November 7th, 2013
01:15 PM ET
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Know what tastes great? Real butter and real lard. Know what isn't packed with trans fat? Real butter and real lard.

Schmaltz isn't either, nor are nut oils, suet and other naturally tasty fats that have gotten a bad rap over the years. So how about a grand return now that trans fat may be getting the heave-ho from the American menu?

Trans fat can be found in processed foods including vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils. Advocacy groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest have long been making the case for trimming it from the national diet, calling the partially hydrogenated oil that is the source of artificial trans fat "the most harmful fat of all."

In 2007, the New York City Board of health took decisive action to eliminate the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and spreads in the city's restaurants - a move that was found to reduce the consumption sharply of these unhealthy fats among fast-food customers, according to a study by city health officials.

"The transition was seamless. Most New Yorkers didn't even notice," said Christine Curtis, a co-author of the study and director of the city's Nutrition Strategy Program.

The Food and Drug Administration has been paying close attention. The agency stepped into the fray Thursday and made the first move toward potentially eliminating most trans fat from the food supply.  The FDA said it has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer "generally recognized as safe" (often abbreviated as GRAS). If this decision is finalized, these additives couldn't be used in food without approval and effectively could not be sold.

So might butter, lard (the nonhydrogenated version) and the like make a grand and delicious return to the global diet? Chefs such as Jennifer McLagan would surely applaud. In her James Beard Award-winning "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes," McLagan wrote, "Pork fat is not only useful, but it is also good for us." She illustrated her point with a chart showing that 45% of pork fat is monounsaturated, which can help raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.

Chef Marco Canora of Hearth restaurant and Terroir wine bars said he's unnerved by the disconnect in messages that consumers have gotten over the years. He told CNN, "In the coffee station with our bookkeeper, she pours thin, white liquid disguised as milk into her coffee. She notices the clumps of cream in the glass of milk I'm pouring for myself and says. 'That's gross, those clumps freak me out so much, how can you drink that?' Really? How can I drink farm-fresh, cream-on-top milk from the Finger Lakes?"

"People don't know any better," Canora said. "We have done an awful job of educating people about what the good choices are. Big food has too much influence on our perceptions."

A 2009 study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition served to bust the belief that saturated fats are detrimental to heart health, as had one been thought. The study concluded: "A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) or CVD (cardiovascular disease)." That means butter and animal fat aren't a guaranteed one-way ticket on the heart attack express as had been previously believed.

But before we all start smearing our faces in bacon grease and taking to the streets with butter batons in celebration, let's check in with a few nutritionists.

Nutritionist Karen Congro, director of the Wellness for Life program at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, weighed in, saying in an e-mail, "Butter, lard and olive oil all have saturated fats, but they are natural products. A small amount of saturated fat in the body is necessary to make hormones and absorb vitamins. ... I would never call butter or lard 'health foods,' but in very small amounts, they are not a problem. There are no safe levels of trans fats."

There is, however, an even better solution, Congro said. "Olive oil has the very beneficial monounsaturated fats, which are very good in helping lower cholesterol triglycerides and can help in weight loss. Olive oil, which is a big part of the Mediterranean diet, has proven to be even healthier than expected. Healthy eating does not mean eliminating fat from your diet, but rather eating healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, avocado, and eliminating the bad fats of which trans fats are the worst offender."

Rebecca Solomon, clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital, is also an olive oil advocate. “The poly and monounsaturated fats are the best (olive oil, canola oil). Saturated fats like lard or butter are significantly worse for you than the unsaturated fats but not as bad as trans fats."

"Not as bad" may not be quite the rallying cry that full-fat fans were hoping for, but we'll take encouragement where we can get it.

Solomon also cautioned against excess, even with the "healthier" fats, writing: "All fats, however, have the same number of calories per tablespoon, so keep in mind that a tablespoon of butter has 90 calories, as does a tablespoon of olive oil. Olive oil, however, has heart healthy benefits. Then again, you wouldn’t want to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies with olive oil."

But perhaps we just need to chew the fat on that last claim (along with a few delicious cookies), while we all figure out fat's future in our diets.

Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies - California Olive Ranch
Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies - Take a Megabite
Chocolate Chip Olive Oil Cookies - Foodie Fiasco
Sea Salt & Olive Oil Brownie Cookies - Something Swanky
Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies - Make the Best of Everything
Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies - Yummly
Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies - Cooking on the Weekends

Read - Put down that doughnut: FDA takes on trans fats

Bacon grease: The fountain of youth

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Dr. Philmeinoncommonsense

    butter is like a richer cheese. lard is fat. you don't want to eat fat. butter and olive oil work just fine in cooking, lard is unnecessary, but then again, I'm Jewish

    January 10, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
  2. Dr. Philmeinoncommonsense

    this is bs. pork is bad for you

    January 10, 2014 at 7:24 pm |
  3. What?

    Butter actually contains about 3% of naturally occurring trans fat.

    November 10, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  4. Ryan Chaney

    A very thought-provoking article. I find it interesting seeing what is being taught in my college curriculum compared to the new information that is being shared every day. One of the most important things I've learned in college is to question everything that you are being taught before blindly believing it. This article coincides with my personal belief that saturated fats are an essential part to everyone's diet. We have been living off of the stuff for thousands of years if not longer. This article is radically different from what is currently being taught in my classes as well. They are still using a model that encourages a low fat diet for weight control with an emphasis on tracking calories and limiting fats to only monounsaturated fats. I think we can all agree that trans fats are the bad guys here and that the bad reputation that saturated fat has gotten needs to be removed. I wonder if the government will adjust the “Food Plate” in accordance to these new studies or if colleges will adjust their curriculums at all in response to this new data?

    November 10, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  5. myrtlemaylee

    I'm also glad & thanks for the article. Like others, I agree in "moderation". I want my foods natural, organic where possible & as close to the source as possible.

    November 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  6. Pacific Merchants

    I love this article. I think a well-balanced diet (everything in moderation including fats) is so essential. Fat shouldn't be scary.

    November 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  7. t-bird

    Real fat is probably more satisfying to the body- our bodies know what to do with it. I would think that would probably help us to feel more satisfied after eating it & less likely to overindulge.... maybe.

    November 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  8. palintwit

    Countless studies over the years have proven that there is a greater amount of incest in the southern bible belt states than in other parts of the country. Experts agree that this type of behavior is typically caused by living in cramped quarters, such as trailer parks and flop houses. That and the availability of such 'stimulants' as Everclear make this type of deviant behavior much more common than in the north.

    November 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • edwin


      November 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  9. New England Grass Fed

    We raise incredible grass-fed beef (cross-bred Devons) here in southern Rhode Island on rotationally grazed coastal pasture. The fat is light and tasty and full of Vitamins A and E completely absent from feedlot beef finished on starch ration. Pastured animals enable us to access this good fat and take the gift of these beautiful animals in gratitude.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • What?

      I'm sure you're fully aware that "feedlot beef" isn't finished on a "starch ration". They still get plenty of fiber, protein, and other nutrients. And your comment that there is no Vitamin A or Vitamin E in the fat from "feedlot beef" is 100% false.

      November 10, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  10. Uninformed Liberal

    Ok, I will admit it was a convincing re-election, but why do we have an entire thread dedicated to Governor Christie?

    November 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • edwin

      That is mean spirted and borderline why can't I stop laughing!?

      November 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  11. Jimbo

    If it hasn't been a part of the human diet for at least 1000 years, it will probably kill you in the long run.

    November 8, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Derp

      Everything will kill you in the long run.

      November 8, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Anna

      too much water will kill you too. Can we admit yet that the government has no idea what they are doing?

      November 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  12. Tamara Griffa

    I am so beyond ecstatic about this news! The American people should rejoice in this decision, because this has been plaguing our people's health in so many negative ways that it is mind blowing! This is definately an answered prayer for us health conscious people!

    November 8, 2013 at 6:44 am |
  13. Hey!

    What about weasel lard?!

    November 8, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Would you settle for a fat weasel?

      November 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  14. Brenda

    Reblogged this on Whole-Grain, Low-Fat and commented:

    November 7, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  15. Skeptimist

    Glad to see butter & lard making a comeback. Maybe scrambled eggs and French Fries will smell & taste the way they did when I was a kid. Actually, this is way overdue – they usually reverse all the food scares about every 20 years to keep the cookbook and diet industry happy. Most of the advice business is a racket because cooking is simple There are only two measurements: big pot & little pot. There's only one recipe: whatever shouldn't be left in the fridge any longer.. Technique boils down to line it up and pitch overhand. Best health tip: don't eat anything your grandmother couldn't pronounce.Best taste tip: be sure to have at least one grandmother who is either Italian or Mexican – preferably one of each.

    November 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • jon

      As a youngster, 65 years ago, we ate lard sandwiches (pure white lard spread on rye bread with salt on them). I am still here and with very good cholesterol readings.

      November 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  16. CJ

    I won't miss trans fat, but they need to do something about saturated fat, BHA, Parabens, partially hydrogenated oil, a few Food Dyes, MSG, as well and salt and those pesky GMO's.

    I can see to where this will benefit the public getting rid of trans fat. But the food industry has a knack for substitution. I just hope their new way of creating food for the masses is not worse than what we already have.

    Wat years ago salt was the number one preservative. When Trans fat came along instead of using less salt they used even more. Check you labels when they started putting how many grams of salt was in a product it was around 12 grams or less today a product can have 40 grams or more.

    November 7, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      There is more salt in a lot of foods nowadays because people don't like preservatives with scary chemical names on the food labels. Salt acts as a preservative. And if it makes the food too salty tasting, it can be counterbalanced by adding another natural product that also acts as a preservative: sugar.

      That's why you also see so many foods with a preponderance of both salt and sugar in them nowadays. The public demanded a reduction in other preservatives, so suppliers reached for the next acceptable, cheap ingredient that would do the same thing.

      November 8, 2013 at 6:55 am |
  17. rs1201

    you can eat anything you moderation! I wanted to taste the cronut...I did...I took a small bite of it and it was all I needed. There is nothing that is off limits for moderation...I stay slim and healthy by keeping the word "moderation" in mind! Even when I overindulge in some I'm sure I will at Thanksgiving...the next day...I literally eat just steamed veggies and coffee.

    November 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • YesOkBut

      So you will be toasting my great grandchildren on your 120th birthday!

      November 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  18. swohio

    My grandmother ate sausage and bacon, used heavy cream in recipes, ate fried foods cooked with lard, butter, and bacon grease her entire life and lived to be 90 years old. To this day, my 77-year old father eats his share of bacon, fries eggs in bacon grease, and slathers the butter on his toast...and he's one of the healthiest members of my family.

    November 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • YesOkBut

      And one of most well-fed.

      November 7, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  19. marco

    Its misguided to make statments about "saturated fat" as if ALL saturated fat is created equal. Like most everything, the quality of the source matters....saturated fat from commodity pork is much different than saturated fat from a happy, healthy, well-fed pig. Why dont "nutritionists" ever make this case??

    November 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  20. jj

    Good, I like pork

    November 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  21. edwin

    Carnitas, made with real lard....right up there with bacon as the best pork you'll ever have.

    November 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  22. msp

    All in moderation. Problem is when we eat more than our body needs.

    November 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  23. Dan

    Coconut Oil! This needs to be mentioned!

    November 7, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  24. Victoria

    I have a jar of duck fat that I keep in my freezer or fridge, and use to make duck confit 3-4 times a year (just did it for duck tacos last night for husband's dinner). It has no expiration date. I've probably been using parts of that fat for 5 years.

    November 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Snowbunny

      What's duck confit?

      November 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
      • Dan

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but confit means cooked in it's own fat. I've never had anything confit...

        November 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
        • Jimbo

          Confit is pure awesomeness. Meat is salted and seasoned, left to cure, the cooked extremely slowly in a big vat of it's own fat so it stays very juicy and tender. Usually it's quickly seared to serve.

          November 8, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  25. Snowbunny

    That pic reminds me of the commercial where the girl eats a stick of butter. *blah!*

    November 7, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  26. Weeds

    leaf lard? I had to look that one up because I was wondering what kind of tree leaf does that come from.
    You ought to be sipping olive oil and saving the bacon fat for the green beans.

    I listened to a lecture from Ann Bancroft, she was in the "Will Steger International North Pole Expedition" so she was the first female to reach the pole by dog and sled. Everyone needed a bowl of oat meal and a stick of butter for breakfast to get the proper number of calories: she said how she soon couldn't stand eating this semi-frozen stick of butter, how it coated her mouth... And some days it was just so windy cold her oat meal would freeze before she had two bites of it.

    Sorry, I guess I just ended up chewing the fat here.

    November 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • RichardHead@Weeds

      It's called Old Skool Cooking and Baking my Friend. You will Never taste a better cake or pie unless it includes Leaf Lard, and Real Butter. You can Thank me later.

      November 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
      • Snowbunny

        Hey buddy- Don't forget the big ol' glass of milk!

        November 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
        • RichardHead@Snowbunny

          Ice Cold Chocolate milk, Baby. :))

          November 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  27. RichardHead

    1. Peanut Oil for my Fried Turkey……check
    2. Leaf Lard for my Holiday Pies……..check
    3. Bacon Fat to sip on while Grilling….check
    Well, I guess I'm good for the Holiday Dinner.
    Thanks Kat.

    November 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      What time is dinner?

      November 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Oprah Winfrey

      What will the rest of your guests be having, now that you have fed me?

      November 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
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