Diet, Not Genes, Controls Destiny
By: Dr. John McDougall, M.D.
Let me begin by saying that you were designed
(through evolution combined with some form of
intelligent design and/or by the Creator) to be
healthy, to have abundant energy, and to live a
long and highly productive life.
You were not designed to need drugs, especially in
the quantities we take them today, or surgery,
except in times of emergency. The only reasons you
should ever need medication or surgery are if you are involved in an accident
or if your immune system has been weakened and you contract a
Why then have we become so dependent upon drugs, surgery, and other
debilitating treatments? The answer, very simply, is this: We are sick
because Nature never intended for us to eat the foods we are eating today.
When looked at from the perspective of human evolution, the diet we are
eating – loaded with fat, cholesterol, animal protein, processed foods, and
artificial ingredients – is a bizarre anomaly. It is unlike anything we ate during
our four million years of evolution.
Our blood, arteries, and cells were not designed to live under all that fat and
cholesterol that covers them today. Our intestines were not intended to work
in the absence of fiber and clogged with flesh. Our immune system was not
meant to function under the burden of a thrice-daily load of fat, without an
abundant supply of plant-based nutrients and phytochemicals.
With our cells drowning in fat, cholesterol, animal proteins, and artificial
chemicals, and our immune systems deprived of what they need to maintain
health, it's no wonder so many of us get cancer, heart disease, high blood
pressure, adult-onset diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and other age-related
illnesses. In fact, it is a testament to the strengths of the human body that
anyone has the slightest semblance of health.
Your Health is Not Determined by Heredity
I began practicing medicine on the big island of Hawaii, where extended
families were the norm. I treated people who worked on the sugar plantations
of Hawaii, people who were mostly of Oriental background – Chinese,
Japanese, Koreans, and Filipinos.
It was not uncommon for me to closely observe three and sometimes four
generations within the same family. I got to know many of these families,
treating the children, parents, grandparents, and sometimes even the great-
grandparents of a single family.
At the outset of my medical career, I was not the least bit interested in diet and
nutrition. My medical training had included nothing about nutrition, and
consequently I considered the subject irrelevant to health.
But as I practiced medicine in Hawaii, I observed a rather startling
phenomenon that changed my life: The older generations of Hawaiian and
Oriental peoples were in exceedingly good health, trim and active, even after
they were well into their eighth, ninth, and tenth decades of life.
Oddly, the older generations contrasted remarkably with their children and,
even more so, with their grandchildren. The younger the generation, the
more likely the people were to suffer from gout, high blood pressure, heart
disease, diabetes, colon cancer, overweight, and even obesity.
When I looked closer at those I treated, I found that the generations had much
in common. They all worked physically hard on the plantations; they
observed many of the same customs. The single greatest difference between
the older and younger generations was in their diets.
The older generation followed the traditional diets of their ancestors. Their
regimens were based primarily on plant foods – grains (like rice), fresh
vegetables, beans, and fruit.
The younger generation, by stark contrast, ate "modern" diets that were
based primarily on animal foods, especially beef, ham, chicken, eggs, dairy
products, and fish.
They also ate enormous quantities of processed and refined foods that were
loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients.
If genes were the cause of disease then why wasn't the younger generation
protected against common chronic illnesses, like their older relatives had
been? Why was the younger generation deteriorating so rapidly? It was
obvious: Something more than genetics was at hand.
Researchers Discover That Diet Controls Destiny
My observation caused me to plunge into the study of diet's relationship to
health, a pursuit that changed my practice and my life forever. It wasn't long
before I realized that the observations and conclusions I was drawing from
my medical practice were being duplicated on a much larger scale by
researchers around the world.
Scientists were finding that the people who ate the traditional human diet –
based primarily on low-fat, no-cholesterol, unprocessed plant foods –
escaped the scourges of degenerative illnesses, including heart disease,
cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and
On the other hand, populations that subsisted on the modern diet, rich in
meats, dairy products, and processed fare, were ravaged by such illnesses.
I learned something else from the people I treated, and from the medical
literature I studied: Given the right diet and lifestyle, the body can recover its
health, even after a serious illness manifests.
When we remove the poisons from our lives and eat an abundance of health-
promoting foods, the body very often can heal itself, even from illnesses
This medical marvel should not be so hard to believe. After all, you have
likely seen smokers cured of disabling shortness of breath and cough when
they replaced the smoke with clean air. A drunk also quickly recovers after
stopping alcohol. Replacing junk with nourishing foods should be expected
to be no less of a miracle.
You Don't Need Milk To Get Calcium
Many people ask me, "Where will I get my calcium if I don't drink milk?"
Actually, all plant foods contain generous amounts of calcium. A cup of
cooked collard greens contains about 360 mg of calcium, while a cup of milk
contains about 300 mg. A cup of cooked kale contains 210 mg.
There is no disorder known as dietary calcium deficiency – in other words,
there is plenty of calcium in all diets made of plant foods to meet the needs of
children and adults.
Osteoporosis is not a disease that results from too little calcium, but rather
primarily from too much animal protein animal food derived acids that rob the
body of calcium and structural materials, and thus weaken bones.
A diet based on starches with a plentiful supply of fruits and vegetables
(alkaline foods), and some exercise, will preserve skeletal strength and
regrow lost bone.
Fat and Cholesterol: Primary Poisons
The body uses fat primarily for energy storage when no food is available and
secondary source of immediate fuel. Cholesterol is needed for numerous
cellular functions and to produce hormones, like vitamin D and estrogen.
The problem with fat and cholesterol is that we need so little of both. The
body produces all the cholesterol it needs.
As for fat, all plant foods contain adequate amounts of fats and only plants
make the essential fatty acids that promote good health. A deficiency of
essential fat would never occur when plant foods make up a substantial part
of the meals, therefore, it is never recommended for you to add extra
essential fats to your diet (like omega-3, fish, or flaxseed oils).
Animal foods provide an overabundance of fat, especially the most harmful
kind, saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol levels and damages the
arteries, causing heart disease and stroke.
Vegetable Oils Are Not Health Foods
Poly- and monounsaturated fats - those contained in large amounts in
vegetable oils as well as in fish - have been shown to depress the immune
system, increase bleeding, and promote cancers, especially those of the
colon, prostate, and breast.
All fats are easily stored making people overweight, which lays the
foundations for many other illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and
adult-onset diabetes. Fat deprives cells of oxygen, is a major producer of free
radicals, which damage the body's tissues.
All animal foods are rich sources of fat. Beef derives between 60 and 80
percent of its calories from fat; pork, between 80 and 95 percent; chicken,
between 30 and 50 percent; and fish, between five and 60 percent.
All meats are also rich in cholesterol. A 3 1/2 ounce serving of beef contains
85 mg of cholesterol; pork contains 90 mg; mackerel fish contains 95 mg;
turkey 83 mg; tuna 63 mg; and chicken (skinned-white) 85 mg.
Cholesterol, as I have been saying, leads to heart disease and many other
illnesses. Therefore, many of the foods that are commonly believed to be
health foods today, such as chicken and turkey, are in fact promoters of
disease. Plant foods never contain cholesterol.
Plant Foods Provide Nutritional Building Blocks To Optimum Health
To understand why this program is the most powerful form of medicine, you
must start with the recognition that plant foods are the most abundant
sources of nutrition on earth. Animal foods don't even come close in
comparison. And, despite what you've been told, animal foods are not
essential sources of minerals, calcium, protein, amino acids, vitamins or
Nutrients are, essentially, the raw materials your body needs to function
properly and to grow. In general, there are two types of nutrients – the ones
your body can make, and the ones it can derive only from your food. The
latter are called "essential" nutrients, for the simple fact that your diet must
provide them for you to sustain your health.
There are 13 essential vitamins. Eleven are made in abundance by plants.
The two that are not produced by plants are vitamins D and B12. You should
get all the vitamin D you need from sunlight – and B12 can be gotten from a
(I tell pregnant and nursing women, and people following my diet strictly for
more than 3 years, to take five micrograms of vitamin B12 each day to ensure
that they are getting an adequate supply of the vitamin.) Both vitamins are
stored in your tissues for long periods of time.
Animal Foods Have Little Nutritional Value
There's no comparison between animal foods and plant foods when it comes
to providing the immune-boosting and cancer-fighting substances,
beginning with the antioxidant vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene.
Animal foods are either exceedingly low or devoid of the antioxidants. Also,
plant foods provide a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and other health-
promoting substances, while animal foods tend to offer concentrated
amounts of individual nutrients, such as protein or calcium, while being
deficient in many others.
Only plants contain powerful substances called phytochemicals, which
scientists are now discovering protects us from cancer, heart disease, and an
array of other serious illnesses.
Plants are also the primary source of all minerals in the diet. In fact, all
minerals are derived originally from the earth and make their way into the
food supply via plants. The only reason animal foods contain any minerals at
all is because the animals eat plants, or they eat animals that eat plants.
Plants are also the only sources of fiber, which binds in your intestines with
fat, cholesterol, environmental pollutants, and disease-causing hormones
and eliminates these dangers from the body.
Fiber also decreases intestinal transit time and promotes healthy bowel
elimination. As I will show below, fiber is one of the key substances that
protect us from cancer, especially from cancers of the large intestine and
All The Protein You Need – Without The Meat
Protein is one of the most misunderstood and, consequently, most abused
substances in the food supply. First, you should know that all plant foods
contain protein. Indeed, all the protein you need and more can be easily
derived from plant foods alone.
Second, all plant foods contain "complete proteins," meaning that they
contain all the "essential" amino acids, which are the building blocks of
proteins. This means that you will get all the protein – as well as all the amino
acids – you need on a diet composed exclusively of plant foods.
Think about it. Plants are the only foods eaten by elephants, horses, and
hippos, and all three have no trouble growing all the muscle, bone, and tissue
they need. Surely, there's enough protein in plant foods to grow a human
being, especially since we are relatively small when compared to an
To be on the safe side, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends
men, women, and children should get five percent of their calories from
protein. WHO recommends pregnant women should get six percent.
Americans Are Getting Too Much Protein
The truth is, Americans consume six-to-10 times as much protein as they
need. That excess protein overworks the liver and kidneys, causing both
these organs to become enlarged and injured.
Excess protein consumption causes the kidneys to pull large quantities of
calcium from the body, causing bones to weaken and kidney stones to form.
Scientists have found that animal proteins are particularly damaging to the
body, because so many of they’re amino acids contain sulfa, which is far
more toxic to the liver and kidneys than vegetable proteins.
One of the most time-honored approaches to healing the kidneys and liver, in
fact, is to eat a low-protein diet, especially a diet low in animal proteins. When
the protein content of the diet drops, kidneys are strengthened and very often
Americans have always had a love affair with animal protein - an affair that,
unfortunately, is making us sick.
What the world needs now is carbohydrates - and lots of them
Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy. They alone provide energy
for red blood cells, and certain cells of the kidneys, and the preferred fuel for
the central nervous system, including the brain.
Fat, on the other hand, is a secondary source of energy that can be used by
some tissues, such as muscle, but is more often stored for use in times of
Humans were designed by nature to crave carbohydrates - or, to put the
matter in more practical terms, to crave sweet-tasting foods.
Because of the sweet-tasting taste buds are on the tip of our tongues we are
designed to seek starches, vegetables and fruits - which supply us with both
energy and maximum nutrition.
In fact, carbohydrates, with their unique combination of sweet-flavor, energy,
and nutrition, regulate our hunger drive. Unless you eat enough
carbohydrate foods, you will remain hungry and looking for food.
There are no carbohydrates in red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or eggs. Most
dairy products are deficient in carbohydrates. Cheese, for example, contains
only two percent carbohydrate. This is one important reason people who eat
a diet rich in animal foods are never satisfied and become compulsive
Unprocessed plant foods, such as brown rice, potatoes, squash, broccoli,
and apples - just to name a few - are loaded with carbohydrates.
In fact, they provide an abundance of complex carbohydrates, which are long
chains of sugars that are harmoniously mixed with other plant materials.
These long chains must be broken down inside your intestine before they
can be used as fuel. The process of digesting these complex sugars is slow
and methodical, providing a steady stream of fuel pumped into your
bloodstream as long-lasting energy.
On the McDougall diet, between 70 and 90 percent of your calories are
derived from complex carbohydrates, which is why people on my program
experience high levels of vitality and endurance. Recall that all winning
endurance athletes carbohydrate-load, not just before the race, but all year
Prepare for Health
The following are preparations that you should make before beginning the
Choose a weekend day to prepare recipes, stock up on new food items, or
explore your vegetarian options at nearby restaurants. In this way, you will
be prepared to start the diet on a Monday.
Make an appointment with your doctor to arrange lab tests, if indicated.
Set goals that you would like to achieve in 12 days. For instance, you may
want to lose five pounds, relieve some chest pain, or cut your dose of insulin
If you are addicted to any substances such as caffeine, cigarettes, or alcohol,
you may want to take advantage of a dedicated substance-dependence
program in your community.
Speak to your family and those close to you about the program you are
beginning. Also, be tolerant if your family is not as willing to eat these new
foods as you are.
Clear out your fridge, freezer, and cupboards of all forbidden foods. You can
give them to friends or local charities if you do not want to throw them out.
The Simple Approach Is Often The Best
The McDougall Program provides you with the most powerful dose of
medicine, at least three times a day. It deals with the causes of disease,
which means it is a true source of both prevention and healing.
Adopt my program today and in 12 days you will start to see what it means to
be healthy and fully alive. It will be the greatest gift you have ever given
The only way to regain your health is to stop consuming the poisons and
start eating foods that are rich in all the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals,
and fiber your body requires. But only by eating plant foods can you ensure
that your body will get all the nutrition it needs.
Now that I've explained the reasons why you should do the McDougall
Program, let me explain the specifics of how to do the program.
This section will contain lists of foods that you can and can't eat on the
program, the benefits of exercise, how to track your progress, measurements
to take before you get started, and practical ways to prepare for your journey
The McDougall Diet is based on unrefined starches - this means these are the
foods you consume mostly. To this starch centerpiece you add fresh or
frozen fruits and vegetables.
Simplicity has great value and makes the diet easy to prepare - there is no
requirement for great variety to assure nutritional adequacy. The foods were
designed complete long before they reached the dinner table.
The following starchy foods are high enough in calories that they can serve
as the center of a meal:
Barley, oats, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, bulgur (cracked wheat),
triticale, couscous (refined wheat), wheat berries, corn, wild rice, millet.
Barley, rice, buckwheat, rye, corn, soy, garbanzo beans, triticale, lima bean,
wheat, oat, whole wheat pastry, potato.
Pastas come in many shapes including spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna
noodles, flat noodles, spirals, wheels, alphabet noodles. Most of these are
made from highly refined flours and therefore should play a small role in your
diet. The following are acceptable:
Artichoke pasta, tomato pasta, corn pasta (no wheat), whole-wheat pasta,
spinach pasta, rice pasta (no wheat).
Most of these are made from highly refined flours and therefore should play a
small role in your diet.
Bean threads, somen, buckwheat soba, udon, rice noodles.
Burdock, sweet potatoes, celeriac (celery root), tapioca Jerusalem artichoke
(sunchoke), taro root, jicama, water chestnuts, parsnips, white potatoes,
(Carrots, beets, turnips, daikon, and salsify are low in carbohydrates and
calories and so are not considered starch staples.)
Butternut, acorn, Hubbard, banana, pumpkin, buttercup, turban squash.
(Summer squashes usually cannot serve as the center of a meal because of
their low calorie content. They are also lower in carbohydrates than winter
Aduki (azuki), red kidney, black, mung, fava (broad), navy, garbanzo (chick-
peas), pink, great northern, pinto, limas, white kidney (cannellini).
(Soybeans cannot be considered a starch staple because they are too high in
fat to be allowed on the diet regularly.)
Brown, red, green
Black-eyed, split yellow, split green, whole green.
Fruits and Vegetables
Green and yellow vegetables are too low in calories to serve as the center of
your meals, but can be added without restriction to your meals, particularly if
you wish to lose more weight, faster.
In general fruits should be limited to 3 servings a day. They are tasty, high in
simple sugars and easy to over consume. The sugar in fruit is fructose,
which causes triglycerides and cholesterol to rise too high in sensitive
people. People with these concerns should limit fruits even more.
Familiar Fruits and Vegetables are too numerous to list. Try some of these
Carambola, papaya, cherimoya, persimmon, guava, pomegranate, kiwifruit,
passion fruit, kumquat, pummelo, loquat, quince, lychee, soursop, mango.
Aduki beans, jicama, arugula, kale, bok choy, kohlrabi, broccoli de rabe,
radicchio, burdock, salsify, celeriac (celery root), sprouts (alfalfa, lentil, mung
bean, wheat), chicory (curly endive), Swiss chard, cocozelle, taro root, collard
greens, turban squash, daikon, water chestnuts, endive, watercress,
garbanzo beans (chick-peas), Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke).
Foods Not Allowed
The following is a list of the foods that are Not Allowed on my diet, with ideas
for Possible Substitutions.
Don't Eat: Cow's Milk (for cereal or cooking).
Possible Substitutes: Lowfat soymilk, ricemilk, fruit juice, water, use extra
when cooking hot cereal or pour over cold cereal.
Don't Eat: Cow's Milk (as beverage).
Possible Substitutes: None drink water, juice, herb tea, or cereal beverages.
Don't Eat: Butter.
Possible Substitutes: None
Don't Eat: Cheese.
Possible Substitutes: None; after 12 days you may substitute soy- and nut-
Don't Eat: Cottage cheese.
Possible Substitutes: None; after 12 days you may substitute crumbled tofu.
Don't Eat: Yogurt.
Possible Substitutes: None.
Don't Eat: Sour cream.
Possible Substitutes: None.
Don't Eat: Ice cream.
Possible Substitutes: Pure fruit sorbet, frozen juice bars; after 12 days you
may substitute Lite Tofutti.
Don't Eat: Eggs (in cooking).
Possible Substitutes: Ener-G Egg Replacer.
Don't Eat: Eggs (for eating).
Possible Substitutes: None.
Don't Eat: Meat, Poultry, Fish.
Possible Substitutes: Starchy vegetables, whole grains, pastas, and beans;
after 12 days you may substitute tofu "meat" recipes.
Don't Eat: Mayonnaise.
Possible Substitutes: Tofu mayonnaise.
Don't Eat: Vegetable oils (for pans).
Possible Substitutes: None use Teflon, Silverstone, or silicone-coated
(Baker's Secret) pot and pans.
Don't Eat: Vegetable oils (in recipes).
Possible Substitutes: None; omit oil or replace with water, mashed banana,
or applesauce for moisture.
Don't Eat: White rice (refined).
Possible Substitutes: Whole grain (brown) rice or other whole grains.
Don't Eat: White flour (refined).
Possible Substitutes: Whole grain flours.
Don't Eat: Refined and sugarcoated cereals.
Possible Substitutes: Any acceptable hot or cold cereal.
Don't Eat: Coconut.
Possible Substitutes: None.
Don't Eat: Chocolate.
Possible Substitutes: Carob powder.
Don't Eat: Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and black teas.
Possible Substitutes: Non-caffeinated herb tea, cereal beverages, hot water
Don't Eat: Colas and un-colas.
Possible Substitutes: Mineral water or seltzer (flavored or plain).
Achieve 100% Health With Exercise
Although dietary changes will take you a long way to being completely
healthy, you will need some exercise to improve your fitness and well being.
Exercise, as simple as a daily walk, can benefit you. You will experience:
More appropriate appetite, an increase in muscle tissues, and thus a better
ratio of lean body tissue to fat.
Track Your Progress
It is useful to track your meals, exercise, physical status (include symptoms
that have disappeared), mental status, test results, and medications.
I always advise my patients to take as many body measurements as they can
on the first day of the program, and then to take the measurements again on
the last day.
These measurements are necessary for health reasons, but even perfectly
healthy people like to do it so they can track their progress. I recommend the
Having your blood pressure taken (or, if you wish to buy an inexpensive
blood pressure cuff, doing it yourself).
Getting blood tests to determine your levels of cholesterol, triglycerides,
glucose, BUN, uric acid, and everything else your doctor may deem
The most significant findings from your blood tests will be:
Cholesterol level: If your level is above 180 mg/dl, you should consider this a
warning sign of potential circulatory problems. Ideal is below 150 mg/dl.
Sometimes the findings are broken down into HDL ["good"] and LDL ["bad"]
cholesterol levels, but I feel the total cholesterol is the most significant.
Triglyceride level: This measures the amount of fats floating along in your
blood. Probably it will be between 50 and 200 mg/dl.
Higher levels sludge the blood, cause resistance to insulin activity, and are
associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Glucose (blood sugar) level: Normal level is between 70 and 120 mg/dl.
Higher levels indicate diabetes.
BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen):
This level reflects the amount of protein you eat and the function of your
kidneys. Normal is less than 15 mg/dl. Uric acid level: Normal is less than 7
mg/dl. A higher figure indicates a risk of developing gout and/or kidney
By: John McDougall, M.D. www.drmcdougall.com
Article: Diet, Not Genes, Controls Destiny, Plus:
12-Day Daily Menu & Recipe Ideas