Friday, November 13, 2009

A Word about Fats

About a year and a half ago I started eating meat again for the first time in seventeen years. I gave up meat back in the '80s because of how it is "produced" and all the extras (hormones, antibiotics) that were added to it, but with the advent of grassfed meats, and the ability to purchase "local" meat, I have added meat back into my diet.

My meats come to me via FedEx, once a month, from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) just north of the Blue Line (the line on maps that delineates the Adirondack Park). The farm is 8 O'clock Ranch, and they work as a cooperative with a couple other neighbor farms. From them I get a mixed bag (box, actually) of meat, mostly pork, but also beef and lamb. I'm on the economy plan, so instead of prime steaks, I get mostly the lesser cuts, like roasts, stew meats, and a lot of sausage. I'm not really a sausage person, so I have a freezer quite full of sausages. If you'd like to try some, stop by and I'll load you up.

Once or twice a year, though, I ask Kassandra to send me some lard. Yes, lard. Leaf lard, to be exact, which is the prime lard found around the kidneys of the pig (lard comes from pigs, by the way). This fat comes in strips and chunks, which I must then render (cook down) before using.

Now, I know for a lot of folks "lard" is a four-letter word. Thanks to a clever marketing campaign after WWII, lard became persona non-grata in the US. However, real lard, leaf lard, non-hydrogenated lard, is actually good for you (and me). How is this possible?

Fat is essential in our diets. Here's a partial list of what fats do for us:

* when eaten as part of a meal, they help slow down food absorbtion so you can go longer without feeling hungry;
* they carry fat-soluable vitamins (A, D, E, and K);
* they are essential for converting carotenes into vitamin A;
* they are necessary for the absorbtion of many minerals.

Prior to the 1920s, when animal fats featured prominantly in the American diet, coronary disease was uncommon. After WWII, with the advent of vegetable oils and fats (Crisco), heart disease soared. This also coincided with an increase in our intake of refined sugars and processed foods (And, my personal favorite, food "products" - what the heck is a "food product" anyway? Give me good old-fashioned real food any day.).

Studies (e.g. The Framingham Study, an similar study in Britain, and the US Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trail) have shown that intake of animal fats, cholesterol, et al, decreases the rate of heart disease. It's the consumption of processed foods and sugars that are detrimental to our health.

But not all fats are created equal.

Butter, especiall organic butter that is minimally processed (not mixed with veg. oils, chemicals or water), is very healthy.

Beaf fat (suet and tallow) is full of omega-3 fatty acids (omega-6 and omega-3 are very important, but most people have way too much 6 and way to little 3) and CLA (coagulated linoleic acid). The latter is responsible for increasing metabolic rate, increasing muscle mass while reducing fat, decreasing abdominal fat (woo-hoo; I'm all for that!), strengthening the immune system, as well as reducing risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

Lard and bacon, in their natural form (non-hydrogenated, preservative-free) are ideal for many recipes, and are good for you.

Olive oil is also good for you - extra virgin, organic, cold or expellar pressed. Unfiltered olive oil makes a good meat marinate all by itself.

Fats to be avoided include:
* margarines
* Crisco
* anything hydrogentated
* canola oil (who knew?)
* cottonseed, soy, corn and safflower oils

Now, I know that a lot of folks will never go back to eating the healthy fats, for they have become convinced that they are BAD. That's what an effective marketing campaign will do for you. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get people to understand that fats can be (and are) good for you.

But don't take my word for it. You can read about the good fats at the following websites:

If I could, I'd add chickens and maybe even a cow to my organic garden. Unfortunately, I live in a neighborhood that doesn't allow livestock. So, the next best thing to raising my own is getting my meat from a local source that focuses on grassfed, grass finished livestock. If you want to take control of your food, you might want to look into it for yourself and your family, too.


Woodswoman Extraordinaire: said...

Awesome post. All sorts of food for thought here - pardon the pun! Maybe I can find a solution to my apple problem through Community Supported Agriculture...

lahru said...

Thank you, I have been looking for a place like 8 O'clock for months. Just placed an order and again, thank you.

Garden Lily said...

You're so right about processed food marketing. I no longer buy canola after reading how it was genetically engineered. But I know it's already in lots of semi-processed foods. And yes, I feel within myself a strong reaction against animal fats (the marketing worked!) even as in my head I can read & agree with your arguments, and know that even I grew up on bacon fat before we "knew better".

When I was much younger, I used margarine instead of butter, and found that instead of caramelizing, it burnt - and produced a very disgusting black mess. Ever since then, I bake or saute only with butter. But I still use margarine as a spread, since I like the softer consistency.