Reality check: Is cooking with lard healthier than cooking with butter?

Click to play video: 'Which should you choose: lard or butter?'
Which should you choose: lard or butter?
WATCH: In a balanced diet, is lard or butter a better choice? – Feb 28, 2018

Cooking with lard is healthier than cooking with butter – at least that’s what one U.K. nutritionist is claiming.

But is it really?

The claim was made by Jo Travers of the British Dietetic Association Monday when he appeared on the British television show Food Unwrapped, The Independent reports.

READ MORE: Health Canada wants to make sure you know your food is high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat

According to Travers, the fats found in lard are “good fats” known as monounsaturated fats, which have been proven to help lower levels of bad cholesterol.

But is it true?

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Technically speak it is, Canadian dietitian Andy De Santis says, but it’s still something you shouldn’t include in your diet regularly.

Using data from the Canadian Nutrient File – a federal food nutrient database – De Santis compared one tablespoon of lard versus butter. He found that both contain about 115 calories.

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But when he looked closer, he saw some differences.

One tablespoon of butter contains 7.5 grams of saturated fat, three grams of monounsaturated fat and .05 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. One tablespoon of lard, on the other hand, contains five grams of saturated fat, 5.7 grams of monounsaturated fat and .12 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

“What we take away from this is that lard is higher in monounsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids, and is lower in saturated fatty acids,” De Santis says. “Based on this analysis, it would be a safe argument to make that lard is a healthier choice than butter because we know that monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are considered particularly helpful to our bodies and good for our hearts.”

Saturated fat, however, is much less useful to us and is potentially harmful in the long-term, he adds.

READ MORE: ‘Good fats’ you should include in your diet

Despite the favourable comparison, De Santis says we still shouldn’t use it as our go-to for cooking all the time.

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“Yes lard compares favourable to butter, but I consider butter far from a healthy comparison to use,” he says. “What if we compare one tablespoon of lard to one tablespoon of olive oil? Lard still contains over double the saturated fat found in one tablespoon of olive oil – which has two grams – and just under half the amount of monounsaturated fat – olive oil has 10 grams. If you compare lard to other plant-sourced oils, including avocado oil, macadamia oil and canola oil, you will find the exact same results.”

Essentially, he says, lard has more of the fat our body doesn’t need more of, and less of the fat that it does.

So, should you use it for one of your recipes every so often, then that’s fine. But don’t make a habit of it, De Santis says.

“If you have a recipe that just doesn’t taste the same without it, I supposed that’s fine, but I would not rely on it for regular use,” he says. “Control the amount you use if you do use it – there is a big difference between one tablespoon and three to four tablespoons.”

The same can be said for plant-based oils, De Santis adds, which are much healthier but still high in calories.

“Canada’s food guide recommends two to three tablespoons of plant-based – a.k.a. vegetable – oils daily,” he says. “As far as lard alternatives go, the closest plant-based alternative to lard is probably coconut oil, although more seasoned cooks may disagree with me on that one. I say this because unlike other plant-based oils, coconut oil is solid at room temperature because it happens to have a high saturated fat content.”

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However, the saturated fats in coconut oil are different and arguably healthier than those in lard, adds.

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