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The China Study by T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. Campbell (2006): What to eat and foods to avoid

The China Study - book by T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. CampbellThe China Study CookbookThe China Study (2006) is a book that argues that a plant-based/vegan diet is ideal for weight loss and long-term health.

  • Whole plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains – high fiber.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates, added vegetable oils, fish.
  • Avoid meat, poultry, dairy, eggs.

Below on this page is a description of the food recommendations in the diet. What to eat  |  Foods to minimize  |  Foods to avoid.  There’s a lot more in the book.

Get a copy of The China Study for details of scientific studies, information on how this diet can help against various diseases and conditions, and a limited explanation of the issues of scientific reductionism (discussed in more detail in the author’s following book, Whole).

Get a copy of the China Study CookbookChina Study Quick & Easy Cookbook by Del Sroufe ed LeAnne Campbell for recipes; get a copy of The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook for more recipes to cook once and eat all week.

The reasoning behind The China Study

The book explains why the author believes that a plant-based diet is the route to good health. The chemicals we get from the foods we eat are engaged in a series of reactions that work in concert to produce good health, and our bodies have evolved with this infinitely complex network of reactions in order to derive maximal benefit from whole foods, as they appear in nature. There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants, and animal proteins are cancer-causing. The book goes into detail of a study of the effects of eating habits on cancer rates in different regions of China – and says these results are applicable for other diseases of affluence.

China Study diet plan – food list

What to eat  |  Foods to minimize  |  Foods to avoid

What can you eat with The China Study?

Foods to eat with The China Study and China Study Cookbook

This list follows the classification in the China Study book, and adds foods listed in the China Study Cookbook:

  • Fruits
    • Fruits – apple, banana, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, grapefruit, kiwi, lemon, mangoes, orange, papaya, pear, peach, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, etc.
    • Fruits as vegetables – acorn squash, avocado, bell pepper, butternut squash cucumber, eggplant, green pepper, okra, olives, peppers (all types), pumpkin, tomatillo, tomato, zucchini, etc.
  • Vegetables
    • Flowers – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
    • Stems and leaves – artichokes, arugula, asparagus, basil, beet greens, Belgian endive, bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage (any type including green, white, red), celery, cilantro, collard greens, green onion, kale, lettuce (all varieties), mustard greens, parsley, rhubarb, salad greens, scallions, seaweed (including kelp powder), spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, etc.
    • Roots – beets, carrots, garlic, ginger, jicama, leeks, onions, potatoes (all varieties), radish, rutabaga, turnips, etc.; also pearl tapioca
    • Other – corn, water chestnuts
    • Legumes – adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini beans, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, green beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, peanuts, peas, pinto beans, soybeans/edamame, white beans, etc.; also tofu, silken tofu, soy crumbles
    • Mushrooms – baby bella, cremini, oyster, Portobello, shiitake, white mushroom, etc.
    • Fermented vegetables – sauerkraut
  • Nuts and seeds
    • Almonds, cashew, coconut, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut (listed as a legume), pecan, pine nuts, pistachio, walnuts, etc.
    • Flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
    • Nut and seed butters – e.g. natural peanut butter, tahini
    • Nut and seed flours – e.g. almond meal
  • Whole grains
    • Amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, kamut, millet, oats (raw/old-fashioned), quinoa, rye, brown rice, sorghum, spelt, teff, wheat, etc.
    • Cracked grains – e.g. bulgur
    • Flours e.g. oat flour, spelt flour, whole grain flour, whole wheat pastry flour
    • In breads, pastas etc. – e.g. whole wheat couscous, rice pasta, whole grain pasta, whole wheat pasta, whole grain tortilla or sandwich wrap, whole wheat buns, whole wheat breadcrumbs
    • Toasted wheat germ, vital wheat gluten, baked tortilla chips, low-fat granola
  • Herbs and spices
    • Basil, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
    • Allspice, black pepper, caraway seeds, cayenne pepper, celery seeds, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry powder, garam masala, garlic powder, ginger, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, Old Bay seasoning, onion powder, poppy seeds, pumpkin pie spice, paprika, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes
  • Sweeteners
    • Wet sweeteners – agave nectar, barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, fruit syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pureed fruits (applesauce, bananas), preserves and jams
    • Dry sweeteners – date sugar, evaporated cane juice, raw sugar, Sucanat, stevia, turbinado sugar
    • Dried fruits such as dates and raisins
    • Apple juice concentrate, orange juice, other fruit juices
  • Dairy substitutes
    • Unsweetened nondairy milk – almond milk, lite coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk, etc.
    • Plain soy yogurt
    • Use 1 part ground flaxseed meal to 3 parts water as an egg replacers
  • Condiments and pantry
    • Chili sauce, hot sauce, marinara sauce, miso, mustard, dill pickles, non-fat low-sodium salsa, Sambal Oelek (chili paste), sea salt, low-sodium soy sauce, tamari, tomato sauce, vegetable bouillon/Vegit, vegetable broth, vinegar (e.g. apple cider, balsamic, rice, white)
    • Nutritional yeast
    • Baking powder, baking soda, unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree, cornmeal, low-fat graham crackers, mint extract, vanilla extract, xanthan gum, yeast
  • Beverages
    • Drink water

While the “lower quality” plant proteins may be lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids, as a group they contain all of them.

There are no guidelines on plant food quality, e.g. should they be organic, or whether they should be seasonal or local.

Foods to avoid or limit with The China Study

The book argues that it’s not unreasonable to assume that the optimum percentage of animal-based products is zero, at least for anyone with a predisposition for a degenerative disease


  • Refined carbohydrates
    • Crackers, pastas (except whole grain varieties), white bread
    • Most cakes and pastries
  • Added vegetable oils
    • Corn oil, olive oil, peanut oil, etc.
  • Fish
    • Cod, salmon, tuna, etc.

There are no guidelines on how much you should limit these foods.

Because it’s processed, it’s implied that soda should be on the list of foods to minimize.

There are no guidelines on salt, although many of the recipes call for low-sodium products (and often add salt afterwards).


Try to eliminate all animal-based products from your diet, but do not obsess over it. E.g. if a tasty vegetable soup has a chicken stock base, or if a hearty loaf of whole wheat bread includes a tiny amount of egg, don’t worry about it – these quantities are very likely nutritionally unimportant

  • Meat
    • Hamburger, steak, lard, etc.
  • Poultry
    • Chicken, turkey, etc.
  • Dairy
    • Cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.
  • Eggs
    • Eggs and products with a high egg content (e.g. mayonnaise)

There are no guidelines on alcohol or caffeine.

The book implies that chemical additives, preservatives, and colorings aren’t good for you, but doesn’t give guidelines on whether to limit them or avoid them.

Health benefits claimed in The China Study

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: Addison’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases, breast cancer, cataracts, chronic active hepatitis, cognitive dysfunction, colon cancer, constipation, dementia, diabetes, Graves’ disease/hyperthyroidism, glomerulonephritis GN, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, hypothyroidism, impotence, kidney stones, liver cancer, lupus, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, overweight/obesity, pernicious anemia, polymyositis/dermatomyositis, primary biliary cirrhosis, prostate cancer, rectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, Sjögren’s disease stroke, uveitis, vitiligo

As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, and does not endorse it.

The China Study Community is at http://www.thechinastudy.com/, and they’re on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tcscommunity.

Get a copy of The China Study for details of scientific studies, information on how this diet can help against various diseases and conditions, and a limited explanation of the issues of scientific reductionism (discussed in more detail in the author’s following book, Whole).

Buy now from Amazon Diet book
Get a copy of the China Study Cookbook for recipes.

Buy now from Amazon Recipe book

Get a copy of The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook for more recipes to cook once and eat all week

Buy now from Amazon Quick & easy recipe book
How has this diet helped you? Please add a comment below.

{ 30 comments… add one }

  • John Welch December 16, 2013, 7:48 pm

    Is it ok to eat egg whites and brown sugar? If not, why not?

    • Penny Hammond December 18, 2013, 7:36 am

      Egg whites are from animals, and the book advises you to avoid all animal products, so you should avoid them on this diet.

      Some unrefined sugars are allowed in the book – date sugar, evaporated cane juice, raw sugar, Sucanat, stevia, turbinado sugar.
      Brown sugar is more processed – it’s usually white sugar with molasses added. On this diet it would be something to minimize – try using one of the allowed sugars instead.

  • carolyn lewis January 5, 2014, 11:08 pm

    I followed a plant based diet for over a year and I lost 47 lbs. . I am a diabetic and according to the numbers I was no longer a diabetic. I have C.A.D. and was taking blood thiners , I no longer needed because my lipid levels were normal. I felt fantastic , and no longer needed diabetes medicine. Because of pressure at home about not eating like everyone else I went back on the so called sad diet and quickly put back on 12 lbs and felt misserable. I am now back on plant based diet and am looking forward to my next doctors appointment. Oh yeh I had to restart diabetes meds , but now that I am back eating plant based I am taking less insulin and am looking forward to stoping meds. altogether. If you take time and gradually progress to a complete plant based diet you will not be sorry just don’t let anyone talk you out of it , it is important to do it for yourself.

    • JS April 24, 2014, 8:07 am


      • Penny Hammond April 24, 2014, 2:45 pm

        There are differing opinions about diets suitable for diabetics. It’s possible that dietary changes may help your son, but as a type 1 diabetic, diet won’t have as much of an effect as if he were a type 2 diabetic. I’d suggest not relying too heavily on claims that a diet can completely remove the need for insulin for a type 1 diabetic.

        It’s difficult to tell exactly what would be a good diet for an individual. There are many people who bring their children up as vegans. Childhood is a time when the body is developing and needs good nutrition to stand it in good stead for the rest of life. Vegan diets such as this one claim that this is our natural diet built into our system from our ancestry and will provide the best nutrition, while others claim that humans and their ancestors have always eaten at least some animal foods and tended to prefer fatty foods to get a full range of vitamins.

        Try your son on this diet for a few weeks to see how he reacts to it. If he’s been eating a lot of processed foods or sugars, he may be ill with flu-like symptoms for a short time, which is a common reaction to removing sugars and processed foods. If he’s thriving after a month, try introducing unprocessed oils then grass-fed or wild-caught animal foods to see how he reacts to them.

  • JS April 27, 2014, 3:45 pm

    Thanks Penny
    Can you also check with Carolyn Lewis also & get his view on the same because he is a diabetic ,Which type i am not sure & I guess he is followed the diet quite well so maybe he can give us a better opinion

    Thanks & Regards

  • rahul kumar August 2, 2014, 4:56 am

    Dear sir I m suffering from hand trembling. What kind of food suitable to me. Which. Food I avoid.my all other conditions are normal.please suggest me.

    • Penny Hammond August 4, 2014, 8:00 pm

      You should check with your doctor to find out what the issue is – most foods do not trigger hand trembling.

      You could try cutting down on sugar, alcohol, and foods/drinks containing caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate) to see if that helps.

  • siriyalreddy.d. October 29, 2014, 2:32 am

    the best plant based food is wheatgrass juice fresahly juiced . it is almosta cure all. one rtd dental surjan who was
    suffering from nurological problems , walked with a slow pace. After consuming wg juice for a week now he is able to walk fast thanking you dsreddy.

  • levi nurtanio November 3, 2014, 9:33 am

    Does Colin Campbell’s diet allow raw honey to sweeten plant based dishes?

    I also notice the inclusion of coconut oil but it has to be “lite coconut oil”. What does
    lite coconut oil mean? I usually scrape the coconut meat from the shell and I put this
    into a press to extract the milk. I then mix the coconut milk with boiled vegetables or
    as stock for vegetable soup. Is this acceptable per the teachings of Colin Campbell?

    Thanks for any advice

    • Penny Hammond November 3, 2014, 2:07 pm

      The book doesn’t mention honey as an acceptable food, although it lists many other natural sweeteners.
      Honey isn’t vegan, as it’s made by animals – that may be why it’s not listed as acceptable.

      The book mentions lite coconut milk, which is lower fat than regular coconut milk. To get the “first coconut milk” or regular coconut milk, steep shredded (unsweetened) coconut in hot water for 1/2 hour until it cools down – the milk you squeeze out is fairly fatty. For the “second coconut milk”, which is more like lite coconut milk, after you’ve produced the first coconut milk steep the used shredded coconut in hot water for another 1/2 hour until it cools down – the milk that is produced is lower in fat.
      I don’t see any reference to coconut oil; as it’s a fat I’d assume it’s not allowed on this diet.

      • Carolyn Belcher March 8, 2015, 12:36 pm

        Does this diet help one with myeloma?? Any sugestions for a healthy diet with a new diagnosis of myeloma?

        • Penny Hammond March 10, 2015, 6:22 pm

          This book claims that a whole foods, plant-based (vegan) diet is better for health and that animal proteins are cancer-causing.

          There are many different points of view on the matter, and many of the diets I review say that they can reduce the risk of cancer. Some say that green juices are helpful, others say that avoiding artificial additives are helpful, others say that a balance of natural foods (including animal foods) is helpful.

          The general consensus at the moment is that eating foods in their most natural form is probably healthiest. Some say that raw is better, others say that cooked foods are easier to digest. There are arguments both ways on animal proteins.
          I don’t think there’s a single correct answer.
          Staying well-supplied with nutrients is probably the most important issue – rapid weight loss and malnutrition are dangerous factors with many cancers. Look for a diet that’s unprocessed and digestible and also enjoyable.

  • Larry September 1, 2015, 10:08 am

    Fantastic stuff I am very pleased that I read this I have always been fairly healthy and watch what I eat but this has got to be the way.
    I will be cutting out ALL the meat and dairy products now and be a complete vegan.
    Thanks for this

  • Ravindra October 1, 2015, 9:28 pm

    I am diabetic type 2 how long will it take to get normal health indicators with good diet. I m also bp patient.

    • Penny Hammond October 5, 2015, 1:05 pm

      The book doesn’t give guidelines about how long it will take to get normal health indicators – it probably varies by individual.

  • Sven October 5, 2015, 6:52 am

    I went vegan three months before I got the “China Study”. After one week, I felt so good that I knew I discovered something incredible. I’ve never felt better in my life. I’m also the only vegan I know.

  • Jesse March 3, 2016, 11:31 pm

    I had a lot of problems with serious constipation, since I started taking flax seeds and followed this diet for one week. Constipation is completely gone. I feel like if I recover my life again!
    Thank you so much

    • Penny Hammond March 10, 2016, 6:50 pm


  • Gail March 11, 2016, 10:03 am

    My husband and I were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We are on metformin. We have had a very hard time trying to figure out the best eating plan. The doctor has been no help. Told us it’s ok to eat desserts and sugar. This makes no sense to us at all. Trying to find a doctor in Salt Lake City that understands nutrition and will actually listen is impossible. We are hearing so much conflicting information and don’t know where to turn. Low carb high fat, Vegan, Paleo.
    We are not sure who or what to trust. Does anyone know a health care provider in Salt Lake that listens and knows about nutrition? Does the vegan diet really work? Is it safe? Thank you.

    • Penny Hammond March 22, 2016, 4:57 pm

      Sorry to hear about your frustrations. There are many different opinions about what is a healthy diet, and trends change over time. It’s also possible that the same foods are not the healthiest choice for everybody. Even health care providers who listen and know about nutrition may have conflicting opinions about what is the healthiest way for you to eat.
      The whole foods vegan diet works for many people – some find that it’s a great short term fix to start eating veggies and getting natural nutrients and fiber, then they transition to adding other foods; there are also some people who feel so healthy on it that they continue eating that way for life.

  • Josi Champion March 12, 2016, 1:34 am

    How much fruit can/should I have for breakfast or during day? Because I can eat soo much… is there such thing as eating too much of it? Should I worry about the sugar in them? Will it take me longer to loose weight if I eat too much fruit?

    • Penny Hammond March 22, 2016, 5:05 pm

      This book doesn’t put a limit on the amount of fruit you eat.
      For some people, if they observe the “limit” and “avoid” foods on this diet, they can eat as much fruit as they want and reach their goal weight healthily. Other people might find they need to keep an eye on how much fruit they eat.

  • Marion Sombke April 21, 2016, 9:51 pm

    Hello, I had the same problem with my doctors telling me to eat more meat and less carbs. I am also taking Metformin. I did real good for a while and even got of my meds and then I ate bad again and are back on my Meds very disappointing. So hang in there you will see results more and more. I found a Plant Base Dr in Conway, AR. So helpful. Go under Plant Based Doctors.com and it will list all of them Nation Wide. Also Dr, McDougalls website has so much free Info about Diabetes and so many good Recipes. Please never get discouraged. Praying for better Health soon!!! Marion

  • Laura August 29, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Hi. You and your family will ultimately have to take your health into your own hands. Know that everyone IS different…what works for some may not work for others, including you and yours.

    You may want to look up a Functional Medicine doctor. You will need a lot of blood tests to determine where to start.

    Also know that the more clean you eat, the better you will feel. Eat more raw food. Eat as organic as possible. If you are eating meat…eat 100% grass fed and finished (never fed grain or corn). Stay away from anything GMO. Drink the best water you can. Use baking soda and white vinegar to clean, change your toothpaste to one without flouride. Make your own deoderant.

    There are so many things you can do…the internet is a free resource to everything you need to know about everything. Doctors know very little about nutrition. They only treat symptoms.

    Best, Laura

  • sandy October 30, 2016, 9:34 am

    I have been following the China Study diet for 3 years now. According to my doctor all of my numbers are spot on! Woohoo! One issue for me is that I have gained about 15 pounds. I exercise just about every day. Are my portions out of line? Has any one else gained weight?

    • Penny Hammond November 8, 2016, 8:21 pm

      Congrats on all your numbers being spot on!
      Are you eating a disproportionate amount of whole grains, or nuts and seeds?

  • jarett April 22, 2017, 3:54 am

    Does this book tell you how much fat to eat a day and how many calories ect?

    • Penny Hammond June 20, 2017, 7:23 pm

      The book doesn’t have any specific guidelines on how much fat, calories, etc. to eat. It focuses more on eating certain types of foods.

  • Janis Vandermeer April 30, 2017, 9:24 am

    I’ve been following The China Study diet for four months now and feel great. My recent Health Risk Assessment for work insurance came back excellent. Weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc…all green! Prior cholesterol was just getting to level of concern. Three years ago I cut out sugary drinks and foods. Two years ago I cut out processed and fast foods. In addition, I chose not to eat grains that might be grown or sprayed with chemicals and no gmos. I lost 22 pounds. In January, changing to a whole food plant based nutrition has helped me feel in total control of my health. I try to shop from farmer’s markets when in season and buy organic as much as possible.

    It’s not easy. I travel a lot for work and it’s not always easy to find the right restaurants. In addition, not all friends are supportive. But, I do my best when getting together with friends. I’m not so rigid that I make a big deal out of what I eat. I am about 98% vegan. If a friend prepares a meal I don’t quiz them on every ingredient. I just try to take something I feel good about eating.

    I agree that not many doctors focus on nutrition. Fortunately I only ever go for an annual physical. My goal in changing my lifetime nutrition is to prevent disease. My parents struggle with many health issues as do both my sisters. I want to proactively choose to live my best life.

    I wish you all success in your health journeys.

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