The Battle Of The Vegan Doctors And Mary’s Tunisian Sweet Potato Stew

imagesThere are so many reasons why one may choose to live a vegan lifestyle and, in my opinion, they are all admirable. Some choose to become vegan because they don’t want to contribute to animal suffering, while others do it out of concern for the environment, oceans and planet.

Yet others choose the path of veganism because of the overwhelming scientific evidence that a whole foods plant-based diet is the clear road to optimal health. In case you are interested, I chose to be vegan for all of the above-mentioned reasons since they align with my core values and everything I care about in the world.

For those of you who are pursuing a plant-based diet solely for your health, I am wondering if you are a bit confused by the different recommendations of some of the top doctors promoting plant-based diets. I know that I have been. So I’ve taken a little bit of time to consider and review their recommendations, and here is what I came up with…


Dr. Neal Barnard promotes a low-fat diet with absolutely no animal products. He recommends concentrating on grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits.


Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. promotes an extremely low fat diet with a concentration on starches, vegetables and fruits. This means no oils whatsoever, not even olive oil! Dr. Esselstyn’s position is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. Furthermore, they contain saturated fat which can injure the endothelial lining of the arteries when eaten.

images-6Dr. Esselstyn also recommends no nuts or avocado for those with established heart disease. For people with no heart disease and healthy cholesterol levels, very small amounts of nuts and avocado are acceptable. Some seeds sprinkles on bread or crackers is acceptable, but do not eat handfuls.





Dr. Joel Fuhrman bases his Nutritarian Diet on green and yellow vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds which is not always low in fat. Very small amounts of animal foods are allowed, but the emphasis is on eating “nutrient-dense” foods such as green leafy vegetables.



Dr. Dean Ornish recommends a diet based on starches, vegetables and fruits. Some low-fat dairy products are permitted, as well as small amounts of fish and fish oils. However, the emphasis is on eating very low-fat.


images-5Dr. John McDougall advocates for a whole foods plant-based diet centering around the starches. The diet is low in fat and includes vegetables and fruits. However, there are no animal products and no oils whatsoever. Complex carbohydrates take center stage to fuel the body.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell says “the proposition of using a whole food, plant-based diet, with little or no added oil, sugar and salt, is an amazingly productive story that has much to offer.”

UnknownMy Conclusions:

Despite the differences in their recommendations, it cannot be overlooked that all of these dedicated doctors agree that a primarily whole foods plant-based diet is the healthiest. Their exceptional work in the field of health and nutrition cannot be overlooked.

However, having seen the movie Forks Over Knives, and having read many of the books written by these doctors, including Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Eat Right America by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall, I have chosen to strive for the diets championed by Drs. Esselstyn, McDougall, Campbell and Barnard.

The work done by Dr. Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic is, in my opinion, nothing short of stunning. Dr. McDougall has devoted over 40 years of successfully treating his patients with his “Starch Solution,” and I find the body of scientific evidence presented by Dr. Campbell in The China Study to be astounding in every way. Dr. Barnard strongly advocates for the work presented by each of these three doctors.

Although I intend to live a completely plant-based lifestyle for the rest of my life, I can only strive to eat by the guidelines set forth by these wonderful doctors. There will be times when I cannot avoid the oils on my vegetables in restaurants or at friends’ homes. On occasion, I may opt to add a couple of teaspoons of oil to my stir-fry if I feel that it will make a significant difference to the flavor of the meal. I also intend to eat vegan desserts and snacks every now and then, but this will be the exception and not the rule. And if I occasionally deviate from perfection or choose times of being a “junk food vegan,” at least I can take comfort in knowing that I have not harmed any animals along the way.

*It is worth mentioning that this website has recipes which contain some fats and oils, although they are completely vegan. We are here to promote, inspire and provide you with information about all things related to veganism. Whatever you choose to do with our recipes and other information is up to you.


In any event, I wanted to provide you with this extremely popular recipe for Mary McDougall’s Tunisian Sweet Potato Stew from Dr. McDougall’s Book The Starch Solution.  I am posting it with a photo of my favorite 5-Minute Spiced Sweet Potato Stew because the recipe is almost identical.


Preparation Time:  20 minutes
Cooking Time:  40 minutes
Servings:  6-8


1/3 cup water

1 onion, chopped

2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

5 cups peeled and chunked sweet potatoes or Garnet yams

2  14.5 ounce cans chopped tomatoes

2  14.5 ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 ½ cups vegetable broth

¼ cup natural peanut butter

¼ cup chopped cilantro


Place the water, onion, jalapenos, ginger and garlic in a large pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.  Add cumin, cinnamon, red pepper and coriander.  Cook and stir for 1 minute.  Add sweet potatoes or yams, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, green beans, vegetable broth and peanut butter.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until sweet potatoes or yams are tender.  Stir in cilantro and let rest for 2 minutes.

Hint:  Mary usually makes this with yams because she likes the bright orange color that they give to the stew.  The chefs at The McDougall Program almost always use the lighter fleshed sweet potatoes.  The stew tastes great either way, so use whichever is more appealing or convenient for you.  If she doesn’t have fresh green beans on hand, she will leave them out and add 2 cups of chopped Swiss chard or kale instead (because she always has chard or kale growing in her garden).  She adds the greens about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. This may also be made with almond butter instead of the peanut butter for those with peanut allergies, or leave out the nut butters entirely for a lower calorie version of this stew.  Serve with some Sriracha hot sauce on the side to drizzle over the top for a bit of extra heat, if desired. 


  1. Helen Maxman says:

    My head is spinning!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Ellen Francis says:

    Many non-vegan people think that there’s only one way to be vegan and that would be to eliminate any and all animal-derived foods from your diet. Then when one becomes vegan and lives with it a while, one finds out that there are quite a few factions within veganism that are not only even more restrictive but are so confusing. Once all the animal foods are gone from your diet (good riddance!), then the question becomes how much fat, oil, carbs, natural sugar and salt do we eat? Then, you’re asking yourself, what’s left?

  3. Ellen Francis says:

    Is anyone else out there as confused as I am?

  4. This is so strange. I have in the last month been investigating these same dietary programs and have come to your same conclusion. Ask and the universe responds. I’m off to try this recipe. Many thanks and I’ll be back to go through your website.

  5. Lisa Lynn says:

    I was looking up the Tunesian Stew recipe to make it again and came across this article on your site. I have been experimenting with the whole foods plant based vegan concept for about a year now and have finally committed wholly to this lifestyle over the past month. My husband and I watched Forks Over Knives at the advice of a friend for health reasons. This friend also brought us some Tunesian Stew to show us how yummy the food can be. After much reading and discovery of the horrors of animal based foods, I agree there are so many reasons to adapt this lifestyle. Thanks for your wonderful site! It’s nice to have allies in this American Diet world!

    • I’m so glad to hear about more people committing to the vegan lifestyle. I love the Tunesian Stew recipe. I make something similar called “5-Minute Sweet Potato Stew” which you can find in the search box on the home page. Forks Over Knives was an excellent movie, and I’m thrilled that it reached so many people. You are right that there are so many reasons to adapt this lifestyle and, I too, think it’s nice to have allies in this American Diet world! Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s greatly appreciated.

  6. Gayle Anne Lynch says:

    I make this as a soup, with 4 cups veggie broth. I will sometimes sub out the potatoes in favor of brown rice, and use frozen peas instead of green beans.

    This is my family’s #1 favorite soup/stew!

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