have been wrongly accused of causing cardiovascular disease.

A review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated data from 21 different studies. These studies involved more than 350,000 people. And the results? The researchers found "no significant evidence" that eating more saturated fat increased the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Another study published in the same journal found that saturated fat actually prevents the progression of coronary artery disease in women with metabolic syndrome. The researchers coined this phenomenon “The American Paradox”.

Multiple studies of Pacific Island populations who get as much as 60 percent of their total calories from saturated fat also show that cardiovascular disease is nearly non-existent.

Dr. Jeff Volek is a university professor and leading researcher. His extensive research shows that a high healthy-fat, low-carbohydrate diet confers significant health benefits. Dr. Volek also notes that, “Multiple recent reports find no association between dietary saturated fat intakes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

For decades, millions of people – at the urging of physicians and the fatally-flawed USDA pyramid – have avoided saturated fats for fear of disease. Lard has been especially vilified (even half the fat in lard is monounsaturated).

Instead, we have substituted polyunsaturated fats – like soy, corn, safflower, canola and other “vegetable” oils – much to our own demise.

Death by Vegetable Oil

While “vegetable oils” have been promoted as the healthy alternative, the truth is that these fats that are destructive to your health. A high intake of vegetable and seed oil is associated with inflammatory diseases including:

•    Cardiovascular disease
•    Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
•    Obesity
•    Irritable bowel syndrome
•    Macular degeneration
•    Rheumatoid arthritis
•    Asthma
•    Cancer
•    Psychiatric disorders
•    Autoimmune diseases

The reason? Vegetable oils cause free radical damage and inflammation. These are two primary contributors to chronic disease.

Cooking Up Chronic Disease

Because of their weak structure, vegetable oils break down readily (go rancid) simply when exposed to light and oxygen. Adding heat further damages their delicate structure. This generates more free radicals and dangerous compounds called lipid oxidation products (LOPs).

LOPs cause oxidative damage in tissues, cells and genes. They also cause cholesterol to oxidize and become “sticky.” This is a major risk factors for heart disease!

And that’s not all. By attacking cells and tissues, LOPs have also been found to promote cancer, macular degeneration, IBD, asthma, Parkinson's disease, kidney damage, preeclampsia and more.

But saturated fats are different. They are resistant to rancidity and oxidation. And they remain stable under heat.

Choosing Stable Fats for Superior Health

So, toss your vegetable oils and any packaged foods (including salad dressings, crackers, sauces, mayonnaises) that contain “vegetable oils” such as canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil and vegetable shortening.

LardFor sautéing, stir-frying, pan searing, baking or other cooking methods, opt for fats with a high ratio of saturated fats – like lard, tallow, ghee and coconut oil.

And when choosing lard – or any animal-derived fat – be sure that it is pasture-raised without hormones or antibiotics, such as the products offered by US Wellness Meats.

 

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ED NOTE: Kelley Herring is the Founder and Editor of Healing Gourmet – the leading provider of organic, sustainable recipes and meal plans for health and weight loss. Be sure to grab Eating Clean & Saving Green: Your Guide to Organic Foods on a Budget and Eat Your Way Into Shape: Flip Your Body’s Fat Blasting Switch and Melt 12 Pounds in 2 Weeks (includes a delicious 7 day meal plan!). Claim your free copies here...
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REFERENCES

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2.    "Lipids"; Dietary Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Are Protective Against Metabolic Syndrome and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors; LG Gillingham, et al.; March 2011.
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Comments

Unless I'm missing something, US Wellness's pork is still grain-fed, so its lard is going to have undesirable amounts of omega-6 fatty acids (less than "vegetable" oils since it's mostly saturated and monounsaturated, but still more than you want to consume regularly, compared to grassfed tallow, ghee, or coconut oil).
Posted @ Sunday, September 02, 2012 7:06 AM by Frasier
I am curious to learn more about your original diet that you state made you unhealthy and left you with excess pounds. Was it vegan, or were you consuming milk products? Were you avoiding refined foods, including white flour and sugar? Were you avoiding all oils? I ask because I have found great health and well being in a vegan diet. I am losing weight, too. I think it is easy to generalize what a vegetarian or vegan diet is or is not. It is possible to make unhealthy food choices and yet be vegetarian or vegan.
Posted @ Tuesday, September 04, 2012 9:56 AM by Clifford
Hi Clifford, 
Thanks for your comment and questions. As noted in the article, my diet contained a large amount of grains - albeit whole grains (not refined). As for oils, as noted, I was eating primarily vegetable oils - high in omega-6 fats. Both of these components are highly inflammatory. I ate a small amount of organic dairy on occasion, but as a rule avoided it. Unfortunately, many folks following a veg diet use grain as the base of their diet... instead of fresh organic veggies. I do agree with you that there are differences, but a grain-based veg diet is the norm, from my experience. Also, I am curious - if you are a strict vegan, what benefit do you get from subscribing to the US Wellness Meats newsletter?
Posted @ Friday, September 07, 2012 9:27 AM by Kelley Herring
Thank you for your response, Kelley. Even a small amount of dairy can, from everything I have read, be highly detrimental. In terms of oils, as explained by Mike Anderson in The RAVE Diet & Lifestyle (c. 2009) and elsewhere, even omega-6 oils are not healthy in a diet. I consume an all-vegan diet with the absolute minimum amount of oil possible -- it is far better to get one's fats from whole foods. Two tablespoons of olive oil have the same number of calories as two scoops of ice cream, and provide fat that can be readily assimiated by the body. To answer your question as to my subscribing to this newsletter, I reap the benefit of seeing other points of view and what evidence is being put forward to support those viewpoints. I still await a convincing argument that a meat-based diet is better for human health or the environment than a vegan one. I am not aware of any documented research suggesting a meat-based diet can reverse heart disease or cancer. However, there is abundant evidence that a plant-food-based diet can do these things.
Posted @ Friday, September 07, 2012 10:03 AM by Clifford
After emphasizing the traditional so called ‘healthy’ diet of vegetable oils, bread, wheat and less meat until I went totally vegetarian for only 6 months, I became very sick. I had low B12. I slowly recovered, but also had IBS. I read Peter D’Adamo’s Eat Right for Your Type and stopped wheat and chicken. My health is now excellent and I have no trouble staying slim. 
Posted @ Sunday, September 09, 2012 10:20 AM by Jack
Eat the food your grandparents eated, the basic food so to speak. 
Raw meat, with fatt.  
Probably the biggest health issue is Scugger, carbohydrats in any form. 
 
And go back to have a nice and deatent desert, after the meal, that alone will do a better jobb in ceaping you shuggar need in place, in levels that are healty. 
 
I have only one advice, avoid bread, eat almoust what ever to brekfast(no corn/shocolade or shuggardipped speedbalsmeals), a healthy so caled Eanglish breakfast is a good one, and take away the bred. 
Bread is our basic corbohydate source, bread is basicly half shuggar. If you are going to eat bread, chuse multicorn/whatever exept Hveete. 
That alone will have an healty impact. 
And eat everything, berrys, wild berrys in what ever are you live in covers the rest. 
 
Thats the diet, with sea creatures in all forms and shapes, birds, and bigger prays.  
Humans had this for millions of years, how can that be wrong, think of simple facts like the explosion of abisetive/shuggaraddictivnes a.s.o.. 
Thats a historical new think imposed on us, thats the real readon for our general health is declining. 
 
Coffy, just to give you a pickture of kowledge moust dont have, is pakked with antioxidants, far above Blueberrys, as an ex. 
 
peace
Posted @ Sunday, September 09, 2012 10:57 AM by mikael
One of the main reasons Americans are so obssesed with what to eat and what not to eat is that sadly we aren't out doing as much physical work as our ancestors. 
 
That said, once you do make time to do some physical labor and sweat a little, you don't need to worry about eating foods that have been eaten for generations. 
 
I agree with most of this article, but I would say that if you were eating a lot of canola and soy products than it wasn't the vegetarianism itself that was doing you in.
Posted @ Sunday, September 09, 2012 11:58 AM by Jay
Just a couple of things. Firstly, you cannot go off meat all at once, you have to do it slowly. Second, you have to do an internal cleanse including one for parasites. And third, all grains are bad for humans.
Posted @ Sunday, September 09, 2012 12:06 PM by Brian
All the lard I have seen in the stores is partially hydrogenated! The one time I used it, even the dishwasher couldn't clean this fat off the utensils! 
 
Re grains, all the whole wheat I have tried--my favorite cracked-wheat sourdough, organic multigrain--cause great inflammation and constipation of the lower bowels which lasts for a week or two, even with one exposure! White bread does no such thing.
Posted @ Wednesday, September 26, 2012 10:26 AM by Inger
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