Book Review: How Not to Die!

One of the primary reasons I started PlantKind was to provide simple strategies to help vegans stay vegan. Sadly, roughly seventy percent of people who go vegan go back to eating animal products. The majority of these ex-vegans say that they go back for so-called, “health reasons”.

I must disagree with vegans who argue that the focus should not be on nutrition, but eliminating your contribution to animal exploitation. True, veganism is an ethical movement, not a diet. But what good are you to the movement if you cannot sustain your health enough to stay vegan? If veganism is not about health, it is at least made possible by taking care of yourself.513rfXTxvOL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

While the science of nutrition is complex, the solution to staying healthy on a vegan diet is elegantly easy. I’ve always advocated a simple, calorically sufficient diet based primarily on whole grains, tubers, vegetables and fruits along with small amounts of nuts and seeds.

This dietary approach is not merely adequate, it has been shown over and over again to hold the best potential for optimal human health while virtually eliminating our most devastating illnesses.

Dr. Michael Greger’s new book, “Now Not to Die”, is the book to own if you want to understand more about what the clinical evidence shows regarding the power of plant based nutrition and how to leverage that power in your own life through simple and practical suggestions. In short, this book contains the knowledge that everyone, not just budding vegans, can use to be their healthiest.

Those familiar with Dr. Greger’s work on NutritionFacts.org will be familiar with his ability to deliver the science with clarity and wildly entertaining dry wit. Greger’s style will have you turning the pages of this 500+ page behemoth.  

The first part of the book is based on his annual Nutrition Year-in-Review, “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death” from 2011-2012. Fans of this landmark talk will be pleased to find that the book is able to go into far more depth than the talk, while incorporating some of the more recent research.

Supported by a daunting level of research, Dr. Greger shows how increasing your fruit and vegetable intake while drastically reducing if not eliminating your consumption of meat, eggs and dairy aids in the prevention -and in many cases treatment – of the fifteen leading causes of death.

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Beyond the basic recommendations for a plant based diet, Dr. Greger delves into the nutrition research to show how each malady can be prevented, treated and in some cases reversed through dietary means. Can strawberry consumption treat esophageal cancer? Can saffron slow the progression of Alzheimer’s? There is more to what we eat than many of us know.

There is something here for everyone. Who among us doesn’t know someone with heart disease, cancer or diabetes? Maybe you know someone who is undergoing treatment for colon, esophageal or breast cancer? Perhaps someone you love is suffering from a brain illness such as Alzheimer’s or a mental illness like suicidal depression? Dr. Greger delivers hope backed by science.

The second part of the book is my favourite. It provides practical advice on how to eat on a daily basis to promote optimal health and avoid disease. We all know that berries are good for us, but how much should we eat each day, and which berries might offer us the best health benefits? How do we maximize the absorption of vitamins and minerals in our leafy greens? What is the best way to prepare our broccoli or cauliflower?

Believe it or not, there’s tons of scientific evidence to provide concrete and practical answers to these questions, and Dr. Greger shows you. Make no mistake, this is not a book to read once only to collect dust on your bookshelf. You will refer to this book again and again in your quest for the best daily nutrition.

The real beauty of this book, however, is its impartiality. Dr. Greger approaches his subject as a scholar. He doesn’t necessarily tell you what you should think based on his own biases or interpretations. Rather, he shows you what the science says and lets you draw your own conclusions.

I must also say it will come in handy when you are met with those ridiculous platitudes borne of cognitive dissonance such as the infamous, “Everything in moderation!”. Thankfully, Dr. Gregor and his team were not moderate in the formidable amount of research that went into this book.

Paleo, Ketogenic and “Grain Brain” promoters are usually quick to cry foul any time someone promotes plant based nutrition. But there is “no cherry” picking here.  There are over 1,000 references to the peer reviewed literature. No one knows this field like Dr. Greger does, and he is the only one I know who does this as a non-profit service. Unlike other nutrition authors who unashamedly hock vitamins and supplements, Dr. Greger has nothing to gain. All the proceeds generated from NutritionFacts.org and “How Not to Die” go to charity. If that still doesn’t convince the naysayers, the tome is indeed large enough to literally beat them over the head with the science, due in part to its massive 149 page bibliography.

It is early days yet, but “How Not to Die” will stand the test of time as a work of practical science. There simply isn’t anyone else out there putting in the countless hours of research and study independent of profit motive or industry interest. This may be the book to bring to the mainstream the evidence for plant-based eating, once and for all.

“How Not To Die” would be the life’s work of many lesser scholars, but I get the feeling Dr. Greger is just getting started.

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