Book Review - The Starch Solution


I'm not able to recall exactly when or where I first heard about Dr. John McDougall's book The Starch Solution, but it was either from a manager at my local Whole Foods Market, a documentary film, or a vegan YouTuber. Regardless of what my first introduction to the book actually was, I can honestly say that this is the most accessible book on the whole foods plant-based diet that I have read thus far.

The book is similar to Dr. T. Colin Campbell's book The China Study in that the first sections of the book cover the scientific data that supports a (high-carb low-fat) whole foods plant-based diet, and a later section explains how to put that knowledge into practice. However, The Starch Solution has an extra trick up its sleeve—the last section includes a large selection of yummy recipes, similar to Rip Esselstyn's book The Engine 2 Diet.

So what exactly makes this book the most accessible of those that I have read so far? Well, The China Study was a bit thick on the science for an average reader and The Engine 2 Diet is geared mainly toward men. However, The Starch Solution is easy to read for the average person, being light on the scientific findings and featuring inspiring testimonials throughout, and it remains gender-neutral in its approach. This is not to say that the other two books are impossible to read or "not for women", but I believe that The Starch Solution is a better fit for most people.

The material is essentially the same across all of these books, though. They all advocate for a whole foods plant-based diet that eliminates (or at least reduces) items like meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods (including vegetable oils), caffeine, and alcohol. This stands in the face of much of the dietary advice that is proposed by the mainstream, which advises people to eat whatever they like, but with smaller portions (or "moderation"). Or when "experts" try to place the blame on salt and sugar (there is an entire chapter in this book debunking this claim, with scientific evidence). We can see that the mainstream advice hasn't been working for the majority of people, at least not for the long term. People seem to seek out any advice that will encourage them to eat a low-carb high-fat diet, but in all reality that just makes them gain weight and/or get sick. It's high time for a global dietary revolution, and The Starch Solution is an excellent guidebook to help that occur.

The first section of the book discusses the benefits of starch and our relationship with it, the five major poisons found in animal "foods", the politics of nutrition education and the USDA's role in it, and the environmental impact of the Standard American Diet (SAD). The second section of the book is an FAQ that covers the questions that friends and family might ask if one switches to a starch-based diet, such as "Where do you get your protein and/or calcium?", the dangers of eating fish, the concept of "the fat vegan", the harms of supplementation (McDougall advises vegans to only supplement with Vitamin B12), and why salt and sugar have become the scapegoats of the Western diet (even though they are not inherently unhealthy). The third and final section of the book gives some advice for putting the information into practice, and includes a collection of recipes to try out.

Among the things that I learned from the book were that processed soy foods far more unhealthy than I once thought they were. (As a reminder, just because something is technically "vegan" does not mean that it is healthy!) In addition to that fact, I was fascinated by the long and healthy relationship that humans have had with starches in our history. This book (along with other books I have read and research I have done) has solidified further for me the true benefits and ease of eating a whole foods plant-based diet. I highly recommend reading this one, and I'm looking forward to learning more from Dr. McDougall (and others spreading the same message) in the future.

5/5 stars. 348 pages.