Whole by Colin Campbell takes a broad look at nutrition. It explains what’s wrong with our health care system, what we can do to prevent diseases and why you should look at foods as a whole, not as the sum of their parts.
- Bullet Summary
- Full Summary
- Real Life Applications
- The health care system based on surgeries and drugs is flawed
- The best way of living healthy is by prevention and great food
- A whole food, plant based diet is the best option both for you and for the world
Health Care is Bankrupt
The health care system doesn’t really care about the health of people with prevention and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
It should actually be called “disease-care system” because it only intervene when something is wrong. And at that point it’s much harder to fix.
And it’s not like doctors are very good at that either..
Over-reliance on Medication
Medical care often ends up doing more hard than good, says Campbell.
Every year, more than 100,000 people die because of prescription drugs designed to cure diseases. And that doesn’t even include accidental overdoses.
It’s all swept off under the carpet of course, and the author implies it’s done on purpose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for example doesn’t even list “medical care” as a cause of death.
Good Food is The Best Way of Preventing Diseases
Colin Campbell says that the food we eat has a bigger impact on our health than anything else, including genes and environment.
That means that the best way to prevent diseases is through a healthy diet.
A healthy diet can indeed help prevent the two biggest killers out there: heart disease and cancer.
The good news is that with a proper diet you can actually reverse heart disease and it can have a more profound effect than surgery or medication.
My note: as much as I want those claims to be true, I don’t personally agree with them.
What Should You Eat?
The author says a healthy diet is based on plants and whole foods.
It should prohibits any animal products and processed foods and should be of around 80 percent carbohydrates, 10 percent fat and 10 percent protein.
- Whole grains
Consume them in their natural state and without adding any salt, oils or, God forbid, sugars.
Oxidation & Proteins VS Plants
You need a bit of oxidation because it helps transfer energy and eliminate toxins. But too much oxidation is harmful and leads to the production of free radicals, which in turn promote cancer, heart attack and other diseases.
The author says that it’s an excess of proteins that promotes free radicals in our bodies. Especially animal proteins.
Plants have plenty of antioxidants which you can absorb when eating them.
Labels Are Useless
Campbell makes a great point of “reductionism” VS “holism”, saying that going into the details of things is part of science, but that it should not take over to the point of blinding us to the bigger picture.
Which is what it’s happening today.
With labels for example, it’s easy to get sidetracked.
What’s listed seems more important than what’s not there, giving us an illusion of healthy option. And it makes it seem as if health were a mathematical equation, which is not (and this is exactly my gripe with the book The 4h Body, which makes an equation out of nutrition).
Also trying to reach “100% of your daily intake of X” is a fool’s task because different foods and mixes of nutrients absorb differently in your body.
Most Supplements Are Waste of Money
There have been numerous studies on the benefits of supplements, but there is no definitive evidence that they provide any long-term health benefits.
Even when you perfectly match, for example, all the nutrients in an apple with nutrients in a pill, you’re still far better off eating the actual apple.
Granted, if you lack iron, then iron supplements will help. But those are the exception and not the rule.
Plant Based Food Will Make the World Better
Switching to a whole-food and plant based diet will do a lot of good for the world too.
Both in terms of reducing global warming and reducing the suffering of animals (which is very true as we have read more about CAFOs in Fast Food Nation).
Real Life Applications
Limit Your Supplements
Supplements have limited benefits. Some people say they have no benefits at all.
Instead of focusing on the best benefits you are better served by dropping them altogether and use that money and time to pick better food.
Stop Relying on Food Labels
If you are like me, a “label hunter”: it’s not the best approach we are deploying.
Same as for The China Study, Cambpell is a vegetarian himself which might make him biased.
Disease Reversal Claims
Campbell claims that a plant based diet can reverse and cure diseases better than medicine or surgery can be very unhelpful.
If we think of Steve Jobs who tried to cure himself with fruits and vegetables, that’s one such example.
Great Message of Prevention
Prevention is indeed the best cure. That’s something we can all take away: taking care of our diet is the best way of taking care of our health.
Whole Food Message
The idea of looking less at labels and more at the whole food is very helpful for many. Especially in this world where health-conscious people are slaves of nutritionism.
I was very caustic in my review of The China Study because I didn’t think it could make the claims it did. However I find Whole to be a very good book.
I still disagree on what I perceive as a dogmatic refusal of animal meat, and that’s why I only give it a three stars.
But I appreciate the stance on prevention instead of curing. And I learned why we should discard or pay less attention to nutrition labels.
I can actually recommend Whole.