Healthy Animal Fats

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Raluca Schachter

Raluca Schachter › Raluca Schachter is a passionate Nutritionist and Metabolic Typing Advisor®, with a background in both nutrition ...

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A hamburger is not unhealthy because it’s “greasy”. It’s unhealthy because (and I’m referring to fast food chain hamburgers) it generally contains a cocktail of toxic vegetable oils, it’s laden with highly-processed and genetically modified ingredients, and the meat comes from sick factory animals.

So please don’t think of grease as “the villain,” because it’s not and I’ll show you why.

What Happened To Animal Fat?

All indigenous cultures that have been studied throughout time, starting with the extensive work of Dr. Weston Price (revealed in his outstanding study, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration), consumed various animal fats in various quantities, depending on their geographic region and climate. Yet these cultures didn’t show any kind of degenerative diseases and most had high longevity. Why? Because the fats being consumed were not extracted using complicated, denaturing processes, they were taken from the animals, vegetables and fruits available in a RAW, unaltered state. It’s fat you could recognize and understand exactly where it came from.

Modern vegetable oil refining involves intensive mechanical and chemical processes to extract the oil from the seeds. The seed pulp and oil are put through a hexane solvent bath, which is produced by the refining of crude petroleum oil. Impurities are removed by treating the oil with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) or soda ash (sodium carbonate). Finally, bleaching and deodorizing are done to remove impurities and volatile compounds. All this chemical concoction renders a product that has been linked to widespread inflammation within the body, elevated blood triglycerides, and an impaired insulin response.

Before 1920 coronary heart disease was rare in America. But during the next forty years, the incidence rose dramatically and by the mid-1950s heart disease was the leading cause of death among Americans. What happened? During 1910–1970 the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62% and butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to four. Instead, the percentage of toxic vegetable oils: margarine, shortenings and refined oils (like soy, corn, canola) increased about 400%(!!) and sugar consumption and processed foods increased about 60%.

Why Are Animal Fat And Cholesterol Important For Health?

Mother’s milk provides a higher proportion of cholesterol than almost any other food. It also contains over 50% of its calories as fat, much of it saturated fat. Both cholesterol and saturated fat are essential for growth in babies and children, especially the development of the brain. Yet, the American Heart Association is now recommending a low cholesterol, low fat diet for children! Most commercial formulas are low in saturated fats and soy formulas are completely devoid of cholesterol. A recent study linked low fat diets with failure to thrive in children.

(from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions)

Animal products are important sources of bodybuilding elements in the diet. Animal fats supply vitamin A and D needed for assimilation of protein. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, they provide a concentrated source of energy and the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones.

Saturated fats play many important roles in the body. They provide integrity to the cell wall, promote the body’s use of essential fatty acids, enhance the immune system, protect the liver and contribute to strong bones. The lungs and kidneys cannot work without saturated fat.

Dietary cholesterol contributes to the strength of the intestinal wall and helps babies and children develop a healthy brain and nervous system.

Take A Look At These Old Time Healthy Fats

LARD or PORK FAT is about 40% saturated, 48% monounsaturated and 12% polyunsaturated. Like the fat of birds, the amount of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids will vary according to what the pig eats. A varied diet where the pig is left to free range and eat various roots, grubs, acorns, worms and green plants will determine a higher content of omega 3. Like duck and goose fat, lard is stable and a preferred fat for frying. It is an excellent source of vitamin D.

BEEF or MUTTON TALLOW are 50-55% saturated, about 40 monounsaturated and contain small amounts of polyunsaturated fat. They are very stable and can be used for frying. They are also a good source of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid.

SUET is the fat from the cavity of the animal and it’s 70-80% saturated. This is a very stable fat as well, very suitable for frying.

DUCK, GOOSE and CHICKEN FAT contain 31-35% saturated fat, 49-52% monounsaturated fat and 13-20% polyunsaturated fat. Duck and goose fat are quite stable and can be used for delicious fried potatoes recipes. The omega 3 content depends on what the birds eat. In chickens flax and fish meal or allowing them to range free and eat insects will offer a higher omega 3 content.

These fats are really easy to prepare. The focus should be on making sure you have the best quality of fat you can get, preferably from grass fed, sustainably raised animals. Since most toxins get stored in fat tissues, you really don’t want to render fat from factory animals. Straight from Polyface Farm blogs, the Mecca of sustainable farming, you can check out this lard recipe using your crockpot. Or you can try out a traditional recipe for this fall and winter using pastured pork lard, Sauerkraut Beef And Pork Rolls: Sarmale.

Resources: 

Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions

Erasmus, Udo. Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill

Shanahan, Catherine. Deep Nutrition

Price, Weston A. Nutrition And Physical Degeneration

Weston A. Price Foundation

Which animal fat do you use in your kitchen?

Photo Credit: The Primal Home