Can you imagine ever considering any possible nutritional merits of lard? Maybe not, but the Wall Street Journal reported that a new generation of “foodies” who strive to create the most delectable dishes have begun throwing decades old dietary recommendations aside to the dismay and disgust of unsuspecting diners. Grandmothers who bake memorable pies and famous international chefs have long realized that using lard or even vegetable shortening such as Crisco can help to create taste sensations. But the health recommendations of the past half-century have trained us to react with horror at the mere thought of eating saturated fat which seems to conjure up images of arteries clogging before we get to the third bite of pecan pie with a lard-based crust.
Before the advent of vegetable oils swept our television screens with Mazola and sunflowers, people in many agriculturally-based societies spread butter or lard on bread with gusto. The bias against lard that has kept it away from our palates for decades apparently coincided with the introduction of Crisco a plant-based shortening in 1911. Back in 1940 American consumed a record 14.4 pounds of lard per capita; but by 1997, American consumption of lard reached its lowest point, 2.9 pounds per capita.
Nutritionists warned against eating lard due to its saturated fat content, which turns out to be less than butter’s. The big surprise is that lard provides more monounsaturated fats (the most favored fats of late) and a lot less polyunsaturated fats than vegetable oils, which are now linked to increased cancer risk.
I am not saying that I recommend lard with your morning oatmeal and raisins, but perhaps we could try to recognize at least a portion of the bias and cognitive distortions we bring to our everyday eating. How much damage could one slice of sweet potato pie truly do if we applied the skills of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the psychotherapeutic approach that aims to modify our dysfunctional thoughts and emotions and behaviors through challenging our distorted beliefs? Is it possible that the introduction of the ultimate challenge food might turn out to be healthy after all?