This month we review a landmark book that makes the case for starch as the foundation of a healthful diet.
The Starch Solution:
Eat the Food You Love,
Regain Your Health, and
Lose the Weight for Good!
By John A. McDougall and Mary McDougall
Dr. John McDougall has been battling demons during the 44 years he has been practicing medicine. The demons he has faced are his medical colleagues who have ignored nutrition as a cornerstone of their practices and diet gurus who have promoted high protein diets as a weight loss solution. He has not been in the mainstream of the medical industry because he advocates starch as the principal ingredient in a healthy diet.
In The Starch Solution he lays out the principles he has stressed for many years. His plan can be summarized in one sentence. The McDougall diet is based on starches with the addition of fruits and vegetables. He explains this is the diet that has kept native populations in excellent health for centuries.
"Beyond shedding excess weight almost effortlessly, you will look better, feel better, function better, and live better," says McDougall. "For the majority of people, blood pressure and cholesterol will drop and digestion will finally work the way it should. In most cases, you will be able to get off and stay off prescription medications and supplements, saving a bundle and enjoying good health naturally. Once you try it and see the results, you will know for certain that The Starch Solution is the answer you have been searching for your entire life."
Grains like barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rice, sorghum, wheat, and wild rice are the basis of McDougall's starch diet plan. He also includes legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas as well as starchy vegetables like carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, potatoes, salsify, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and yams. To these he adds green, yellow, and orange non-starchy vegetables, and an extensive list of fruits. He advises people to eat as much as they want from this list until they are full. Unlike many diets, this one does not leave the dieter feeling deprived or hungry all the time.
His diet shuns all animal protein like meat, chicken, fish, dairy products and eggs to focus on complex carbohydrates. He cites extensive research to show that the real Paleolithic diet was starch-based with ancient civilizations like the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans thriving on carbohydrates.
According to McDougall, the Standard American Diet is 20% starch, 70% meat and dairy, 5% fruits, and 5% vegetables. The Starch Solution recommends a dramatic increase to 70% starch, 0% meat and dairy, 10% fruits, and 20% vegetables. He is critical of the USDA Proposal for School Lunches that lists only 1% starch, 50% meat and dairy, 10% fruits, and 39% vegetables. The USDA Proposal for Dietary Guidelines for Americans is also criticized. The Guidelines suggest 20% starch, 50% meat and dairy, 10% fruits, and 20%vegetables.
"Instead of representing the common interest, the agency has been corrupted by its allegiance to agribusiness into ignoring scientific evidence that goes against industry interests," McDougall charges. "The USDA's conflicting allegiances and responsibilities are at the core of our inability to address the costly epidemics of obesity and other diet-related illnesses."
For those who are reluctant to eliminate meat and dairy, McDougall presents the compelling Five Components of Animal Foods That Are Poisoning You. The toxins in animal foods are protein, fat, cholesterol, methionine, and dietary acid. He explains that excess protein compromises the liver and kidneys and harms the bones. Too much fat leads to obesity and contributes to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. All animal products contain cholesterol that is added to the cholesterol our bodies normally produce. Methionine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that can dissolve bones and cause kidneys to produce calcium-based stones. "The chronic over consumption of dietary acids from meat, poultry, fish, and cheese essentially causes you to pee your bones into the toilet," McDougall writes.
A vegan diet does not insure good health, especially if vegans are eating foods swimming in oil. McDougall also counters the view that olive oil is a panacea. "In short, it doesn't matter what type of fat you eat, saturated animal fat and polyunsaturated vegetable oils all have adverse effects on your heart and health." The doctor warns against eating too many nuts and seeds because of their fat content and the tendency to overindulge. One of his favorite sayings is "The fat you eat is the fat you wear."
He is no fan of fake soy foods that contain soy protein isolates. "In fact, manufactured soybean derivatives may actually increase your risk of cancer; impair thyroid, immune, and brain function; and cause bone damage and reproductive problems," he says citing studies to support his statement. He also feels that supplements are a waste of money and can even be harmful instead of promoting good health.
Quite surprising is McDougall's attitude toward salt and sugar. He calls them The Scapegoats of the Western Diet. In the case of salt, it's the animal protein that accompanies it in common foods that's the real culprit. "Sugar Will Not Make You Fat," he writes. He cites studies that reveal that people who consume more simple sugar take in fewer calories and are less likely to become overweight. Both sugar and salt will help people flavor their foods and help them stay committed to The Starch Solution.
Throughout the volume are photos and testimonials by Star McDougallers, patients who tell their stories of how this diet has transformed their lives and improved their health.
Almost half of the book is devoted to Living the Solution. Mary McDougall, the doctor's wife, plays a dominant role here by talking about what to eat and what to avoid as well as providing tips on how to prepare food. Setting Up the Kitchen and Pantry and Healthy Substitutions for Your Favorite Foods are covered in detail. The 7-Day Sure-Start Plan offers complete menus, while Achieving Maximum Weight Loss not only provides tips but also suggests a pattern that differs from the normal McDougall approach. The percentages are 45% starch, 0% meat and dairy, 10% fruits, and 45% vegetables.
Our Favorite Recipes by Mary McDougall comprise 100 pages of the book and include suggested foods to use throughout the day as well as snacks and desserts.
Anyone who knows about Dr. John McDougall is familiar with his extensive research on nutrition. His statements throughout the book are not casual, unsupported beliefs. All are gleaned from research and studies that he has examined carefully. This is evident in the impressive 20 pages of References in small type at the end of the book.
The Starch Solution is the work of a doctor who has devoted much of his life to research in nutrition. Dr. John McDougall has applied that research to benefit thousands whom he has inspired to make dietary changes that have improved their health. In an era where so many people have dietary related degenerative diseases, he offers a simple plan that would reverse this downward spiral into illness. By accepting and following his program, his readers will experience a healthful renaissance. The Starch Solution is a must read for everyone and especially for those with health problems.