Wednesday, August 22, 2012


We haven't posted many recipes lately - maybe because our summers have been so busy! We've had little time for experimenting in the kitchen. But school started or is starting soon and we will be back into a routine of family dinners, fun gatherings and hopefully, some new recipes.

Even when I'm too busy to cook I always scan my Dr Weil emails. I was surprised, maybe a little shocked, by todays email rethinking the health benefits of lard - really???

As I read it through, I realized that we need to be careful with our assumptions about health. Ideas shift with time. Science is not exact - it's a bundle of theories that rely on imperfect evidence - and interpretations of that evidence sometimes change.

There's been a clear shifting of ideas concerning health during my lifetime.

As we were raising our children in the 70s and 80s, sugar was the enemy. I remember being counseled to add a little more butter or oil to a baking recipe in order to decrease the sugar.

As our children were entering high school, our assumptions turned upside down and there was a new enemy - fat. We could eat about anything we wanted as long as it was labeled "fat free." Our diets were full of refined carbs and sugar - but we weren't eating any of that bad fat!

The came the Atkins revolution. Fat is OK and Protein is king. Carbs became the big enemy. We could eat bacon, eggs, and steak for breakfast!  I will never forget sitting at breakfast in the South American country of Guyana. The buffet tables were dripping with gorgeous and delicious local fruits. But this couple filled their plates with bacon, eggs, meats and not one bite of fruit! I looked from my fresh colorful plate to theirs dripping in grease and just couldn't understand why someone would choose to eat like that. It didn't feel right.

We are still living under the "protein is king" assumption. Will it last? It seems like our ideas change about every 10 years - so we need to be wise and careful.

This is a long introduction to Dr Weil's article on lard - that might now be a healthy part of our diets!?!

Lard Making a Comeback
Published: 8/22/2012

In the minds of many people, lard is the most unhealthy food imaginable. The conventional wisdom of the last 40 years has been that saturated fats in our diets - that is, fats such as lard that are solid at room temperature - are a principal cause of high cholesterol and rising rates of heart disease.

However, those conclusions now seem to be based on rather shaky science. A more recent scientific analysis of 21 studies determined that there is no significant evidence thatdietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. Instead, the principal culprit in the obesity epidemic, and a major contributor to heart disease, appears to be overconsumption of sugars and carbohydrate-intensive foods.

Nutritionally speaking, lard has more than twice the monounsaturated fat of butter. It is also low in omega-6 fatty acids, known to promote inflammation. According to lard enthusiasts, free-range pigs that eat greens, not grains, have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Lard has always been prized as a cooking fat because it has a higher smoking point than other fats. For that reason, foods fried in lard absorb less grease. It also has the reputation of producing ultra-flaky pastry crust. For all of these reasons, lard has been making a comeback in high-end restaurants.

Avoid hydrogenated lard from supermarkets. The best lard is considered to be minimally processed "leaf lard" from the area around the pig's abdomen and kidneys or fatback lard from the pig's back. You can get this type at high-end specialty markets or online.

Should you eat lard? Consumption of animal foods raises ethical questions for many people. These concerns are an individual matter, and I won't presume to weigh in on this complex issue. However, particularly if the lard comes from free-range, organically raised pigs, I don't believe it is harmful to human health.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Yes Chocolate!

More from Dr Weil on chocolate:

I have long recommended eating dark chocolate in myAnti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, and with good reason: dark chocolate provides polyphenols with high antioxidant activity, and of all the chocolates, has fewer unhealthy fats and sugars. Recent research is also showing that eating a few pieces of dark chocolate each week (choose 70 percent or higher pure cocoa solids) is a heart-healthy treat too, as it can:

  • Fight free radicals. Plant foods rich in flavonoids and antioxidants are beneficial to humans:  antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which have been linked to heart disease and other health concerns. Dark chocolate comes from the cacao plant, which provides these compounds.
  • Help prevent heart disease. British researchers looked at seven studies that focused on chocolate and cardiac health. Their findings suggest that people who ate more chocolate reduced their risk for heart disease: those who ate dark chocolate weekly had a 37 percent lower risk of any heart disease than those who ate the least amounts.
  • Raise good (HDL) cholesterol. The cocoa butter in dark chocolate is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that scientists believe can raise HDL, or good, cholesterol.
Dark chocolate also decreases the risk of stroke - Swedish researchers found that women who ate high amounts of chocolate - the equivalent of about two candy bars per week - had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke; British researchers found the number to be closer to 30 percent. Before you start loading up on candy bars, be aware that more studies are needed to determine what amount and type of chocolate is best.