How not to Die

How not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger, M.D. with Gene Stone, Dec. 2015, Flatiron Books

Reviewed by Linda A. DeStefano
Translated by Rob English

This 561 page book (counting the index, appendix and extensive references at the end) is the kind of book I’ll keep to refer to as a guide rather than just reading through it once.  It’s packed with valuable, science-based information – told in an clear style with some humor blended in. 

Michael Greger has written many books and now directs a staff of researchers who produce NutritionFacts.org  You can sign up to receive a free daily short nugget of information, sometimes in video form, to keep current with nutritional studies that can help you live a healthy life.

I trust Greger because he doesn’t sell any products and therefore has no financial gain to cloud his judgment. His online information is free, and he gives any profit from his books to charity. He recommends daily exercise plus a plant-based diet of whole foods: beans, whole grains, veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds. Although he is a vegan, he points out that being vegan isn’t enough if it’s an unbalanced type of veganism, such as, an emphasis on processed foods with salt, sugar and fat.  In that, he is in the good company of Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) in the U.S., which provides a handout called “The Plant-Based Diet: A Healthier Way to Eat.”  K-P advises that people avoid meat, dairy and eggs and embrace the groups of foods described above. SEE http:/tinyurl.com/kpvegdiet

Greger dedicates the book to his grandmother, who had suffered through many surgeries for heart disease and was dying. As a last resort, she checked into a live-in program run by Nathan Pritikin, a pioneer in reversing heart disease. She was put on a plant-based diet and gradually moved into an exercise routine. Within three weeks of entering the program, she was out of her wheelchair and walking ten miles a day!  “My grandma was given her medical death sentence at age sixty-five. Thanks to a healthy diet and lifestyle, she was able to enjoy another thirty-one years on this earth…” (Preface, x)

Greger points out that the food guidelines we receive from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are skewed by corporate influence. The USDA can get away with urging people to eat more veggies and fruit but can’t say to avoid meat, dairy or eggs because those profiting from those products won’t allow it. So the USDA uses obscure and weak language to try to get across the message, such as, “Reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids.)” Another example: A USDA employee newsletter suggested trying a meat-free lunch once a week as part of John Hopkins University’s School of Public Health “Meatless Mondays” initiative. “The resulting political firestorm from the meat industry led the USDA to retract the advice just hours later.” (pp. 260 & 261)

After many of his lectures given in the U.S. and other countries,  people would ask Greger for specific advice about what to eat. He responds to this by organizing the food groups into green light, (great for you!) yellow light (caution) and red light (avoid). He then provides a range of suggestions for each day, including the number and size of recommended servings of each food group. My criticism is that he doesn’t distinguish between the number and size of servings appropriate for people of different weights and heights. As a short woman weighing a little over 100 pounds, I don’t think I could even manage to get down the amount of food he suggests whereas a tall, muscled man of 200 pounds might do fine. Even though I will have to modify the servings based on my own circumstances, I find the overall book to be a good guide.          

Greger says few supplements are needed if you eat the foods he recommends. However, he adds that there is one that is absolutely necessary: B12. Further, two to consider are Vitamin D3 and long-chain omega 3 (derived from yeast or algae). See “Supplements” in the Appendix, pp. 407-412. 

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, LDESTEFANO3@twcny.rr.com, (315)488-PURR (8 a.m. – 10 p.m.), peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org.  Contact us for our general brochure and a copy of our newsletter.

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