“Eat to live, don’t live to eat” goes a popular adage. Thanks to junk-food giants and a strong pharma lobby, a healthy diet is probably the ‘medicine’ we ignore. “How not to Die” by Dr. Micheal Gregor urges the reader to view lifestyle and diet as a path overcome diseases and conditions that gnaw on our health, wellbeing and maybe our life itself.
The life changing magic of nutrition is something that Dr. Gregor has experienced in his personal life when his 65-year old grandmother, changed her diet and lifestyle, and miraculously battled severe cardiac issues. This led him deeper into the role of nutrition not only in preventing but also reversing lifestyle diseases.
He views lifestyle and diet as a path overcome the diseases and conditions that steal away our health, wellbeing and maybe life. The book is really heavy on research. It has a huge bank of references and sometimes that might just make it difficult to navigate. But, there are some immensely useful takeaways that are super helpful.
How Not to Die urges the reader to adopt a plant and whole-food based diet. The first half of the book has detailed information about common lifestyle diseases. Each condition gets a chapter to itself and this section takes you through nutritional and lifestyle causes as well as remedies for these conditions. The other half of the book is more practical and outlines key nutritional solutions. These are quite easy to adapt. In that sense, this is an actionable book that will give you plenty to chew on!
The Daily Dozen
I found this section the most relevant and if there is just one part of the book you have time to read, let it be thus! As the name suggests, this is a list of foods you must have daily. Pin up the daily dozen on the fridge if you must!
This is a list of foods (with their specified servings) that you must include in the daily diet. These include: 2 servings of beans, 1 of berries, 3 fruits, 1 serving of veggies from the cruciferous family, 2 greens, 2 potions of other veggies, 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds, 1 serving of nuts, 1 of spices, 3 of whole grains, 5 ‘beverages’, and 1 of exercise.
Sounds like a lot? Come to think of it, the daily dozen can fit in your meal plans in such as a way that varied elements from the daily dozen can be combined into a single meal. Bean dip with veggie sticks and flaxseed sprinkled over it? You’ve got three elements covered already! Bonus advantage- you’ll end up planning meals better!
There are many takeaways sprinkled through the book. A lot of it may seem common sense, because it is. But the truth is that we tend to ignore these simple principles. “You should eat more fruits and vegetables as if your life depends on it, because it does” says Dr. Gregor. He also recommends drinking at least 5 glasses of tap water a day. With respect to exercise, it is 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (such bicycling, dancing, walking briskly and so on) or 40 minutes of intense activity (such as basketball, swimming laps, running and so on) daily.
“Wrong food changes your brain chemistry as well” he reiterates, showing just how important food is. The research studies he enumerates add a deep layer of authenticity to the book. Another theme that comes through strongly is the debate between “Big Pharma and Big Broccoli” as he puts it. Have we ever thought that all the medicines and the supplements we are told to take might just be the result of lobbying? Why don’t doctors talk much about nutrition and the magical effects good food can have on us? This is an ongoing debate, but it is interesting to read about his take on it. As he says, “A doctor a day may keep the apples away”!
Read this book if you want a deeper and more nuanced insight into the big picture that concerns our health. It is a book that aims to arm you with knowledge and equip you to make the right food choice. “I don’t mind dying. I just don’t want it to be my fault” says Dr. Kim Williams, American College of Cardiology, quoted in the book. It does ring true! You may as well do yourself a favour and eat healthy, and prevent many of these diseases, maybe even reverse it!