Fighting Vegetarian Resistance
One of Dr. John McDougall's personal challenges is to change peoples' prejudices about vegetarianism. "Our 'rich' diet has prejudiced us against vegetables," McDougall says.
He says people usually think of meat or fish when they think of dinner-meat loaf, ham, steak or hamburgers get top billing, rather than potatoes, broccoli or carrots. Meat is thought of as flavorful, vegetables are bland.
But, he says, the opposite is true.
"Beef, chicken and fish really have no taste to them. Boiled chicken or beef is not interesting. The only way we make them tasty is with sauces. The McDougall Program replaces this unhealthful food that is full of cholesterol, sodium and fat with healthful foods. Take the rice, pasta or potatoes and then use your favorite sauces that you used on the unhealthful meats." McDougall's wife, Mary, has developed several cookbooks, the most recent being The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook, that include more than 300 recipes that can be prepared in 15 minutes or less.
Detractors of McDougall's approach may argue that we need animal protein and calcium from milk for healthy bodies and bones. McDougall counters that these can be found in better supply in vegetables.
"People are concerned about osteoporosis due to a calcium deficiency, but osteoporosis is caused mainly from a high animal- protein diet," he asserts. McDougall believes that the proper vegetarian diet can provide adequate levels of calcium. In addition, of course, there are calcium supplements.
"Anecdotal evidence that a vegetarian diet can prevent osteoporosis can be found in African countries and China, that have a diet of starches and fewer hip fractures compared with Western diets. In Western countries, where more calcium is consumed through high-protein diets, there is still a larger instance of hip fractures."
For proof, McDougall refers to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (February 1985, vol 42; p 254), which found that protein may hurt the body's ability to absorb calcium. In the study, post-menopausal women drank three 8-ounce glasses of milk a day, worth some 1,400 milligrams of calcium. When compared with the test group that didn't get the added calcium, the milk drinkers still had a negative calcium balance at the end of the experiment. McDougall likes to cite this study because it was paid for by the dairy industry.
McDougall says that even those who eat a "poor" diet of starches obtain more minerals than those eating a "rich" diet of meat, dairy and processed oils. The minerals in meat don't come directly from beef cattle, he says; they come from what the animal eats. "The original source is the ground. These minerals dissolve in a watery solution, which are taken in by the plants. The animals then eat the plants. Go to the direct source."
McDougall is so concerned about cow's milk that he believes people shouldn't drink it at all. It's no coincidence that many babies have trouble drinking cow's milk, he said-it wasn't meant for them. He cites Pediatrics magazine (December 1997; vol 100, p 1035), which states, "Exclusive breast feeding is ideal for the first six months. Infants, when weaned in the first 12 months, should not receive cow's milk feedings."
McDougall's study of the changes that occur in humans over generations have left him startled as to how early this generation is maturing, and he believes that the animal protein diet of the West is to blame. Studies have shown white females reaching puberty as early as age 10, whereas a century ago (when people were eating a much less-rich diet) the age of maturity in women was normally 17. Hormones used in cattle are passed on to the people who consume it, he says.