Saturday, November 8, 2008

Don't Blame Fat

Edward Bottone defends fat.

Fat, the fat we cook with and eat, is good for you, and I sing its praises. Our bodies need fat. That's right — fat supports cellular growth, the immune system, the brain, and our hormone-producing endocrine system. We'd struggle to function without it. The low- and no-fat era of the last half century made us heavier, not healthier, and in the process has taken a lot of the pleasure from eating. the end, it's calories that make you fat. Too many in and not enough expended. We may be a nation of fatties, but it is not because of an overindulgence in glorious gorgeous fat: It's overindulgence in general. Eat a little less; eat much better. Put fear of fat behind you. Eat fat for flavor. Eat fat for life.

2blowhards led me to another fat advocate, who provided some definitions.

Real lard is a naturally-hydrogenated, solid fat that requires no tampering in the factory to add anything to it. Lard is rendered pork fat.

Unlike the natural solid fat, lard, vegetable shortening is a liquid oil until manufacturers tamper with its structure by heating it up under pressure and bubbling hydrogen gas into it (with a catalyst to make it all work faster) and force-feeding the carbon double bonds some hydrogen atoms that often latch on in a crossways or trans configuration.

A little bit of hydrogen added in the trans configuration increases shelf life of the oil and allows liquid vegetable oils and corn oil not to go rancid in large, clear containers exposed to light and heat on the store shelves. (This would also be the case, though to a much lesser degree, for the small amount of hydrogenation possible for shelf-stable lard.)

A lot of hydrogen added in the trans configuration solidifies the liquid oil, creating stick margarine or solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco. These Franken Fats were created to replace the naturally solid fats, butter and lard, not for health reasons, but because the real McCoys were rationed in WWII.

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