Chances are, you’ve heard that lard is enjoying a renaissance. From foodies proclaiming its superior baking properties to in-depth radio reports exploring its history in the American diet, lard has recaptured interest and reemerged on the cooking scene.
This pork fat redemption isn’t just about taste, however — it’s also about health. Lard lovers have cited its high levels of polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats (the so-called “good” fats found in such foods as fish and olive oil) to argue that it’s not even that bad for you, or at least not as bad as the trans fat found in some margarines and vegetable shortenings. (Trans fat has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.)
But how well do these health claims hold up?
As with so many food and health issues, it depends on whom you ask. Many physicians and health organizations — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association — recommend cutting down as much as possible on saturated fat, which is found in high amounts in lard and other animal fats. (It is also found in fish, olive oil and other foods that are considered healthful.) Even as the unsaturated fats have become nutrition darlings, saturated fat has maintained its reputation as a baddie.