Thursday, March 9, 2017

Book Talk! My Thoughts on How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger

I gave a quick review of this book in my February Book Challenge Update, but I wanted to talk more about it as I really enjoyed the book. It contains a lot of information people should know, so they can make their own decisions about what they want to eat.

Dr. Greger recommends a pretty much completely vegan diet, but I urge you to read this book even if you never want to give up your chicken nuggets. Whether you want to follow a plant-based diet or still eat meat every day, the information he provides in this book is to arm yourself with knowledge so you can make informed choices about your diet, no matter what those choices are.

The main organization of the first part of the book is to divide it into chapters talking about how to prevent and possibly recover from the leading causes of death in the U.S.A. (such as heart disease). I like this format because if you have a particular health concern now, or have a history of the disease in your family (such as colon cancer and breast cancer, which my biological grandmothers died of), you can go straight to reading about it right away, instead of having to hunt for it through the book.

The second half talks about his personal diet recommendations, and goes into more depth about each of the points on his checklist app (which I love, and when I got it was free. Check out Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen for Android or iOS). I think the app is amazing, because it gives you an idea of what to shoot for each day in eating, but in a positive way rather than in the normal dietary negative (with recommendations such as add 1.5 cups of beans rather than don't eat potato chips, although he doesn't encourage those either). At least for me, the addition mindset works a lot better than the subtraction one, because instead of bemoaning the loss of ice cream and other yummies from my diet, I can focus on adding a lot of delicious stuff (and honestly, if you eat everything recommended on the checklist, you're probably not going to have a lot of room left for junk in your day anyway). His app also has an exercise recommendation, but personally I just use it more to make sure I moved my booty in some way rather than getting all of his suggested workout time in.

One of the biggest things I love about his book is that he goes straight to the studies to see what they say about certain foods, which diets prevent more diseases, which foods help reverse which diseases, and what the studies say about extracts and isolated vitamins versus the whole foods themselves. He even goes as far as to recommend one type of Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) as opposed to the form most recommended among natural health circles (methylcobalamin) because isn't enough evidence that the other forms really work (Greger & Stone, 2015)*.

And the amount of studies he cites is enormous. At the back of the book, his footnotes section is almost one half inch thick (and yes, I did measure, haha). Granted, some of the studies are listed more than once, but that's still a huge amount of peer-reviewed studies.

Many times when you read posts or books about health and nutrition, they're based on the author's assumptions or only a few studies (at least the ones I've read). And a lot of times, those people are also hawking their own supplements. Maybe I'm just overly paranoid, but I get suspicious when the people who are telling you a certain supplement is good for you are also the ones trying to sell it to you. Dr. Greger recommends a few supplements, but doesn't even give you suggested brands to buy. In a way, it's nice because you know he must have reasoned from the research he's conducted that they are actually beneficial, and he's not making any money off it. At the same time, it would be nice to know which brands he uses personally, but if he did tell us, then that same no-kick-back-possible factor wouldn't be there.

A word of warning, though. His book does read in a sarcastic way similar to his videos on YouTube. Personally, I adore sarcasm (probably a little too much) so that was just a bonus for me. If you're not such a fan, I still recommend reading it, but maybe read the sample on Amazon or borrow it from your local library before you buy it.

In short, I love this book, you should read it, and then make decisions on what to eat based on being fully informed of the benefits and consequences of those choices.

To learn more about Dr. Greger and his work, go to

*Greger, M., & Stone, G. (2015). How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. New York: Flatiron.

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