Book review: 'Get Your Fats Straight' by the Healthy Home Economist

Michael Miller  ·  Oct 25, 2018

You’ve probably heard that fat is bad for you.

It sat atop the now-discarded USDA Food Pyramid as one of the things we should ingest the least. The rest of the government, the medical establishment, and the news media played along, demonizing fat as being bad for your cardiovascular health and causing weight gain.

Sarah Pope, who created the Healthy Home Economist blog and is a Samaritan Ministries member, hopes to clarify (that’s a butter pun, by the way) the facts around fats with her 2016 book Get Your Fats Straight.

The book’s subtitle tells you a lot of what you need to know about the contents: “Why skim milk is making you fat and giving you heart disease plus the three simple steps for using healthy fats to lose weight, reduce inflammation and gain energy!”

Sarah’s focus throughout the book is to teach the reader that there are good fats and bad fats, and that saturated fats are good for us. Essential even.

“Saturated fats are perfectly natural and have been beneficially consumed by peoples all over the world for millennia without, as far as we can tell, ever causing heart disease,” she writes.

Saturated fat link to heart disease misleading

Sarah, the daughter of a cardiologist, writes that the research linking saturated fat and heart disease “has either been mistakenly or intentionally misinterpreted since the 1950s,” and that this has led to media and government misrepresentation of healthy diets. In fact, she says, more recent studies have shown no link between saturated fat and heart disease, a topic she discusses on her blog here

Why is it important to include plenty of saturated fat in your diet? Sarah stresses how it helps cell walls, which should be, she says, composed of at least 50 percent saturated fat. Cut off that supply by, for example, switching to something like polyunsaturated vegetable oil (I wonder if the number of syllables in an ingredient’s name should disqualify something as “healthy”) in “heart-healthy” butter alternatives and you end up with overly delicate skin cell walls, which makes skin more prone to sun damage, brown spots, and wrinkles.

Gets Your Fats Straight says that the increase in obesity, childhood conditions such as autism and ADD/ADHD, and a variety of chronic diseases can be laid at the doorstep of changes in food consumption and standards over the past 50 years. Fast-food consumption has increased by 500 percent since 1970, she says. That has resulted in not only weight gain, but a degradation of people’s overall health as well by the increased use of “trans fats, preservatives, refined sugars, artificial colors, artificial flavors and excitotoxins (such as MSG in its many forms) that come as part of the package.”

Oils that are bad for us, like canola and soy, are in abundance even at alleged “health food” bars.

The result?

“We are now suffering from serious deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamin A and vitamin D.”

Get control of your health back

The solution, Sarah says, is to look at how people outside of unsanitary cities were able to remain healthy in the past. As a chapter leader and then board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation, she has long promoted healthy diets based on Price Foundation principles. “In a nutshell, Dr. Price concluded that, while many of the peoples he studied were primitive, they were in fact supremely healthy and certainly not stupid.”  The foundation promotes diets that include the consumption of saturated fats from a variety of sources.

The power to help your family remain healthy, she says in chapter 4, is to adopt some of these practices. The place to do it is in your kitchen!

Of course, there’s probably a lot of stuff in that kitchen’s pantry that’s not good for you, according to this line of thought, so that needs to be cleared out first. Maybe you have some Crisco (which stands for “crystallized cottonseed oil” … mmmm, now there’s good eatin’!). There may be some food fortified with preservatives, pesticides, pseudo-estrogens, and MSG. And in the refrigerator is probably some pasteurized, low-fat milk, meaning that any helpful nutrients have been processed out of it.

“To a frightening extent,” she writes, “you have relinquished control over your health to large scale food companies producing awful food under horrid conditions—all for the sake of consumer convenience and shareholder profit.”

First, get rid of the 'low-fat' mindset

The first step to a better diet, she says, is to get rid of the “low-fat” mindset and learn which foods and fats are beneficial and which are not.

Toward that end, Sarah introduces her “Simple, 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reduce Inflammation and Gain Energy” in chapter 5.

Step 1: Replace all your margarines, spreads and liquid vegetable fats with the best butter you can afford. If you’re allergic to dairy, use ghee, “which is butter with all the milk solids removed.” She suggests that you may notice reduced sugar cravings and better digestion just by making this change.

Step 2: Begin supplementing with cod liver oil. This is one of her key suggestions, since it’s a major step in increasing your intake of vitamins A and D, along with K2, which makes the first two vitamins more available to your body. This step may improve your immunity system.

Step 3: Start consuming coconut oil. This oil has, in the past, been “falsely vilified for causing heart disease,” Sarah writes. “Fortunately, that nonsense about saturated fats being dangerous is being left in the past and coconut oil has many benefits that you won’t want to miss.” (Go here for links to two stories Samaritan has published on coconut oil.)

She then expands on each of these steps in the following chapters.

Butter's better

For instance, in chapter 6 (“Butter is Better—So Much Better”), she notes that real butter, especially from pasture-fed cows, is a great source of vitamins A, D, and K2. “If you have a choice between less expensive pale butter and more pricey deep yellow butter from pastured cows, go for the deep yellow every time. It’s well worth the extra money.”

Besides supplying those nutrients, butter stabilizes blood sugar, which can affect mood.

“Soon after I started to eat butter with abandon a decade ago I noticed that I became a whole lot more patient and able to go with the flow in unexpected, stressful situations,” Sarah writes. “The highly successful campaign to demonize butter as a contributor to the heart disease epidemic paved the way for the edible oil industry to create an entirely new line of products: margarine and other fake butter spreads. ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ and products like it filled the supermarket shelves, and Americans scooped them up in the name of better health. Butter substitutes are very cheap to produce—much cheaper than real butter. Replacing butter with margarine in the American diet proved to be a huge marketing coup for the edible oil industry and they are still riding this wave of profits after many years all the while touting the certain improvements in public health that would result—but never did.”

She adds that the margarines the public has become entranced with are actually loaded with trans fats, “the fats that actually ARE strongly linked with heart disease.”

Next she promotes the use of cod liver oil, citing studies by Dr. Price and his observation of South Pacific islanders’ use of oil from fermented shark livers.

However, we need to be careful buying the cod liver oil available on the market today, she says, because slow fermentation of fish livers has been largely abandoned in favor of high-temperature processing. She also warns against use of regular fish oil, saying it contains no A, D, or K2. You can check out her resources here for more suggestions.

Coconut oil ... the 'wonderfat'

Finally, there’s coconut oil, which she calls the “wonderfat.” It can be bought virgin or expeller pressed, both of which are antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. In addition, virgin coconut oil is being touted as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease; when the natural medium-chain triglycerides in the oil are converted into ketones, they serve as a “super fuel” for the brain.

Sarah lists other nutrient-rich animal fats in chapter 9: egg yolks, fish eggs, liver, lard, suet, and tallow, plus the fat from chicken, beef, or duck stock. She goes on to explain the role of vitamin K2, the advantages and disadvantages of olive oil, and offers recipes for “quick, easy and economical home-cooked foods using butter and coconut oil.”

But what about that skim milk claim?

“This apparent paradox occurs when you reduce the saturated fat in a person’s diet and they turn to carbs (grains and sugars, primarily) to fill the gap. It is the grains and sugars that truly cause you to become overweight—not saturated fat. In fact, the more butter and cream I eat, the easier it is to maintain my weight. MUCH easier. The same will probably be true for you. If you drink skim milk, you will be missing out on the satiating, blood sugar—and insulin—steadying effects of saturated fat, so your body will automatically give you sugar and carb (grains) cravings to compensate. The body is able to MAKE saturated fat out of sugars and begs for the raw materials to do so. Hence the sugar cravings that are impossible to control when you deprive your body of saturated fats.”

So, Sarah is saying, get off that pyramid and get some fats—the saturated kind—in you. Your body will thank you. 

Visit TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com for articles, videos, and books from Sarah Pope.