Is lard a healthy fat?

Lard has long been a controversial fat in terms of its health effects. On one hand, it is high in saturated fat, which has been linked to increased heart disease risk. On the other hand, lard is a natural fat that contains nutrients and has been used in cooking for centuries. So what’s the final verdict – is lard actually healthy or not?

What is lard?

Lard is fat rendered from pork. It is made by heating up fatty pork tissues, like pork belly or back fat, until the fat liquefies and can be strained off. The resulting product is pure pork fat known as lard.

Lard has been used around the world for centuries as cooking fat and shortening. Traditionally it was valued for its ability to create flaky baked goods and for adding richness and flavor to dishes.

In more modern times, lard fell out of favor as concerns grew over its high saturated fat content. The rise of vegetable oils like soybean, canola and sunflower oil led to lard being replaced in things like shortenings and margarines.

Nutrition profile of lard

Here is the basic nutrition breakdown for a 1 tablespoon serving of lard (1):

  • Calories: 115
  • Total fat: 13g
  • Saturated fat: 5g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 5g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.5g
  • Protein: 0g

As you can see, lard is completely fat. It contains both saturated and unsaturated fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. Lard contains no protein or carbs.

Lard is also a source of certain fat-soluble vitamins. One tablespoon of lard contains (1):

  • Vitamin D: 2IU (1% DV)
  • Vitamin E: 0.1mg (1% DV)
  • Vitamin K: 1.1mcg (1% DV)

Is lard high in saturated fat?

One of the biggest nutritional knocks against lard through the years has been its high saturated fat content. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to no more than 5-6% of total daily calories (2).

Saturated fats have been shown to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. High LDL is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Lard is roughly 40% saturated fat. This gives it one of the highest saturated fat contents among cooking fats.

For comparison, here are the saturated fat contents for 1 tablespoon of common fats (1):

Fat Saturated Fat (g)
Butter 7
Coconut oil 12
Lard 5
Olive oil 2
Canola oil 1

As you can see, lard is higher than olive and canola oils but a bit lower than butter and much lower than coconut oil.

Lard contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats

While lard is high in saturated fat, it also contains significant amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

It’s monounsaturated fat content is similar to extra virgin olive oil. Monounsaturated fats are linked to reduced heart disease risk when they replace saturated fats (3).

Lard provides a small amount of polyunsaturated fats as well. These include essential fatty acids like omega-6s and omega-3s that have benefits for heart health and inflammation when consumed in moderation (4).

How does lard affect cholesterol?

Several controlled studies have looked directly at how consuming lard affects cholesterol levels.

In one 2-week study, researchers fed participants breads made with either lard, butter, olive oil or sunflower oil (5).

Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol rose most in the butter and lard groups compared to olive and sunflower oils. However, the lard bread increased LDL less than the butter bread.

A larger controlled study had 169 adults consume diets with either olive oil, soybean oil or lard as the main cooking fat (6). After 50 days, LDL cholesterol was significantly higher in the lard and olive oil groups compared to soybean oil.

However, in this same study, HDL (good) cholesterol also rose more in the lard and olive oil groups versus soybean oil. A higher HDL is linked to decreased heart disease risk (7).

So while lard may increase LDL cholesterol to a moderate degree, it may also boost HDL. Overall, lard’s effects on cholesterol seem comparable to olive oil – an oil that is considered among the healthiest.

Does lard consumption affect heart disease risk?

Looking directly at heart disease risk gives a bigger picture versus just looking at cholesterol levels.

A large review compiled data from 8 dietary studies including a total of 140,000 people. It found no association between lard consumption and heart disease or stroke risk (8).

Another large study followed Swedish women aged 48-83 years old for 20 years. Heart disease rates did not differ between women who consumed the most lard compared to the least (9).

However, lard consumption in these studies was quite low overall at less than 2 pounds (800 grams) per year. So they cannot conclude on the effects of higher intakes.

Most evidence suggests moderate lard intake as part of a healthy diet does not increase cardiovascular risk. But more studies are needed on higher intakes.

Benefits of lard

Here are some potential benefits of lard when used in moderation:

Cooking benefits

– High smoke point of 370°F makes it good for high-heat cooking

– Adds richness and depth of flavor to cooking and baking

– Creates flaky and crispy baked goods


– Source of vitamin D

– Provides fat-soluble vitamins E and K

– Contains monounsaturated fats like olive oil

– Provides essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3


– Uses more of the pig compared to only consuming pork chops or bacon

– Minimizes food waste from pork production

Potential downsides to eating lard

Here are a few potential downsides to consider with lard intake:

High in saturated fat

– May negatively impact cholesterol levels when consumed in high amounts

– Intake should be moderate to minimize heart disease risk

Oxidative stability

– Not as stable as more processed, hydrogenated vegetable oils

– Prone to going rancid faster, especially if not stored properly


-Conventionally raised pork higher in antibiotics and other contaminants

-Need organic, sustainably raised source for highest quality

Is lard processed and hydrogenated?

Lard can be found in two main forms:

Traditional lard

– Made by rendering and straining pork fat

– No chemical processing

– Has not been hydrogenated

– Higher in unsaturated fat due to no hydrogenation

Hydrogenated lard

– Chemically processed and hydrogenated using high heat and solvents

– Hydrogenation makes the lard more solid with longer shelf life

– Raises the saturated fat content and lowers unsaturated fat

– Contains trans fats formed during hydrogenation

If possible, traditional lard is a better choice over a hydrogenated version. Hydrogenation lowers the benefits of lard by increasing saturated fat and generating trans fat.

Is lard inflammatory?

Inflammation plays a key role in diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders (10).

Diets high in saturated fat are linked to higher inflammatory markers. Polyunsaturated fats tend to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Since lard contains both saturated and polyunsaturated fats, its effects on inflammation are likely fairly neutral.

One study did find that substituting lard for soybean oil reduced levels of certain inflammatory markers like TNF-a (11). However, more studies are needed as results have been mixed.

Is lard keto?

The ketogenic diet emphasizes very low carb intake, moderate protein, and high fat. This macro ratio helps achieve ketosis, where your body burns fat and ketones for fuel instead of glucose.

Lard is nearly 100% fat, containing minimal carbs or protein. This makes it an ideal keto-friendly fat.

Using lard for cooking and baking can help increase your fat ratios on a ketogenic diet. Potential options include:

  • Cooking eggs, meat, and vegetables in lard
  • Frying pork rinds in lard for a snack
  • Making keto bread or biscuits with lard
  • Substituting lard for butter in Bulletproof coffee

Is lard paleo?

The paleo diet pattern focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods that humans would have eaten during the Paleolithic era. This includes animal fats like lard.

Lard fits well into a paleo lifestyle since it comes directly from pork without any modern chemical processing.

Potential paleo uses for lard include:

  • Cooking eggs, meat and vegetables
  • Frying up pancakes or homemade potato chips
  • Making paleo baked goods
  • Moisturizing your skin

The key is choosing a high-quality traditional lard from pasture-raised pork.

Is lard Whole30 approved?

Whole30 is a popular short-term diet program that emphasizes eating whole foods and eliminating processed foods, sugar, and artificial ingredients. Lard is compliant with Whole30 guidelines.

Lard fits well into the Whole30 fat recommendations to use naturally-occurring fats from animals and plants. While lard intake should still be moderate, it can be used for cooking during a Whole30.

How to use lard

Here are some tips for using lard in cooking:

Cooking and frying

– Excellent for pan frying and sautéing proteins, veggies, eggs

– Use in place of butter or vegetable oils for cooking

– Can be used to grease pans

– Provides richness and depth when used for making roux or gravy


– Create tender and flaky baked goods like biscuits, pie crusts and pastries

– Use in place of shortening or butter in baking recipes

– Use a moderate amount or blend with butter

Add to coffee

– Blend into Bulletproof coffee for a high-fat beverage

– Also works in regular coffee to make a creamy, frothy latte

Homemade lard soap

– Can be used to create moisturizing soap

– Combine with oils like coconut oil and essential oils

How to store lard

Here are some tips for proper storage of lard:

  • Keep unused lard refrigerated for up to 1 year
  • Can also be frozen for up to 2 years
  • Store in an airtight container
  • If lard smells rancid or “off,” it has spoiled and should be discarded
  • Melted and re-congealed lard is still safe to consume or use for cooking

Where to buy lard

There are several options for buying lard:

Grocery store

– Can usually be found by butter/oils section or by the bacon

– Choose organic, non-hydrogenated lard when possible

Butcher shop or local farm

– Get freshly rendered lard from pasture-raised hogs

– Best source for highest quality traditional lard


– Several brands available for purchase online

– Look for organic, sustainably-sourced, non-hydrogenated

– Can buy in bulk for cost savings


Lard has gotten a bad rap over the years for being high in saturated fat. However, in moderation lard can be part of a healthy diet and provides certain cooking benefits.

Research shows links between lard and increased LDL cholesterol. But it does not appear to raise heart disease or stroke risk when consumed in normal amounts.

Compared to butter, lard offers slightly less saturated fat and more monounsaturated fat. Its fatty acid profile is fairly comparable to olive oil.

When sourced from sustainably raised pigs and used in moderation, lard can be a quality traditional fat source.

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