Lard: Origins, Uses, and Health Implications

Lard, derived from pigs, has a rich culinary history and is widely used in cooking. However, questions about its healthiness arise due to its nutrient composition. This article explores lard's origins, uses, and nutritional composition and discusses the potential risks and considerations associated with its consumption.

Key takeaways:

What is lard?

Lard is a fat that is derived from pigs. It is obtained by rendering and clarifying the fat tissue of the pig, primarily the subcutaneous fat located under the pig's skin.

Lard is commonly used in baking for creating flaky pastries, frying foods to achieve crispiness, adding richness to gravies and sauces, and as an essential ingredient in traditional dishes like tamales and tortillas.

Nutritional composition of lard

Lard contains high amounts of trans fat, cholesterol, and nutrients such as choline and vitamin D. It also contains small amounts of zinc, selenium, and vitamin E.

Lard’s nutrient composition (per 100 g):

Energy902 kcal
Total fat 100 g
Saturated fat 39.2 g
Monounsaturated fat45.1 g
Polyunsaturated fat11.2 g
Cholesterol95 mg
Choline49.7 mg
Vitamin D102 IU

Is lard healthy?

Lard contains high amounts of saturated fat, almost 40%. Excess consumption of saturated fats is linked to weight gain, high blood cholesterol levels, and heart diseases.

Excessive consumption of saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels. When cholesterol builds up, blood vessels narrow, restricting blood flow, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Other foods high in saturated fats are:

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Poultry, especially with skin
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Coconut
  • Palm oil
  • Fried foods

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 5% to 6% of daily calorie intake. If your daily calorie intake is 2000 calories, you're advised to eat less than 120 calories of saturated fat, which equals 13 grams.

100 g of lard contains almost 40 grams of saturated fats. If you take saturated fats only from lard, you'd be allowed to consume nearly 33 grams of lard. However, there are many other saturated fat sources you eat daily, such as cheese, butter, beef, fried foods, packaged foods, and so on.

Comparison of lard with other cooking fats and oils

Fats are divided into saturated fats, trans fat, and unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). The AHA recommends consuming most of your fat intake from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat sources instead of saturated and trans fat sources.

Monounsaturated fat sources include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and peanut butter. Polyunsaturated fat sources include soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, nuts, seeds, and soybeans. Trans fats are found in fried foods, baked goods, and many packaged foods.

Foods can contain different amounts of each type of fat. Try using monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in the majority of cooking. Healthy people can eat almost any food in moderation. Therefore, you can add lard to your diet by paying attention to the amount and frequency you consume it.

Consumption of raw lard

Raw foods are uncooked or unpasteurized foods. Cooking and pasteurizing foods helps to eliminate harmful bacteria, reducing the risk of food poisoning.

Lard is typically rendered and processed to remove impurities and reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. Raw lard may not undergo these safety measures. Raw lard may harbor harmful bacteria, leading to food poisoning, gastrointestinal issues, and other infections.

It is important to note that raw lard consumption is generally discouraged due to safety concerns. Cooking lard thoroughly helps eliminate harmful bacteria and ensures safer consumption.

Does lard contain cholesterol?

100 g of lard contains 95 mg of cholesterol.

Although our body needs cholesterol, excess intake can cause high blood LDL (low-density lipoprotein), also known as "bad cholesterol." High LDL levels can cause lipid accumulation in blood vessels, leading to heart disease and stroke.

Limiting saturated fat intake is advised for people who want to lower their blood LDL levels.

Potential health risks of excessive lard consumption

Excessive lard consumption causes excessive saturated fat intake, associated with weight gain, high blood cholesterol levels, heart diseases, and stroke.

While lard can enhance flavors in cooking, its high saturated fat and cholesterol content make moderation crucial.

If you consume it in moderation, lard does not pose a risk to your health. You don't need to remove lard from your diet unless your doctor advises you to do so. Always consult your registered dietitian and doctor for guidance on your nutrition and health.

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