The Truth About The Starch Solution – John McDougall Book Review
The Starch Solution is one of the best books that I’ve read in 2020.
Not only because it’s author John McDougall is a proven expert in his field.
But also because the book offers NEW insights into maximum weight loss, health and performance on an entirely vegan/ plant-based diet.
So if you’re a person looking to learn more about the Starch Solution, this post is the right post to read. I’ve not only done a deep dive into the book of John McDougall, I’ve also read dozens of other books about health and fitness.
So in this post you’ll get a full review of the book, the pros and cons and whether you should join the Starch Solution book club or not!
Are you ready? Let’s just jump, right into it.
One thing that captivates readers from the first page in Starch Solution is John McDougalls obvious enthusiasm for his work.
Part of it might be due to his larger-than-life, type A personality. But another part is certainly because John McDougall has a remarkable story to tell.
John McDougall’s Story
At age 18, John nearly died. A blood vessel in his brain stopped working. Stopping the blood supply to his brain.
Young McDougall got rushed to the hospital. The diagnosis: Stroke.
It paralyzed his left side for weeks. John never fully recovered from this near death experience. Even today, 55 years later, he’s forced to walk with a limp.
Anxious and shocked, teenage McDougall asked his doctors for help. But the doctors back then, were lost for words. Strokes only happen to old people, or so they thought.
Yet here McDougall, in his teenage years, suffered from a disease that could be fatal.
Frustrated by the doctors inability to help him, John McDougall left the hospital against medical advice and was determined to find his own answers.
He decided then and there, to pursue a career in medicine.
Years later, after finishing his studies and working with thousands of patients as a doctor in Hawaii, he stumbled upon a new and controversial finding.
His patients, often first generation immigrants that followed a more traditional diet, had less chronic illnesses than the patients that followed a standard american diet.
But could his stroke and the shortcomings of his patients truly be explained by diet?
As a doctor he only learned to prescribe pills for people with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure. But those pills merely managed the symptoms and the well-being of these people never really improved.
Only after McDougall started experimenting with giving nutrition advice, his patients actually got better.
And the same thing John could see in himself. When he suffered the stroke at age 18, he was 50lbs overweight and subsisted on a standard American diet.
Now, 55 years later, he’s in great shape, wind surfing a lot and eating a starch based, John McDougall diet.
And that’s what Dr. McDougall is recommending in his book called The Starch Solution. A return to more traditional diets and eating more starch.
So, what is starch?
Starches are the long-chained carbohydrates found in plants. T similar to fiber but not the same thing.
Examples for plants high in starch are: Oats, potatoes, rice, corn and beans.
And these foods have been the main staple of traditional diets for most human civilizations for 5,000 to 10,000 years.
John McDougall’s promise, is that a focus on these foods in our diets, will help us stay slim and increase our health.
On top of that we reduce our ecological foot print and reduce animal suffering.
Overall McDougall’s enthusiasm, unapologetic directness and genius for explaining complex topics in a simple manner are one of the biggest strengths of this book.
But in my opinion, it can also be it’s biggest weaknesses if it’s taken at face value.
Here’s 3 things that you’d need to know on top if your goal is thriving on an optimal diet:
Starch Solution For Weight Loss
The quote of McDougall “The fat you eat is the fat you wear.” is only partially true.
1. Is the fat you eat the fat you wear?
While studies on prisoners show that making people fat is way easier on a diet focused on fat, it’s not impossible on a carbohydrate rich diet.
In the book ‘How Not To Diet’ by Dr. Michael Greger he explains for people to gain 30lbs it needs 140,000 calories if it comes from carbs. But only 40,000 calories if it comes from fat.
Other experts in the field such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of the China study, disagree with that statement because nuts are a good source of Vitamin E for example.
The belief that only fat matters when it comes to weight loss, also explains Dr. McDougall’s belief about sugar and salt.
2. Is sugar and salt good?
He recommends eating salt and sugar, because they taste good.
John urges people to give up animal products, which most meat eaters would claim to be ‘tasty’, but not salt and sugar, because of taste, is logically inconsistent.
Especially because even researchers that got the money from sugar companies agree that ‘sugar reduction … should be part of any weight loss program.’
Also the science about the harms of salt are clear, claiming that “if we just reduced our salt intake by about a half teaspoon a day, we could potentially prevent between 86,000 and 165,000 strokes and heart attacks every year.”
3. Fiber and calories are underemphasized in the Starch Solution.
Fiber is a key component in satiety and healthy nutrition.
Some experts such as Michael Greger are claiming insufficient fiber is the #1 reason why people do overeat.
Yet in the entire book Starch Solution it’s only mentioned 19 times. To put this in comparison, in ‘How Not To Diet’ a book with similar pages and topic, fiber gets mentioned 345 times. A 15 fold difference.
Calories, the key metric in weight loss, is mentioned 103 times in starch solution. In the book how not to diet it’s mentioned 1070 times. A 10 fold difference.
While mere word count does not mean anything by itself obviously, I just wished there would be more emphasis on those two things as they’re crucial for maximum weight loss and performance.
In my experience and the work with hundreds of clients, I’ve noticed that being aware of calories makes the biggest difference when it comes to weight loss.
Conclusion – Should you read Starch Solution?
Absolutely. I think it’s a super well-written book for people that are looking to lose weight and understand more about what they’re putting into their body.
There’s a few things that I’d add to make the book perfect, such as the importance of fiber and calories, the importance of tracking your weight loss and a harder stance on sugar and salt.
Otherwise it’s super evident that John McDougall is absolutely passionate about his work and a true expert in this field.
He’s a man of conviction, purpose and drive – and all of this shows in the Starch Solution.