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Duck Fat: Is It Good for You?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 25, 2020

Butters and oils may be go-to options for cooking your favorite dishes, but a variety of other choices can add extra flavor and nutrition. Duck fat, in particular, delivers a rich taste as well as an attractive golden hue that otherwise might be difficult to achieve. 

A popular addition to fried or roasted potatoes, duck fat can also be used to up the ante for croquettes, pie crusts, and even popcorn. Many people prefer it for recipes that require a high cooking temperature.

Duck confit, a popular dish in many cultures, consists of duck legs cured in salt. This beloved dish tastes best when the meat is marinated and poached in rich duck fat.

Although duck fat is available at many grocery stores and specialty food shops, many people prefer to render it on their own when preparing duck meat. Most store-bought duck fat is sold free of preservatives, although some products may contain added flavors. 

When cooking duck meat, the culinary usefulness of duck fat cannot be denied. However, significant disagreement exists regarding its health benefits and risks. Its high saturated fat content may be cause for concern, but it also offers benefits above and beyond butter and some types of oil.

Additional research on the potential health benefits and risks of duck fat is needed. For now, it can be enjoyed in moderation as an option for cooking delicacies.

Nutrition Information

A one-tablespoon serving of duck fat contains: 

  • Calories: 113
  • Protein: 0 gram
  • Fat: 13 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Duck fat is a rich source of linoleic acid. This polyunsaturated fat is also found in canola oil, walnuts, and a variety of other foods. 

While researchers disagree on the ideal level of linoleic acid in a healthy diet, many believe it can be beneficial for heart health.

Duck fat also includes high levels of oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil. Preliminary research suggests that oleic acid may have a beneficial impact on inflammation and immune response.

Potential Health Benefits of Duck Fat

Richer in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat than butter and many other animal products, duck fat may deliver the following noteworthy health benefits. 

Reduced Cholesterol 

The monounsaturated fat in duck fat may help to maintain desirable levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Additionally, it can play a role in reducing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Lower Blood Glucose Levels

A growing body of research suggests that foods high in polyunsaturated fat, like duck fat, may help reduce blood glucose levels. This is even more likely if you replace your calories from carbohydrates with calories from polyunsaturated fats.

Increased Energy Levels

Duck meat contains high levels of essential amino acids, an organic compound that helps your body function. Your body uses amino acids to produce energy.

Potential Risks of Duck Fat

Duck fat can be a great source of linoleic acid, but it’s also high in both calories and saturated fats. If you consume too much, it can contribute to a variety of health concerns, including:

Increased Total Cholesterol

Though duck fat might not be as high in saturated fats as some animal products, it contains more than options like olive oil. A diet high in saturated fat can lead to significant increases in your total cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. For this reason, duck fat can be enjoyed in moderation but should not entirely replace olive oil or other healthy sources of fat.

Weight Gain

It’s important to consider duck fat’s high calorie count when you’re deciding whether to cook with it. A single serving of duck fat consists of just one tablespoon, which contains 113 calories.

Many recipes that use duck fat call for far more than that and, as a result, can be surprisingly high in calories.

If you’re trying to lose weight for health reasons, swapping out high-calorie foods for lower-calorie options is a great approach. Limiting recipes that include duck fat in the ingredients may help.

Reduced Quality

A recent study found that rendered duck fat is more prone to lipid oxidation during storage compared to other oils and fats. Lipid oxidation causes foods to deteriorate when they’re not being used.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Cholesterol Myths and Facts.”

Food science of animal resources: “Oxidative Stability and Quality Characteristics of Duck, Chicken, Swine and Bovine Skin Fats Extracted by Pressurized Hot Water Extraction.”

Harvard Health Publishing: The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Dietary linoleic acid and risk of coronary heart disease.”

Journal of Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology: “Studies on the Effect of Duck Fat on the Duck flavor.”

Journal of Food Quality: “CHARACTERIZING QUALITY OF RENDERED DUCK FAT COMPARED TO OTHER FATS AND OILS.”

May Clinic: “Counting Calories: Get back to weight-loss basics.”

Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry: “An Overview of the Modulatory Effects of Oleic Acid in Health and Disease.”

PLOS Medicine: “Effects of Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate on Glucose-Insulin Homeostasis—A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Feeding Trials.” 

Sustained Energy for Enhanced Human Functions and Activity: “21 Amino Acids and Energy Metabolism: An Overview.”

Trends in Food Science & Technology: “Mechanisms of lipid oxidation in food dispersions”

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