I have long been a fan of NutritionFacts.org. Funded only by donations from individual visitors, Dr. Michael Greger and his team read every English-language journal article on nutrition every year and share their critical analysis free of charge. When it can feel like everyone is trying to manipulate and profit off of others, sources like these stand out as much more credible to me.
After a long wait from the library, I have finally read Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Die. Again, all proceeds go directly to fund his free educational website – he takes no compensation. For most books I discuss on here, I provide a comprehensive summary of the key takeaways as I see them. For this one, though, you can just go directly to NutritionFacts.org and search for any and all the information that interests you. If you’d still prefer a summary, check out the one done by Chewfo or the video published by Dr. Greger himself.
Instead, I’d like to share with you the little notes I took for myself to give you an idea of what the book offers.
First up, probably the most controversial: a whole foods, plant-based diet recommendation. This blog demonstrates how open I am to considering all different ways of eating and I still believe that there is no one right way – not only because we are individuals with different needs and different reactions to foods, but also because a good diet I can incorporate into my life is heaps better than a great diet I can’t keep up. All that said, this book devotes the first half to explaining exactly why a whole foods, plant-based diet is best for optimal health and avoiding the 15 leading causes of death.
One of those causes is depression. I’m aware that with the exception of the most severely depressed, anti-depressant medication has not been proven to be more effective than the placebo effect. If capable of exercise, 30 minutes of walking is at least as effective as those drugs without the negative side effects. And interestingly, certain foods are naturally beneficial for mood-enhancing neurotransmitters: apples, grapes, onions, green tea, cinnamon, and sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds.
Plus, an intriguing theory was presented: since consuming a lot of manufactured highly-palatable foods can make a person less sensitive to the dopamine it continually spikes, which often leads people to overeat those foods trying to reach the original “high,” some people then find it harder to achieve their usual “reward” feelings from other sources in their lives – this can lead to the common symptoms of low motivation and reduced interest towards things enjoyed before depression. By eating mainly whole foods, not only will you soon better appreciate their tastes but you can also better appreciate the joys of life.
One note is that despite the ample nutrition in this type of diet, supplements are still recommended in this day and age: 2,500 mcg of cyanocobalamin B12 per week (or up to 1,000 per day) + 2,000 IU Vitamin D3 per day + the equivalent of iodine found in two sheets of nori (or 3 servings of beans from the brand Eden because they use dulse) daily.
The best part of this book is how easy he makes it to put all the detailed evidence into individual application. There is a free user-friendly app called Dr. Gregor’s Daily Dozen listing a daily checklist of all the key categories of food recommended as well as types of food and their portion sizes. It’s so much simpler than MyFitnessPal, I’m more likely to use it every day and worry less over perfect calories and nutrient grams. In three weeks, I’ve easily raised my moving average from 57% to 83% of the checkmarks recommended.
If you favour a gradual approach, he suggests looking at the meals you eat frequently and, since most people cycle about 9: (1) tweak 3 meals that are already pretty plant-based to be more whole foods; (2) tweak 3 fairly whole foods meals more plant-based; and (3) try 3 completely new recipes. Some sources of such recipe options follow:
I’ll end with some of my favourite suggestions from the book…
- Buy broccoli seeds and sprout them inexpensively at home
- Pre-cut cruciferous veggies to keep in the fridge (let sit at least 40 minutes after cutting for maximum nutrition OR add mustard seed powder)
- Frozen produce is good, but avoid when blanched
- When choosing packaged whole grains, ensure the ratio is at maximum 5 grams of carbs to 1 gram of fibre
- Make a pesticide wash with one part salt to nine parts water
- Eat ginger regularly to help prevent migraines
- Combine 2 cups of ground flaxseed with 1 cup water and spices; spread on baking sheet and divide into 32 crackers; bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F
- (1) Blend 1 can pumpkin puree + pumpkin pie spice + 12-24 pitted dates (2) Bake at 350 degrees F until it cracks
- Scrambled tofu with 1/4 tsp tumeric with black pepper
- Find Lycium (goji) berries at Asian grocery stores
- Keep citrus in the freezer for zest
- Roast cauliflower steak in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F, then cover with a lemon tahini sauce, i.e. from Clean Food Dirty Girl:
3 tablespoons lemon juice (1 average sized lemon)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 dates, pitted and simmered in water for 10 minutes (if your dates are huge or you like it less sweet, use 4 dates)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water