Book Summary: “How Not To Die”, Michael Greger

How Not To Die Summary
9 MINUTE READ
How Not To Die Summary
How Not To Die (2015)

Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

by Dr. Michael Greger

A deeply researched and compelling primer on the promise and importance of whole food plant based nutrition in preventing and reversing disease – by medical doctor and nutrition expert, Michael Greger.

Paperback | Audiobook | Ebook

This book summary is part of an ongoing project to summarise 35 books on Physical Health - for more, see the full reading list.

Perfect for you if:

  • You’re totally new to or know nothing about nutrition;
  • You’re suffering from a chronic illness or disease;
  • You feel good but you’d like to feel great!

How Not To Die Review

I really wanted to give you a detailed summary of Michael Greger’s How Not To Die but, to be honest, the main thrust boils down to just three bullets.

  1. Nutrition accounts for ~85% of the factors in the US’s top causes of death; but
  2. The current US health/drug system actually disincentivizes proper education around nutrition for both doctors and consumers; so
  3. You’re on your own – but the short answer to better health is to switch to a whole (un or minimally processed) food plant based diet.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This book is insanely good.

It’s deeply researched (despite some accusations of cherrypicking). It’s powerfully written. It’s surprising and informative and entertaining. In fact, I’d decided to go mostly vegan again by the time I was half way through the introduction.

But given that I don’t (yet) suffer from (or have a major family history of)…

…whose detailed treatment makes up ~60% of the main content of the book, I had very little incentive to dive deeply into the enormous amount of detail in those chapters.

(Note: The links above go to the main topic pages for each condition on Michael’s excellent non-profit NutritionFacts.org BUT if you suffer from one of those conditions – and even if you don’t – I can STRONGLY recommend buying your own copy of this awesome book.)

Which left me with an important question that I’d struggled to answer properly the last time I gave up animal based eating.

Namely…

So, What Should I Be Eating Instead?

Now if there are two things I can’t fault Michael on, they’re:

  1. His focus on his overall message: “Thous shalt eat whole plant based foods.”; and
  2. The insane levels of detail he uses to back up and colour his recommendations.

But the big problem I had with this book is I couldn’t find any practical middle ground.

As a newbie to nutrition, I felt frustrated that there was no single, mid-level cheatsheet. There was nothing I could refer to for an idea of which whole plant based foods mattered most so I knew exactly what to eat more of each day.

So, because I’m stubborn, and because I’m lazy, and because I love spreadsheets, I decided to botch together a quick and simple solution for myself.

I created…

F2M’s Highly Unscientific Word Density Analysis Of Dr. Michael Greger’s How Not To Die

The simplistic logic behind my analysis is this…

  1. If Michael Greger says a food is worth eating, I’ll take his word for it; and
  2. The more often he mentions that food in his book, the more important it probably is.

Is it a perfect solution? Not at all. Coffee is a stand out example of a food stuff that gets lots of mentions where not all of those mentions are good.

But it’s at least given me some kind of mid-level snapshot of what to look out for next time I’m out for a food shop or next time I’m eating in a restaurant.

So, here’s to using other people data in ways they would probably never approve of.

I hope you enjoy it. I hope you find it as useful as I am.

And without further ado, here’s my…

How Not To Die Summary: Good Foods (And Other Things) To Get More Of

I’ve broken this summary down into 14 sections (A “Top 10” section PLUS a breakdown of “Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen” from Part 2 of the book PLUS the “Supplements” appendix).

Here’s the overall structure with the recommended daily servings for and the top 3 mentioned foods from each category.

  1. Overall Top 10 // 🏅 Water 🥈 Turmeric 🥉 Broccoli;
  2. Beans // 3 servings // 🏅 Lentils 🥈 Miso 🥉 Chickpeas;
  3. Berries // 3 servings // 🏅 Cranberries 🥈 Strawberries 🥉 Blueberries;
  4. Other Fruits // 3 servings // 🏅 Apples 🥈 Dates 🥉 Oranges;
  5. Cruciferous Vegetables // 1 serving // 🏅 Broccoli 🥈 Kale 🥉 Cabbage;
  6. Greens // 2 servings // 🏅 Kale 🥈 Spinach 🥉 Arugula (Rocket);
  7. Other Vegetables // 2 servings // 🏅 Mushrooms 🥈 Tomatoes 🥉 Peppers;
  8. Flaxseeds // 1 serving // 🏅 Flaxseeds;
  9. Nuts & Seeds // 1 serving // 🏅 Walnuts 🥈 Almonds 🥉 Pistachios;
  10. Herbs & Spices // n/a servings // 🏅 Turmeric 🥈 Ginger 🥉 Pepper;
  11. Whole Grains // 3 servings // 🏅 Oats/Oatmeal 🥈 Pasta 🥉 Brown Rice; and
  12. Beverages // 3 servings // 🏅 Water 🥈 Coffee 🥉 Green Tea.

Plus (two bonus sections):

  1. Exercises; and
  2. Supplements.

Read through in order, or click one of the headings below to skip ahead to that section of the analysis. But whichever you choose, let’s dive in…

1. What Are The Overall Top 10 Most Mentioned Foods?

  1. 🏅 Water (Beverages) // 184 Mentions
  2. 🥈 Turmeric (Herbs & Spices) // 124 Mentions
  3. 🥉 Broccoli (Cruciferous Vegetables) // 121 Mentions
  4. Coffee (Beverages) // 115 Mentions
  5. Apples (Other Fruits) // 108 Mentions
  6. Flaxseeds (Flaxseeds) // 89 Mentions
  7. Mushrooms (Other Vegetables) // 76 Mentions
  8. Kale (Cruciferous Vegetables) // 68 Mentions
  9. Oats/Oatmeal (Whole Grains) // 60 Mentions
  10. Tomatoes (Other Vegetables) // 56 Mentions

2. What Beans Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: 3 servings per day.

  1. 🏅 Lentils (Beluga, French And Red Varieties) // 44 mentions
  2. 🥈 Miso // 28 mentions
  3. 🥉 Chickpeas // 17 mentions
  4. Tempeh // 14 mentions
  5. Black Beans // 13 mentions
  6. Split Peas (Yellow Or Green) // 13 mentions
  7. Pinto Beans // 6 mentions
  8. Edamame // 4 mentions
  9. Cannellini Beans // 2 mentions
  10. English Peas // 2 mentions
  11. Great Northern Beans // 2 mentions
  12. Kidney Beans // 2 mentions
  13. Navy Beans // 2 mentions
  14. Black-Eyed Peas // 1 mention
  15. Butter Beans // 1 mention
  16. Small Red Beans // 1 mention

3. What Berries Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: 3 servings per day.

  1. 🏅 Cranberries // 42 mentions
  2. 🥈 Strawberries // 38 mentions
  3. 🥉 Blueberries // 33 mentions
  4. Cherries (Sweet Or Tart) // 29 mentions
  5. Raspberries (Black Or Red) // 15 mentions
  6. Blackberries // 14 mentions
  7. Açai Berries // 11 mentions
  8. Goji Berries // 9 mentions
  9. Barberries // 4 mentions
  10. Mulberries // 4 mentions
  11. Concord Grapes // 3 mentions
  12. Kumquats // 3 mentions

3. What Other Fruits Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: 3 servings per day.

  1. 🏅 Apples // 108 mentions
  2. 🥈 Dates // 40 mentions
  3. 🥉 Oranges // 35 mentions
  4. Bananas // 26 mentions
  5. Lemons // 26 mentions
  6. Watermelon // 18 mentions
  7. Kiwifruit // 16 mentions
  8. Mangos // 15 mentions
  9. Grapefruit // 14 mentions
  10. Avocados // 12 mentions
  11. Pomegranates // 9 mentions
  12. Plums (Especially Black Plums) // 7 mentions
  13. Dried Figs // 5 mentions
  14. Pears // 5 mentions
  15. Peaches // 4 mentions
  16. Prunes // 4 mentions
  17. Limes // 3 mentions
  18. Pineapple // 3 mentions
  19. Lychees // 2 mentions
  20. Tangerines // 2 mentions
  21. Dried Apricots // 1 mentions
  22. Cantaloupe // 1 mentions
  23. Clementines // 1 mentions
  24. Honeydew // 1 mentions
  25. Nectarines // 1 mentions
  26. Papaya // 1 mentions
  27. Passion Fruit // 1 mentions
  28. Pluots // 1 mentions

4. What Cruciferous Vegetables Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: 1 serving per day.

  1. 🏅 Broccoli // 121 mentions
  2. 🥈 Kale (Black, Green And Red) // 68 mentions
  3. 🥉 Cabbage // 42 mentions
  4. Cauliflower // 21 mentions
  5. Brussels Sprouts // 14 mentions
  6. Horseradish // 10 mentions
  7. Arugula (Rocket) // 9 mentions
  8. Collard Greens // 9 mentions
  9. Radishes // 8 mentions
  10. Bok Choy // 7 mentions
  11. Mustard Greens // 7 mentions
  12. Watercress // 6 mentions
  13. Turnip Greens // 3 mentions

5. What Greens Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: 2 servings per day.

  1. 🏅 Kale (Black, Green And Red) // 68 mentions
  2. 🥈 Spinach // 28 mentions
  3. 🥉 Arugula (Rocket) // 9 mentions
  4. Collard Greens // 9 mentions
  5. Mustard Greens // 7 mentions
  6. Turnip Greens // 3 mentions
  7. Beetroot Greens // 2 mentions
  8. Mesclun Mix (Assorted Young Salad Greens) // 2 mentions
  9. Sorrel // 2 mentions
  10. Swiss Chard // 2 mentions

6. What Other Vegetables Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: 2 servings per day.

  1. 🏅 Mushrooms (Button, Oyster, Portobello And Shiitake) // 76 mentions
  2. 🥈 Tomatoes // 56 mentions
  3. 🥉 Peppers // 53 mentions
  4. Beetroot // 43 mentions
  5. Garlic // 38 mentions
  6. Onions // 38 mentions
  7. Sweet Potatoes/Yams // 29 mentions
  8. Carrots // 19 mentions
  9. Pumpkin // 16 mentions
  10. Sea Vegetables (Arame, Dulse And Nori) // 12 mentions
  11. Asparagus // 8 mentions
  12. Squash (Delicata, Summer And Spaghetti Squash Varieties) // 8 mentions
  13. Sweetcorn // 7 mentions
  14. Purple Potatoes // 5 mentions
  15. Artichokes // 2 mentions
  16. Okra // 2 mentions
  17. Snap Peas // 2 mentions
  18. Zucchini (Courgette) // 2 mentions

7. What Flaxseeds Should I Eat?

Trick question. Flaxseeds are flaxseeds, although they get 89 mentions!

Recommended dose: 1 serving per day.

8. Nuts & Seeds Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: 1 serving per day.

  1. 🏅 Walnuts // 23 mentions
  2. 🥈 Almonds // 19 mentions
  3. 🥉 Pistachios // 13 mentions
  4. Brazil Nuts // 11 mentions
  5. Chia Seeds // 6 mentions
  6. Sesame Seeds // 5 mentions
  7. Cashews // 4 mentions
  8. Pumpkin Seeds // 4 mentions
  9. Hazelnuts/Filberts // 2 mentions
  10. Hemp Seeds // 1 mentions
  11. Macadamia Nuts // 1 mentions
  12. Pecans // 1 mentions
  13. Sunflower Seeds // 1 mentions

9. What Whole Herbs & Spices Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: n/a servings per day.

  1. 🏅 Turmeric // 124 mentions
  2. 🥈 Ginger // 54 mentions
  3. 🥉 Pepper // 53 mentions
  4. Garlic // 38 mentions
  5. Cinnamon // 37 mentions
  6. Saffron // 28 mentions
  7. Coriander // 23 mentions
  8. Nutmeg // 17 mentions
  9. Peppermint // 16 mentions
  10. Oregano // 15 mentions
  11. Fenugreek // 13 mentions
  12. Cloves // 11 mentions
  13. Horseradish // 10 mentions
  14. Marjoram // 8 mentions
  15. Basil // 7 mentions
  16. Cardamom // 7 mentions
  17. Smoked Paprika // 6 mentions
  18. Curry Powder // 5 mentions
  19. Mustard Powder // 5 mentions
  20. Rosemary // 5 mentions
  21. Barberries // 4 mentions
  22. Chilli Powder // 4 mentions
  23. Cumin // 4 mentions
  24. Parsley // 4 mentions
  25. Bay Leaves // 3 mentions
  26. Thyme // 3 mentions
  27. Vanilla // 3 mentions
  28. Sage // 2 mentions
  29. Allspice // 1 mentions
  30. Dill // 1 mentions
  31. Lemongrass // 1 mentions

10. What Whole Grains Should I Eat?

Recommended dose: 3 servings per day.

  1. 🏅 Oats/Oatmeal // 60 mentions
  2. 🥈 Pasta (Whole Grain/Wheat) // 27 mentions
  3. 🥉 Brown Rice // 17 mentions
  4. Popcorn // 14 mentions
  5. Quinoa // 9 mentions
  6. Barley // 7 mentions
  7. Buckwheat // 3 mentions
  8. Millet // 3 mentions
  9. Rye // 3 mentions
  10. Teff // 3 mentions
  11. Wild Rice // 2 mentions

11. What Beverages Should I Drink?

Recommended dose: 5 servings per day.

  1. 🏅 Water // 184 mentions
  2. 🥈 Coffee // 115 mentions
  3. 🥉 Green Tea // 48 mentions
  4. Hibiscus Tea // 18 mentions
  5. White Tea // 15 mentions
  6. Black Tea // 8 mentions
  7. Lemon Balm Tea // 3 mentions
  8. Matcha Tea // 3 mentions
  9. Chai Tea // 2 mentions
  10. Vanilla Chamomile Tea // 1 mentions
  11. Earl Grey Tea // 1 mentions
  12. Hot Chocolate // 1 mentions
  13. Jasmine Tea // 1 mentions
  14. Almond Blossom Oolong Tea // 1 mentions
  15. Peppermint Tea // 1 mentions
  16. Rooibos Tea // 1 mentions

12.What Exercises Should I Do?

Moderate Exercises.

Recommended dose: 90 minutes per day:

  • Bicycling
  • Canoeing
  • Dancing
  • Dodgeball
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Fencing
  • Gardening
  • Hiking
  • Housework
  • Ice-Skating
  • In-Line Skating
  • Juggling
  • Jumping On A Trampoline
  • Paddle Boating
  • Playing Frisbee
  • Roller-Skating
  • Shooting Baskets
  • Shovelling Light Snow
  • Skateboarding
  • Snorkeling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming Recreationally
  • Tennis (Doubles)
  • Treading Water
  • Walking Briskly (4 Mph)
  • Water Aerobics
  • Waterskiing
  • Yoga

Intense Exercises.

Recommended dose: 45 minutes per day:

  • Backpacking
  • Basketball
  • Bicycling Uphill
  • Circuit Weight Training
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Jogging
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Lacrosse
  • Push-Ups And Pull-Ups
  • Racquetball
  • Rock Climbing
  • Rugby
  • Running
  • Scuba Diving
  • Tennis (Singles)

13. What Supplements Should I Take?

A whole-food plant based diet will provide an ample supply of most vitamins and minerals.

But if you’re off-meat completely (or living somewhere dark) you might consider taking:

  • Vitamin B12 // 2,500 mcg (μg) at least once per week
  • Vitamin D // 2,000 IU per day (or ~15 mins a day of mid-day equivalent sun)
  • Iodine // 150 mcg (μg) per day (or 2 x sheets of nori seaweed)
  • Long-Chain Omega-3s // 250mg per day (yeast or algae-derived)

Just to keep things topped up.

Arthur
Arthur
Arthur is a productivity coach and writer who helps top young execs and entrepreneurs be more productive, find more balance and live more meaningfully. Want to know more? Take this 2-minute quiz to discover your Productivity Quotient (PQ) and learn how to get BIG things done. Take the Quiz →
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Tushar Joshi
Tushar Joshi
21 days ago

I found this a very interesting way of summarising the book. The meticulous sections and ranking of the foods will help me take decisions very quickly. Thanks for spending all this time to generate these ordered lists.

OI
OI
22 days ago

Most American’s won’t recognize “rocket” or “courgette” unless they watch a lot of British chefs. We call them “arugula” and “zucchini”.

Francisco
Francisco
22 days ago

Dear Arthur, I have been reading some of the summaries you have been providing for us. I wanted to thank you for that. But, this one… Reading such a book (which is mostly based on epidemiology, aka, fake science) and not taking into account true and basic human physiology and digestive mechanisms (that require amino acids and fat for proper functioning) is simply unbelievable. And you add that you return to veganism?! I am so disappointed. Good luck with that way of eating. I hope it will not compromise all the great content you have been providing.