At the beginning of the year, book stores are overwhelmed by new releases promoting weight loss. For most people, “losing weight” tops their list of New Year’s resolutions and the publishing industry is ready to help. I’ve been reading these weight loss books for more years than I care to admit, and have seen a wide variety of trends being promoted; I’ve tried many of them with varying degrees of success.
But at this point in my life, losing weight no longer tops my list of New Year’s resolutions. That’s not to say I don’t, like the majority of Americans, have a few pounds to lose. Rather, I’m starting to experience the aches and pains that go along with aging, and feeling better has become a higher priority than looking better. Having recently watched both of my parents suffer through and eventually succumb to debilitating illnesses, living a longer and healthier life has become an even more important concern.
How Not to Die sets out to help us do exactly that—live healthier lives while evading the illnesses that are the leading causes of premature death in the US. Dr. Michael Greger is the founder of the immensely popular website Nutritionfacts.org, a nonprofit science-based public service which provides free daily videos and articles on the latest in nutrition research. Gene Stone has written a number of books on plant-based nutrition, including the #1 New York Times best-seller Forks Over Knives. The two have joined to examine the 15 leading causes of death in this country—illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and others—and to determine what actions each of us can take to lower our chances of becoming ill. By following Dr. Greger’s advice, all of it backed by detailed scientific evidence, we can learn which foods to eat, which foods to avoid, and what lifestyle changes to make to help prevent and fight these diseases and to live longer.
In the book’s first section, each chapter studies a specific disease and lays out the research that shows what we might be able to do to lessen our chances of falling ill. For example, in “How Not to Die from Heart Disease” (this nation’s top killer) we learn that heart disease is both preventable and reversible with a plant-based diet, and that consuming even small amounts of Brazil nuts can have a lasting impact in lowering cholesterol levels. In “How Not to Die from Digestive Cancers,” Dr. Greger explains that adding just a small amount of turmeric to even one meal per day may decrease the size and number of colon polyps by more than half in a hereditary form of colorectal cancer. And in “How Not to Die from Prostate Cancer” we learn that we should consume less milk but add flax seed to our diet whenever possible. Scattered throughout this section are sidebars examining research into issues such as “Red Wine versus White” (neither is better than the other, but simply eating grapes is best) and “Exercise versus Anti-Depressants” (exercise was proven to be more effective at treating depression).
The book’s second section lays out Dr. Greger’s “Daily Dozen” checklist of foods and activities we should incorporate into our daily routines if we want to avoid these illnesses. Dr. Greger provides practical advice for making the recommended changes, and all of his claims are backed by the latest research in nutritional science. His humorous and engaging style makes this an entertaining read while being deeply informative.