“Starch-Based” Better Than “Vegan” Or “Whole Food Plant-Based”

Here are some clips of Dr. McDougall from a panel discussion at the October 2014 Healthy Lifestyle Expo. He stresses the importance of words:

Dr. McDougall is 68 years old here. When he was 18, he, in his words, “suffered a massive stroke that left me completely paralyzed on the left side of my body for 2 weeks, and I remain noticeably physically weakened [to this day].” Something he did in the time between his stroke and today prevented a recurrence. He would tell you it was his starch-based diet. I’m inclined to believe him.

Some excerpts:

I have no idea what a vegan diet is or do I have any hope that a vegan diet would cure anybody of anything. But I know a starch-based diet does.

The most important thing is to get most of your calories from starches with a few from vegetables and fruits.

I have to say that “whole food, plant-based” still doesn’t give me the direction I want. … Is that kale? Is that cabbage? What is it? It’s just not descriptive enough for me.

This next bit about the risks of using scientific terms that many people don’t understand, instead of food terms that everyone can relate to is something I’ve gone on about. He’s absolutely right here:

What in the hell is a complex carbohydrate?

What’s a saturated fat? It’s meat, dairy, and eggs. You see, if they [USDA and Dietary Guideline authors] said, don’t eat meat, dairy, and eggs, the American consumer might stand a chance. But industry would suffer. So they don’t allow that, those terms, in guideline policies. Likewise they’ve eliminated the word starch so you can’t act as a consumer. You don’t know what to eat. You eat complex carbohydrate … What!? The words are important.

Here’s why I’ve come to believe that McDougall’s starch-based diet is the best diet. If you cut back on animal food – meat, cheese, dairy, eggs – where do you go for your calories? Broccoli and kale? Lettuce and tomatoes? Strawberries and lemons and apples? Modern humans don’t thrive on a diet of fruits and vegetables. Richard Wrangham made this point in his book, Catching Fire. We would have to eat for hours a day. This is especially true if the food is raw. But if you make starches the core of your diet, with vegetables and fruits as satellites, you won’t court hunger, and you’ll benefit from not consuming animal foods.

I’ve seen people fail on vegetarian and vegan diets for exactly the reasons he gives. Even if they avoid processed foods and stick to vegetables and salads, some bread, maybe some cheese and eggs, they feel weak and poorly nourished. So, they add nuts and seeds and dried fruit and more calorically dense foods like avocado, peanuts, and oils but they still don’t feel well. They end up abandoning the vegetarian diet altogether.

What McDougall suggests, and what I’m slowly come to realize, is that you go for the starch. Whenever you get hungry, eat starch. Eat a bowl of oatmeal or any hot cereal, a bowl of pasta, a baked sweet potato, some oil-less potato salad, fat-free oven fries, rice with steamed vegetables, whole grain bread, popcorn, spicy beans or lentils, barley and mushroom soup, fat-free hummus with pita, fresh corn, quinoa…



6 thoughts on ““Starch-Based” Better Than “Vegan” Or “Whole Food Plant-Based”

  1. Bix Post author

    I’ve always felt tentative using the word starch. It has negative connotations. But I’m going to start using it. It makes sense. And I see his point about the ineffectiveness of the term “whole food, plant-based.”


  2. mboydp

    I know this is an old post, but it caught my eye–makes me happy b/c we eat a lot of starch–pasta, potatoes, bread. Literally the staff of life.


  3. Anonymous

    why do so many people gain weight eating heavily starched foods? Plus you do not get the vitamins, minerals and fats that plants offer.


    1. Bix Post author

      Plants are starches. Corn, rice, wheat, oats, peas, beans, lentils, potatoes, squash, pumpkins … these are all starches. Starches do not make people fat. It is the fat that people eat with those starches that make them fat. It is from starches such as these that we derive most of our vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s