I bought, read, and reviewed The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good! by Dr. John A. McDougall and Mary McDougall.
Most important: do not just skip to the recipes in this book! As good as they are, I believe it’s important to read and understand the detailed information on the basic building blocks of nutrition and the even more essential information on the health benefits and dangers of individual food types.
I bought and read the first McDougall book many years ago, in the 1980s. At that time I read it straight through and followed the plan for a while. Unfortunately I slid away from the basics and my health suffered as a result. Although I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian since the end of 1982 and have been a vegan since the middle of 2007, and although I have read a great many articles on veganism and tried to maintain a reasonably healthy version of a vegan plan, I found when I read this book that I had forgotten some elements and that likely McDougall knows even more now than he did then. For example:
* When he says starches he really means starches. Potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, legumes, among others. These types of foods need to take over at least half of your plate. Non-starchy vegetables take up another segment and fruit the rest. The evidence is in the book in the form of several studies over many years.
* Isolated soy protein is as bad for you as animal protein. This I didn’t know. I love my veggie chick’n cutlets and vegan sausages but from here on these items have got to be for special occasions only. Foods made from isolated soy protein or, for that matter, isolated wheat protein, have significant impacts on the development of cancers and other serious diseases. The name of the game here is protein. Do not overdo it. It’s dangerous.
* Fish oils do not protect us from heart disease. They do provide us with dangerous levels of mercury. This is something I did know, but it’s good to see it stated here, with evidence.
* Supplements are not only not necessary (except possibly B12 and, in rare instances, small amounts of Vitamin D) but can be dangerous. When these nutrients are separated from the rest of the whole food they come from they cause our systems to react to the concentrated form and this reaction can be lethal. Don’t be fooled into thinking “can’t hurt, might help” because it’s more likely that they can hurt.
* Calcium! Interestingly, those who consume less calcium make better use of it. Those who consume large amounts do not benefit from the extra. We know this is true of the calcium in milk products, but it’s important to realize it’s also true of calcium supplements. Get your calcium from vegetables.
There is a great deal more to read and absorb. For those who are new to a plant-based diet McDougall offers answers you can offer to your concerned meat-eating friends. Knowledge is power and it’s also stress-reducing.
Now, to the recipes. In the early McDougall books the recipes were very simple and I had the impression that the majority of them called for canned tomatoes or sauce. Understandable, given how useful and low-fat these foods are. Now, however, Mary McDougall has developed far more interesting and sophisticated recipes that continue to be easy to understand and prepare, and that call for familiar ingredients for most of us. I am excited to try them, and have committed myself to starting over, armed with a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm. I hope you join me.
Bonus: Throughout the book are sprinkled the stories of many “Star McDougallers” – people who have gone on the McDougall plan and recovered from serious health situations. These anecdotal additions bring the plan down to earth.
Note: I purchased The Starch Solution for my own use (did not receive a review copy from the publisher).