Does a book entitled “How Not to Die” make a good present? Of course! Will your loved ones read it? Who cares? If they don’t, you can borrow it and read it yourself! You deserve it, don’t you?
When I first heard the title, I thought it might be off-putting to those who were not familiar with Dr. Greger’s work. Some of my family and friends thought it was not in good taste when I presented it to my mother (who is approaching 90) last Christmas.
I was disappointed—but should not have been surprised—that Mom has read little of it, and I will try to find someone more excited about improving the quality of their remaining years.
As someone who has binge-watched Dr. Greger’s NutritionFacts.Org videos for fun, and has attended his lectures in person on 3 occasions, I understood immediately why he titled his book “How Not to Die.”
For the past several years, Dr. Greger has been around the country (even circling the globe!) lecturing about the role of a plant-based diet in prevention, treatment and even reversal of the top 15 killers, or contributors to premature death.
When “How Not to Die” came out a year ago, it became an instant New York Times Best Seller. Incidentally, 100 percent of all proceeds Dr. Greger receives from his books, DVDs, and speaking engagements are donated to charity.
Recently, I set out to read the book for myself. Although 562 pages appeared intimidating, thankfully the last 150 pages contain references to Greger’s research. No surprise for someone whose life’s work is poring over fact-based nutrition research.
I expected “How Not to Die” to rehash everything I learned from having followed Dr. Greger since he lit up the internet by publishing a new nutrition video everyday beginning in 2011.
Part 1 of the book covers the 15 “killers” Dr. Greger enumerated:
- Heart Disease
- Lung Disease
- Brain Disease
- Digestive Cancers
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney Disease
- Breast Cancer
- Suicidal Depression
- Prostate Cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Iatrogenic Causes
While a lot of Part 1 did have a familiar ring, it was interesting and informative nonetheless, thanks to Dr. Greger’s tongue-in-cheek delivery. However, Part 2 added a few bonuses that made “How Not to Die” as entertaining and practical as I’ve come to expect from Dr. Greger.
Part 2 addresses the most common question Greger hears: “What do you eat everyday?” For this, he created two simple tools to help you integrate everything he learned into your own daily life:
1. Traffic Light system to quickly identify the healthiest options:
- Green-light foods: unprocessed plant foods that should be maximized
- Yellow-light foods: processed plant-foods and unprocessed animal foods that should be minimized
- Red-light foods: ultra-processed plant foods and processed animal foods that should be avoided
2. Daily Dozen checklist to help you incorporate the foods Dr. Greger considers essential to the optimum diet
Eating is a zero sum game,” Dr. Greger says. “When you choose to eat one thing, you are generally choosing not to eat another….So everything we choose to eat has opportunity cost.”
The “Daily Dozen” checklist (which Dr. Greger began as a game played with his family on their refrigerator white-board) consists of:
- Beans (3)
- Berries (1)
- Other Fruits (3)
- Cruciferous Vegetables (1)
- Greens (2)
- Other Vegetables (2)
- Flaxseeds (1)
- Nuts (1)
- Spices (1)
- Whole Grains (3)
- Beverages (5)
- Exercise (1)
Note: Numbers in parentheses indicate the “number of servings” of each.
Dr. Greger concludes “How Not to Die,” by saying he hopes to persuade readers that “nutrition is not the state, lifeless subject your middle school home-economics class may have led you to believe. It’s vibrant and overflowing with opportunity for the betterment of your life.”
As I mentioned in my 2012 post “Who Do You Trust for Nutrition Facts?”, with the never-ending explosion of conflicting information from so many so-called nutrition experts, we have to place our trust in someone. Dr. Greger’s unbiased perspective has persuaded me time and time again.
Consider giving “How Not to Die” to someone you love. For a last-minute Christmas present, birithday, or for no reason but to show someone you care. In the worst case, you’ll get it back, and share it again, until it resonates.
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