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The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet

Book Review

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
By Nina Teicholz
Simon and Schuster (2014)
Reviewed by Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN


What we thought about dietary fat is wrong: eating more dietary fat — saturated fats included — creates a diet that can lead to better health.

Synopsis of the Diet Plan

Exploring fat's role in health, nutrition science, public policy and food and drug manufacturing, this book asks readers to reconsider commonly accepted information about dietary fat. Suggesting that low-fat diets may have negative health consequences, the author explores whether foods such as dairy, butter and meat could actually improve health.

Nutritional Pros and Cons

Unlike the "big fat" theme of The Big Fat Surprise, past studies don’t conclude that eating saturated fat is good for us. At nine calories per gram, we can’t overlook the threat of recommending the addition of more fat to our plates. However, the author does bring attention to the educational need for safely purchasing, storing and cooking with oils.

This book lacks solid nutrition studies showing that a diet rich in saturated fats causes weight loss, a reduction in heart disease, blood pressure and lower risk of diabetes and cancer. The degree to which meat and dairy should be included in a person's eating plan vary in the diets of these studies, but all include whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. This evidence supports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which allow flexibility for a variety of eating styles from vegan to higher-protein foods. Be sensible with choices and portions. Choose whole grains, beans, lentils, vegetables and fruits, lean and low-fat sources of protein including dairy, and don't overindulge in fats.

Bottom Line

Raising questions about the validity of established nutrition and health knowledge, The Big Fat Surprise reminds readers of the importance of reviewing research, asking fresh questions, testing new hypotheses and making health recommendations based on empirical evidence. This book is a challenging and informative read for critical thinkers, but it may leave readers confused about what they should or shouldn't actually eat to maintain good health.