Everything you need to know about “How Not to Die”


“How Not to Die” is the New York Times bestselling book by Dr Michael Greger, a renowned medical doctor, lecturer and founder of the website “NutritionFacts.org”. Dr Greger has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the relationship between diet and disease and educating people about health and nutrition.

His website NutritionFacts.org is updated daily with evidence-backed reviews of the latest scientific research in the health industry. In his book “How Not to Die” he explains the importance of nutrition in maintaining physical and mental health and describes how nutrition can have a bigger impact than medicine in preventing diseases such as heart disease, cancer and type II diabetes. After outlining the 15 most prevalent life-threatening diseases in America he discusses the scientific evidence surrounding the influence of dietary factors on these diseases. To culminate, he provides practical advice for improving the quality of your diet. The book encompasses a huge range of scientific studies and therefore makes for a lengthy read. The following list comprises some of the important messages you may want to bear in mind if you aspire to lead a long and healthy life.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle factors contribute heavily to the incidence of many life-threatening diseases. The 15 most common causes of death in America are; heart disease, lung cancer, brain disease, infectious diseases, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, blood cancer, kidney disease, breast cancer, suicide, prostate cancer and iatrogenic causes. These diseases -primarily heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, lung disease, brain disease, digestive cancers and liver disease- are all related to nutrition and lifestyle and therefore can be prevented. The average American diet is deficient in natural, plant-based wholefoods and high in processed foods. In addition, most of the population leads a sedentary lifestyle. The prevalence of these chronic nutrition-related diseases has increased drastically with the dramatic changes in dietary patterns and activity levels. This has also been exemplified in China where the transition of the population’s plant-based diet to a more processed diet higher in animal products correlated with an increase in chronic diseases including obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Scientific evidence consistently demonstrates that these diseases can be prevented by not smoking, being a healthy weight, getting at least half an hour of exercise a day and eating more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains and less meat.


Plant-based wholefoods

A healthy diet comprises plant-based wholefoods and there are only positive health benefits to eating these foods. A wholefood plant-based diet is repeatedly proven to be the best diet for preventing and treating the aforementioned diseases. Dr. Greger promotes “an evidence-based diet” which coincidentally is an unprocessed vegan diet. Apart from in cases of allergies or excessive consumption there has been no evidence to suggest that consuming fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, beans and pulses has negative health consequences. Instead, there is an abundance of evidence and research establishing and elucidating the power of biological compounds found in plant foods.


The pharmaceutical industry is driven by the profits generated from selling drugs and supplements.  


Pharmaceutical industry

Medicines and dietary supplements are sold by the pharmaceutical industry in the same way that food is sold by the food industry and clothes are sold by the fashion industry. Pharmaceutical companies largely depend on making profits from the products they sell. Moreover, these companies have the capacity to advertise their products and create a place for them on the market. Plant foods, however, have no means to advertise their huge range of health benefits; and the companies researching and promoting the power of plant foods receive little funding or publicity.


Not all doctors are nutritionists

Doctors receive limited nutritional training during medical school. While they are educated in treating the consequences of diseases with medications, they do not receive adequate training in preventing diseases with diet and lifestyle influences. Although doctors are fully aware of the risk factors associated with diseases, the nutritional advice they provide remains inconsistent. Some doctors recommend low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss whilst others believe low-fat diets are more effective. In general, there is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of these conventional diets and they tend to be targeted towards weight loss rather than disease prevention. The responsibility to connect with your body, eat healthily and stay nourished and energised lies with you.


Eating a nutritious plant-based wholefood diet is as easy as following a simple checklist


Easy as a simple checklist

After describing the numerous positive effects of the compounds present in plant foods, Dr. Greger provides a set of guidelines to follow that will enable you to apply his principles and improve your health. He condenses his research down to a list known as “Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen” which summarises the foods you should eat and the exercise you should carry out daily in order to protect yourself from chronic diseases and promote longevity. The list is available online for anyone to follow and can be downloaded as an App on which items can be checked off. Another helpful tool endorsed by Dr. Greger is Lighter.world.com, a website which allows you to personalise meal plans and shopping lists according to experts’ dietary recommendations. If you are keen to improve your diet but are unsure of where to start, these tools will make learning about which foods to eat, where to buy them and how to prepare them quick and easy. By taking the time to nourish and move your body you can vastly improve your health, your wellbeing and keep preventable diseases at bay.



+ Words: Yasmin Razzaque

Yasmin Razzaque is a Biochemistry graduate with a keen interest in health and nutrition. She uses her scientific knowledge and ability to critically analyse research to write articles about healthy and sustainable eating and wellbeing.

Instagram: @yasminsophiya