Beer, whiskey and pork fat: the new health foods?
April 27th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

Beer lovers, rejoice. Whiskey drinkers, celebrate. Pork fat fans, this is your moment. All the things you thought were unhealthy can actually help you lose a ton of weight.

Well, not exactly. This isn’t an ad in the back pages of a sketchy magazine. All these things are still not good for you when you eat and drink them in large quantities. And don’t stop eating your blueberries and strawberries if you want to boost your brainpower.

Still, there’s some surprising good health news for anyone who wants to wash down their lard-topped popcorn with a beer and a shot of whiskey.

Beer: The Problem-Solver
Question: Who’s better at solving brainteasers, men who are sober or men who have drunk two pints of beer? According to research from the University of Illinois, the drinkers are the winners. (That sound you hear is every guy I know cracking open a beer right now in self-righteous satisfaction.) Not only did the drinkers solve 40 percent more problems than the nondrinkers, they solved their problems faster: 12 seconds compared to the nondrinking 15.5 seconds.

Pork Fat: The Bad Cholesterol Fighter
"Pork fat is not only useful, but it is also good for us," says my new hero, Jennifer McLagan. She’s the author of the James Beard Award–winning "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient". To back up her claim, McLagan's book includes a chart showing that 45 percent of pork fat is monounsaturated, which can help raise your HDL, or good cholesterol, and also can help lower your LDL, or bad cholesterol.

She also extols the benefits of frying in lard, because food absorbs less fat than if you fry it in oil. Lagan piles on the good news, arguing that "Diets low in fat, it turns out, leave people hungry, depressed and prone to weight gain and illness." To ensure readers' happiness, she includes recipes in "Fat", including one for euphoria-inducing bacon fat mayonnaise.

Whiskey: The Good Cholesterol Booster
If you’re looking for other celebratory ways to increase your good cholesterol levels and potentially decrease your risk of a stroke, grab a bottle of your favorite booze. And then drink in moderation. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies suggest that if you consume one alcoholic drink per day if you're a woman, or two drinks a day if you're a guy, you can increase your HDL cholesterol levels and also potentially decrease your risk of a stroke. But, cautions the Mayo Clinic, "If you don't drink alcohol, don't start just to try raising your HDL levels."

Popcorn: The Antioxidant Hero
You don’t need me to tell you that popcorn is popular with the high fiber crowd. Here’s more good news for anyone who’s trying to justify their next big bucket of (nonbuttered, non-oversalted) popcorn: New research from the University of Scranton suggests that a serving of popcorn is higher in antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables. Those antioxidants, known as polyphenols, are associated with helping to prevent cancer. They’re concentrated in popcorn’s husk, which is something to consider the next time it gets stuck in your teeth and you consider spitting it out.

More from Food & Wine:

50 Best Bars in America

Ultimate Bacon Recipes

Whiskey Cocktails

Best Burgers in the U.S.

Spring Recipes

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Bacon • Beer • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Food as Medicine • Health News • Sip • Spirits

soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. Niel Cohen

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    June 21, 2014 at 11:48 pm |
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    Nutritional deficiencies can also be the root cause for hand cramps. In particular, a lack of calcium in the diet can cause tension in the hands and lead to cramping. In some people, lower levels of potassium and vitamin D will also lead to cramping that can be very painful. Typically, using nutritional supplements and making some adjustments in the diet to make sure the missing nutrients are consumed daily will make it possible to ease the cramps within a day or so. `..,^

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    June 22, 2013 at 1:36 am |
  7. Jack Amos

    Most people should aim for an LDL level below 130 mg/dL (3.4 mmol/L). If you have other risk factors for heart disease, your target LDL may be below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). If you're at very high risk of heart disease, you may need to aim for an LDL level below 70 mg/dL (1.8 mmol/L). In general, the lower your LDL cholesterol level is, the better. There is no evidence that really low LDL cholesterol levels are harmful. ,.-,

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    June 16, 2013 at 3:15 am |
  8. Jossy Varkey

    Whisky and port is a good combination. Cheers!!

    March 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  9. Will Glennon

    Thank god someone is standing up for pork fat! Because the best tasting thing in the world is homemade bacon check it out:

    February 14, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  10. bobo

    why healthy food always bad taste n junk food gd taste ;P

    January 26, 2013 at 9:13 am |
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    May 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  13. jnasty

    extremely lousy reporting and horrendously bad information. you should be ashamed of the headline and this article.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Matthew

      Agreed. Moderation is key to living healthy. There are no wonder foods that can make you healthy if you binge on them.

      May 2, 2012 at 10:08 am |
      • robroy777

        Her data is spot on. Lard and any animal fat is basically heart healthy and it's the refined carbs that drive inflammation and LDL oxidation which drives atheriogenesis and heart disease.

        This would explain why high fat, low carb diets consistently beat low-fat, grain-based diets in weight loss AND heart health (higher HDL, lower small-dense, type B LDL, lower triglycerides) in randomized controlled trials.

        Strangely, this means that eating more fat equates to less fat in the blood.

        See RCTs below. I have 12 more if anyone's curious.

        Gardner CD, et al. (2007). “Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and learn Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women. The a to z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Trial.” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 297, pgs. 969–977. Retrieved from:

        Shai I, et al. (2008). “Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, mediterranean, or low-fat diet.” The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 359(3), pgs. 229–41. Retrieved from:

        May 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
        • Hairy Hobbit Toes

          Well...Arteriosclerosis is caused by a lack of B vitamins in the diet. B vitamins are required to reconvert homocysteine back to methionine. B vitamins are destroyed by microwave cooking or overcooking green vegetables. Animal protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit are all necessary to a healthy human diet. None of them are bad guys.

          May 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
      • rockeggroll

        Agreed also. I worked for a hog farmer when I was younger. I still don't eat pork because of that experience. What people don't realize is that pigs are scavengers and will eat anything, dead or alive, rotten of fresh including their own urine and excrement.

        March 7, 2013 at 5:23 am |
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