The simple truth is that most doctors are good at treating acute illnesses but not so good at preventing chronic disease. The fifteen leading causes of premature death—illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, and others—claim the lives of 1.6 million Americans annually. This doesn’t have to be the case.
In Dr. Michael Greger’s book, How Not to Die, there’s lots of advice, all of it backed up by strong scientific evidence, to help you live better and longer. You will learn which foods to eat and which lifestyle habits to change in order to prevent or fight the leading deadly diseases.
If there is a history of prostate cancer in your family, put down that glass of milk and add flaxseed to your diet. If you have high blood pressure, hibiscus tea can work better than a leading hypertensive drug — and without the side effects. What about liver disease? Drinking coffee can reduce liver inflammation. Battling breast cancer? Consuming soy is associated with prolonged survival. Worried about heart disease (our #1 killer)? Switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet, which has been repeatedly shown not just to help prevent the disease, but arrest and even reverse it.
In addition to showing what to eat to help treat the top fifteen causes of death, How Not to Die includes Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen — a checklist of the twelve foods we should consume every day. Full of practical, actionable advice and surprising, cutting-edge nutritional science, these doctor’s orders are just what we need to live longer, healthier lives. Here is his list of 12:
By beans, he means legumes, which comprise all the different kinds of beans, including soybeans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils. While eating a bowl of pea soup or dipping carrots into hummus may not seem like eating beans, it is. You should try to get three servings a day. A serving is defined as a quarter cup of hummus or bean dip; a half cup of cooked beans, split peas, lentils, tofu, or tempeh; or a full cup of fresh peas or sprouted lentils. Though peanuts are technically legumes, nutritionally, I’ve grouped them into the Nuts category. (Grace O has some delicious recipes with beans — Pineapple Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Lentil Soup are just two of them.)
A serving of berries is a half cup of fresh or frozen, or a quarter cup of dried. While biologically speaking, avocados, bananas, and even watermelons are technically berries, Dr. Greger uses the colloquial term for any small edible fruit, which includes kumquats and grapes (and raisins) in this category, as well as fruits that are typically thought of as berries but aren’t technically, such as blackberries, cherries, mulberries, raspberries, and strawberries. (See Grace O’s recipes for Almond-Blueberry Gelatin Parfaits, Summer Berry Salad, and Blueberry Hemp-Milk Smoothies.)
Common cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, collards, and kale. Dr. Greger recommends at least one serving a day (typically a half cup) and at least two additional servings of greens a day, cruciferous or otherwise. (Try Grace O’s Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry.)
Serving sizes for other greens and vegetables are a cup for raw, leafy vegetables, a half cup for other raw or cooked vegetables, and a quarter cup for dried mushrooms.
A serving of whole grains can be considered a half cup of hot cereal such as oatmeal, cooked grain such as rice (including the “pseudograins” amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa), cooked pasta, or corn kernels; a cup of ready-to-eat (cold) cereal; one tortilla or slice of bread; half a bagel or English muffin; or 3 cups of popped popcorn.
A serving of a medium-sized fruit, a cup of cut-up fruit, or a quarter cup of dried fruit.
A quarter cup of nuts is considered a serving, or 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butters, including peanut butter. Chestnuts and coconuts don’t nutritionally count as nuts. (Read more about the benefits of nuts in Grace O’s blog.)
Everyone should try to incorporate one tablespoon of ground flaxseed into his or her daily diet, in addition to a serving of nuts or other seeds. (See Dr. Mark Rosenberg’s four top seeds that fight the diseases of aging for more information.)
Dr. Greger recommends ¼ teaspoon of the spice turmeric, along with any other herbs and salt-free spices you may enjoy. (See Dr. Mark Rosenberg’s top list of spices with health benefits.)
The serving size in the beverage category is one glass (12 ounces), and the recommended 5 glasses a day is in addition to the water you get naturally from foods.
Finally, Dr. Greger recommends one daily “serving” of exercise, which can be split up over the day. He suggests 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as a brisk (4 miles per hour) walk, or 40 minutes of rigorous activity, such as jogging or active sports, each day.
Dr. Gregor M.D. is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. He runs the popular website NutritionFacts.org, a nonprofit, science based public service providing free daily videos and articles on the latest in nutrition research. Dr. Gregor also proudly serves as the director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.
Watch the video below of Dr. Gregor discussing his book, How Not To Die