Phrased as a quip on Michael Pollan's famous dictum, McDougall's message goes like this: "Eat plants. Mostly starch. As much as you like."
McDougall is not afraid of taking clear stances on even the most controversial issues in vegan nutrition. His reasoning is supported by hundreds of endnotes pointing to scientific studies, many of which having been published as recently as 2010 or 2011. If readers feel they need even more background, they will be pleasantly surprised about the wealth of information hidden in the archives of the discussion board on McDougall's website. The search function is excellent - I was able to find answers for several questions that remained open after finishing his book.
What I like most about McDougall's system is its simplicity. Having been on a vegan diet for about 5 years now, I have become overly worried (if not obsessive-compulsive) about avoiding nutritional deficiencies by eating a huge variety of vegetables and spices, and swallowing half a dozen supplements. McDougall posits that these fears are largely misguided, and that the only supplement people on a starch-based vegan diet really need is B12. He claims that the overwhelming majority of dietary problems are caused by nutritional excess, and not shortage.
By following a starch-based diet, we can be sure that our bodies ingest all necessary nutrients in optimal quantities, while also reducing our ecological footprint to a sustainable minimum.
Why then only four stars? Two reasons.
First, I have been on this diet for only two weeks now, and although I feel great at the moment it is too early to say whether this will work for me in the long run. I should add that I'm not concerned about losing weight, but rather about feeling well, and finding a sustainable diet that fits to my lifestyle. Despite the short term success, there still remains some "too good to be true" sentiment in the back of my mind.
Secondly, the recipes concluding this book are not that good. They often make use of ingredients that should be severely restricted according to McDougall's previous instructions. Granted, these ingredients are only used in moderate quantities, but still. I think some readers might get the wrong ideas if even McDougall (or rather, his wife Mary, who wrote the recipe section) can't get it completely right. It makes McDougall's diet seem unrealistic and invites tinkering with his tenets.
Still, I give this book two thumbs up for everybody seriously committed to embarking on a quite restrictive vegan eating plan. Especially those with orthorectic tendencies will feel liberated and empowered by McDougall's minimalist approach.
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