Food & Drink Magazine

An Evening With Dr. John McDougall

By Chuck Underwood @brandnewvegan

I have followed this man for over 10 years, so imagine my surprise when I got asked if I’d like to spend an evening with Dr. John McDougall.

An Evening With Dr. John McDougall

This all started several months ago when I was invited to speak at a local NW Veg Potluck. I met many new friends that evening, including one lady who not only used to work for Dr. McDougall, but had also been friends with him and Mary for years.

This particular lady and her husband ALSO provide a monthly plant-based potluck, so when I got the email inviting me to dinner last week where their good friends John & Mary McDougall would be speaking – I jumped at the chance.

It was the perfect setting. A small room with a small group of people. Up close and personal you might say, with the man who changed my life over 10 years ago.

And it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. And believe me, he had a lot to say that night. So I thought I’d write this blog post to summarize.

Hope you enjoy.

An Evening With Dr. John McDougall

An Evening With Dr. John McDougall

The Fire

Let’s start with the fire. As many of you know, Dr. McDougall, his wife Mary, and his daughter Heather lost everything in the Santa Rosa Wildfires of 2017. They lost their homes, cars, all their belongings, everything. They are unhurt, but you can imagine the trauma they all went through afterward.

He often mentions his cat, Einstein, in his videos and Mary said she hopes me made it out – but they really don’t know.

While Dr. McDougall did officially retire from seeing patients in June of 2018, all the McDougall Programs are still currently running in Santa Rosa by his daughter and staff.

New Focus

Even though he jokingly said he is ‘retired’, he is still actively working. He proudly spoke of his latest MS Study with OSHU that you can read about here, and even though the results may seem a little disappointing, it still changed lives as you can read in this Success Story here.

Besides that, he is also now focusing on bringing awareness to Climate Change. Obviously, after losing everything he owned to a fire, you can imagine this would be a topic near and dear to his heart.
He said that everyone one of us could make a major difference to slow down or maybe stop climate change TODAY. Not by buying a Prius or Tessla, not by replacing our lights with LEDs, not by installing solar panels, but by changing the food we eat.

We have GOT to stop eating meat & dairy if we have any hopes of a future for our grandchildren.


Naturally, during the Q&A, the question of oil came up. He said to think of oil as an isolated concentrated nutrient, like a vitamin. Dr. McDougall does not recommend ANY type of supplement, with the exception of Vitamin B12, so naturally, oil fits in this category as well.

It’s highly processed, devoid of any fiber, vitamins, or nutrients, and extremely calorie-dense at 120 calories per tablespoon. It’s pure fat and is NOT food.

He said at best, oil will make you sick – and worst case, it can kill you. We can get ALL the essential fats we need by eating a plant-based, starch-centered, low-fat diet.

Vitamin D

Since we were talking about supplements, the question of Vitamin D came up. He said to realize that “vitamin’ D is NOT a vitamin – it’s a hormone. And we can get it easily enough with just 5 minutes of sunshine to the hands, arms, and face every day, at noon. (if you have darker skin, obviously, you will need more)

“But I live in the Pacific Northwest and we don’t get a lot of sunshine!”

I (Chuck) have personally visited the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park where it is about as green and lush as anything you can imagine… so there HAS to be sunshine for all that to grow. Even sunshine through the clouds is sufficient.


“Rice is not a deal-breaker”, said Dr. McDougall. Brown rice is better, but white rice is fine too. He said if you’re worried about arsenic, avoid buying rice that was grown in areas where they used to grow cotton, as arsenic-laced pesticides were used to battle cotton’s bow weevil beetle.

He then went on to talk about Dr. Walter Kepner and his Rice Diet, where in 1939 he successfully reversed many chronic diseases with a diet of white rice, fruit, fruit juice, and table sugar.


Finally, a question of salt was asked. He said we have taste buds to seek out salt for a reason. Salt is often used as a scapegoat for a bad diet. We often blame the salt, but really we should be blaming the food.

He said if sprinkling a little salt or sugar will help you eat the right foods – then use them. Obviously, if you have severe heart conditions, kidney disease, or severe edema, you can not use it so generously. But otherwise, don’t be afraid of adding a little salt to the surface of your food to make it taste better.

As far as lowering blood pressure – he mentioned a randomized clinical trial that showed that by lowering sodium intake by 1725 mg to 2300 mg a day (from a previous higher salt intake) – it only lowered the systolic blood pressure (top number) by 1 to 5 mmHg and the diastolic (bottom number) by 0.6 to 3 mmHg.

So not much of an effect.

On the McDougall Diet, without any limitation of salt added to the foods at the table, the average reduction in blood pressure (for people starting at 140/90 mmHg or greater) in 7 days is 15 mmHg systolic and 13 mmHg diastolic; and blood pressure medications are almost always stopped the first day of the program.

In other words – it’s not the salt – IT’S THE FOOD!

As far as what kind of salt to use, he told me “salt is salt”.

Iodized salt is what I (chuck) buy since it contains iodine, a mineral many of us may not get if we don’t eat sea vegetables.


I can honestly say it was a privilege and an honor to meet Dr. McDougall and Mary. They are two of the warmest, friendliest, most down-to-earth people I have ever met.

Before I left I said, “Dr. McDougall, before I came tonight I asked my blog readers if they could ask you one question, what would it be. And you want to know what they asked?”

He looked at me kind of nervously and shook his head….

I said. “They just want me to THANK YOU, for all the work you have done for us”.

And THAT, got a huge John McDougall smile, a handshake encouraging me to ‘keep spreading the word’, and a hug from his lovely wife Mary.

Best. Night. Ever.


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