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  • Books

    Beginner's Guides

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    The McDougall Program
    12 Days to Dynamic Health

    by John A. McDougall, M.D.; 436 pages
    with recipes by Mary McDougall

    This is the best book you will ever read about vegetarian nutrition. McDougall has been there -- he explains the nearly total lack of success he had in treating patients with conventional medicine, and the dramatic improvements that occurred when he got his patients to try a meatless lifestyle. Even if you're not sick, this book will convincingly explain how you can maintain the best health on a plant-based diet, and why worries about protein are completely unnecessary.



    One Frustrated Doctor

    Like most medical students, I'd spent my early years in medical school following my teachers around and watching as they directed patient care. Naturally, the decisions they made and the procedures they carried out fascinated me. Eventually, however, I began to notice that their successes -- emotionally rewarding though they could be -- were far outnumbered by their failures. The successes usually involved the treatment of emergencies caused by violence and the curing of infectious diseases caused by germs.

    But what about the failures? These constituted a vast category of patients with chronic degenerative illnesses. Today, I would estimate that 85 percent of the people in the hospital were suffering to one degree or another from the effects of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, or stroke. Did we physicians make an appreciable difference in their lives? not much that I ever saw.

    Back to School

    After three years of frustration as a practicing physician, still unable to help my many patients with their chronic diseases, I returned to advanced study in medicine, taking up a residency in the University of Hawaii's affiliated hospitals in Honolulu. I was determined to uncover the secrets of effective medicine. After three months I realized I had already learned all that the medical profession had to teach me to remedy my patients' long-standing ailments. It seemed that the chronically ill could expect no more miracles, from me or from anybody else.

    During the two years of that residency I spent much of my spare time searching the literature in the medical library. I discovered that many other physicians and scientists had already noticed that the current methods of treating chronic diseases were failing to meet the needs of patients. Those observers also saw that improvement in diet and lifestyle were the best ways of preventing and treating most of those chronic conditions.

    But all too often the lessons I was learning back in the library stacks directly conflicted with the approaches I was being taught in practice at lectures or bedsides in the hospital.

    Trouble on Medical Rounds

    As one of the results of my reading, I frequently found myself in trouble with my instructors. If ever I suggested that a change in diet could help a patient, the shocked silence that followed was quickly replaced by something more vigorous. "Unscientific!" "Unorthodox!" "Quack!" were just a few of the epithets that assailed me.

    Once during my residency a very distinguished professor from a mainland medical school gave a series of lectures on the treatment of diabetes. He and his colleagues had done extensive research, showing that diabetics could dramatically improve their condition by eating more carbohydrates, not less, according to the prevailing doctrine. Yet in not one of his lectures did that visiting authority consider the subject of diet as it is related to diabetes.

    After his last lecture I stayed to ask him why he did not make that connection. He replied that it was an impractical subject to talk about, because people suffering from diabetes wouldn't change their diet anyway. But, I asked, "Didn't you do research that showed that some diabetics could be greatly improved by changing from a high fat to a high carbohydrate diet? And shouldn't doctors tell them about this good news?"

    He admitted this. Then I asked, "Aren't you the head of the nutrition committee that recommends diets for the American Diabetes Association?"

    To this, too, he said yes. The conversation ended when I said, "I can't understand how you can allow people to think that the high-fat American diet is the only acceptable way to eat when the consequences for them will be illness and premature death." Giving me a patronizing smile, he turned away, without another word. And I -- puzzled, no better instructed in the latest word about diabetes, but soon to be wiser in the proper conduct of physicians -- wandered back to the wards.


    My personal dietary change

    During my first year of my medical residency I came home from the library and told my wife that we would simply have to give up eating red meat. Before long I was saying that chicken and fish had to go too. They are just as loaded with cholesterol as is beef. Next came cheese and vegetable oils.

    Before long, the four basic food groups in our household became starchy vegetables, green and yellow vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. In less than a year we were transformed from sickly carnivores to healthy vegetarians. My wife soon noticed the difference in herself, and I, being the sicker person, noticed it even more. My stomach aches became sorrows of the past, and so did my constipation. I lost unnecessary weight, my skin became less oily, the cholesterol levels in my blood dropped precipitously, and I had more energy. You'd better believe I was startled and excited. I'd received an education at the dinner table that I couldn't get from textbooks in medicine.

    Spread the Word

    After finishing my training in Internal Medicine in 1978 I built a medical practice around what I increasingly came to regard as nutritional common sense. The physical transformations I observed in those patients who followed a healthy diet were so much more remarkable than were the rather feeble improvements that we had been able to achieve with the medications that I was stunned.

    The McDougall Program at St. Helena

    I came up with a twelve-day program at the St. Helena Hospital and Health Center. Patients arrive at the center on a Sunday and for the next twelve days they are involved in a world of new ideas -- including new ways to serve the many wonderful foods that most of us don't really know how to enjoy. From the first day our patients eat carefully prepared and mouth-watering meals featuring starches, vegetables, and fruits, all lightly seasoned.

    A Change that You Can See and Feel

    For our patients at St. Helena, the results have been remarkable. In general, overweight patients have lost from two to eleven pounds in twelve days; people suffering from chronic indigestion have usually thrown away their bottles of antacid in less than a week, and patients with advanced artherosclerosis and consequent severe angina paint can take long walks without chest pains before they finish the program.

    The blood cholesterol levels of some of my patients have fallen 100 points in twelve days; the average decrease is 28 points. In twelve days, my patients' blood pressure readings have dropped by an average of 8 percent. Soon after starting the Program, almost every patient who has hypertension is taken off blood pressure medication, and yet blood pressure still continues to fall.

    "I Want to Solve Serious Health Problems"

    What if your chest pains due to a diseased heart are becoming so severe that your cardiologist tells you that bypass surgery is the only way you'll get relief?

    You say you'd rather eat cardboard than spend a bloody morning with your chest pried wide open, your heart exposed to the recycled air of the operating room, and your thigh cut open from your groin to your calf. You may have learned somewhere that there's a better than fifty-fifty chance of suffering brain damage during open hearth surgery, as well as a one-in-twenty probability that you won't leave the hospital alive. You need a mighty powerful program that will get you out of that sort of trouble, and you need it now.

    During the twelve years in which I have been taking care of numbers of heart patients, I have yet to send a single one into bypass surgery. This is not to say that some haven't ended up on the operating table. But they were the guys who refused to take my advice. So far, all my patients who have adopted a diet that's healthy for the heart have succeeded in avoiding the knife.

    The McDougall Program is powerful therapy. We're talking about your taking one to five pounds of potent medicine every day -- your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don't be surprised if the alterations in your diet and lifestyle must be considerable. If you want dramatic changes in your health, then you must make dramatic changes in your diet. Big changes get big results.


    Results Like These Just Don't Happen in the Normal Practice of Medicine

    The reason I know I can convince you that a starch-based diet is better for your body than anything you've ever eaten before is that after twelve days you'll feel healthier. That prediction is based on the experiences of thousands of my relieved patients. Even young people feel markedly better on the McDougall Program. As for those who are older... well, all the clever argument in creation can't equal the conviction a person experiences when he or she walks up in the morning and says, "I feel wonderful! I feel better than I've felt in twenty years!" I've had the pleasure of hearing many, many people say exactly that to me.


    Protein deficiency is almost unknown in humans worldwide, but protein excess is a real problem in developed societies. When the protein content of the diet exceeds 15 percent of calories consumed, the body's liver and kidneys are burdened with the task of removing the excessive amount of proteins. Under this strain, the liver and kidneys enlarge and the physiology of the kidneys changes, causing the loss of significant amount of calcium from our bones into the urine. foods from animals lead to this problem not only because they are higher in protein content than are most vegetable foods, but also because the proteins they contain cause more calcium loss than do equal amounts of vegetable proteins. (This is an effect of sulfur-containing amino acids, which are more plentiful in meats.) Thus, kidney beans (which are 26 protein) are much easier on the body than is beef (which is 26 percent protein).

    MYTH: "If I ate only fruits, vegetables, and starches, I'd soon become protein-deficient."

    FACT: It's actually extremely hard for anyone to become protein-deficient. Unless you gave up eating altogether, I don't see how you'd ever manage to do it. Virtually all unrefined foods are loaded with proteins. Rice is 8 percent protein, oranges 8 percent, potatoes 11 percent, beans 26 percent. We don't need large intakes of proteins: This is demonstrated by the fact that we drink human breast milk (which is 5 percent protein) only in infancy, at the time in life when we are growing fastest and require more protein in our diet than we ever will need again.

    MYTH: "Vegetable foods are not complete protein."

    FACT: You might once have learned that "complete proteins," with sufficient amount of all amino acids, are not found in vegetable foods, or that you have to make careful combinations of foods such as beans with rice in order to make the protein complete. Fortunately, scientific studies have plainly debunked this complicated nonsense.

    Nature designed and synthesized our foods complete with all the essential nutrient for human life long before they reach the dinner table. All the essential and nonessential amino acids are represented in single unrefined starches such as rice, corn, wheat, and potatoes in amounts in excess of every individual's needs, even if they are endurance athletes or weight lifters.

    Common sense tells you this would have to be true for the human race to have survived on this planet. Throughout history the food-providers went out in search of enough rice or potatoes to feed their families. Matching beans with rice was not their concern. We have only the hunger to relate to food; there is no drive to tell us to mix and match protein sources to make a more ideal amino acid pattern. there is no need for such a drive because there is no more ideal protein and amino acid composition than that found in natural starches.

    MYTH: "I can lower my cholesterol level by eating chicken and fish instead of beef and pork."

    FACT: Virtually all foods we eat contain exceedingly high levels of cholesterol. In the popular notion of what causes hearth disease, red meat has been getting a raw deal. A 3.5-ounce portion of beef contains 85 milligrams of cholesterol, but chicken (white meat, skinned) contains the same 85 milligrams, turkey 82, and common seafood (lobster, haddock, mackerel, and trout) all over 70. All plant foods, on the other hand, contain zero cholesterol.

    Bean & Rice Burritos

    This is a quick and easy recipe to fix for those days when you're too busy to spend much time in the kitchen.

    Servings: 2-3
    Preparation Time: 10 minutes
    cooking Time: 10 minutes (cooked rice needed)


    • 1 28-ounce can low-sodium, water-packed pinto beans, drained & rinsed.
    • 6 whole wheat tortillas


    • 1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped and dried
    • 1-2 cups cooked brown rice
    • dash each: chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin

    3/4 cup water

    • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
    • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
    • low-sodium, oil-free Mexican salsa

    Place the beans in a saucepan and mash with a potato masher. Ad the cooked rice, spices, and water. Heat 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Heat the tortillas quickly (just to soften) in a preheated skillet, a toaster oven, or a microwave. Place a line of bean mixture down the middle of each tortilla. Top with lettuce, scallions, tomato, and salsa. Tuck in the top and bottom edges, roll into a burrito, and serve immediately, topped with additional salsa if desired.


    Home | Contact | Michael Bluejay 
  • Protein Myths
  • Why be Vegetarian?
  • Is meat-eating natural?
  • Vegetarian Myths
  • Veg. & the Environment