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Littler Books cover of How Not to Die Summary

How Not to Die Summary and Quotes

Michael Greger and Gene Stone

4.3 minutes to read • Updated May 22, 2024

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What it's about in one sentence:

“Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease”

Bullet Point Summary

  1. A poor diet is identified as the leading cause of premature death, often overlooked by the medical industry.
  2. Many individuals are living longer but not necessarily healthier lives. Autopsy studies reveal that a significant number of people who lived past 100 died from diseases rather than old age, despite appearing healthy.
  3. The primary culprit of unnatural deaths is the typical American diet, high in meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods, which increases the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic ailments.
  4. The American medical profession lacks nutritional knowledge, with only a quarter of medical schools offering a nutrition course, showing a decline over the past few decades. Efforts to introduce nutritional training for physicians have faced opposition, and doctors are often inclined to prescribe drugs rather than address dietary issues.
  5. Due to the influence of the medical industry, the United States accounts for one-third of all prescription medication spending in the world, and around 70% of Americans take prescription drugs regularly.
  6. Research shows that individuals who transitioned from being vegetarians for 12 years to consuming meat once a week experienced a decrease in life expectancy by 3.6 years.
  7. Cultures following plant-based diets exhibit significantly lower disease rates compared to modern American society.
    1. The comprehensive long-term China-Cornell-Oxford Project studied the dietary habits of rural Chinese populations and found an inverse relationship between plant-based diets and the prevalence of heart disease.
    2. In Guizhou province, where animal-based food consumption was minimal, no deaths among men under 65 were attributed to coronary disease.
  8. The human body has remarkable self-healing capabilities under favorable conditions. Within approximately 15 years of quitting smoking, a person can have lungs as healthy as if they had never smoked.
  9. Plant-based diets can reverse diseases. Medical researchers placed patients with advanced heart disease on plant-based diets, aiming to slow disease progression. Remarkably, the patients didn't just experience a slowdown in heart disease but witnessed a reversal of the disease, including the dissolution of arterial plaque.
  10. US healthcare prefers to prescribe medications rather than promote dietary changes, despite the potential risks and side effects associated with drugs.
  11. Fruits, particularly berries, play a crucial role in boosting the immune system and fighting cancer, and preventing liver and brain diseases. Research suggests that a healthy diet with four daily servings of fruit, including berries, can have significant health benefits.
  12. Fruits, due to its rich antioxidant content, improve lung function and decrease the risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The antioxidants present in fruits help limit cellular damage and reduce inflammation in the body.
  13. Avoid fruit juice. It has high amounts of added sugar, increasing the risk of conditions like type-2 diabetes. Natural sugar in fruits does not pose the same health risks as added sugars and can balance insulin spikes caused by high-glycemic index foods (e.g., white bread). The fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients (chemical compounds that help to resist fungi, bacteria and plant virus infections) in fruits can counteract the negative effects of fructose.
  14. Berries are second only to herbs and spices as the most antioxidant-rich foods. A serving of blackberries has more than 10 times the units of antioxidants than a serving of apples.
  15. Research shows that consuming a variety of vegetables contributes to preventing life-threatening diseases and promoting longevity.
  16. Whole vegetables, in contrast to processed ones, have been found to protect cellular telomeres, which are nucleotide "caps" that safeguard DNA as cells divide and age. Certain vegetables like broccoli and cabbage can enhance liver and lung function while reducing the risk of lymphoma and prostate cancer.
  17. In a ten-day experiment, a group of smokers who consumed 25 times more broccoli than the average American showed 41% fewer DNA mutations in their blood compared to the smokers who did not eat broccoli.
  18. Kale reduces cholesterol levels. A study involving men with high cholesterol found that drinking three to four shots of kale juice daily for three months led to a significant reduction in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol.
  19. Consume five servings of vegetables each day. Two being leafy greens like kale, arugula, and chard. One being cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower. The remaining two servings being vegetables like carrots, beets, and mushrooms.
  20. Cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, a potentially powerful anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting molecule. These vegetables are best consumed raw since heat can destroy the enzyme that activates sulforaphane.
  21. Dark leafy greens contain the most nutrients per calorie among all foods. Blend them in a smoothie if you don't like them.
  22. A serving of beans or legumes is recommended with every meal. They lower bad cholesterol and provide animal-free protein along with other benefits like fiber.
    1. Non-processed beans are preferred (e.g., tempeh, whole beans) over processed beans (e.g., tofu).
    2. Lentils regulate blood sugar levels and offer prebiotics that benefit digestion.
    3. Canned beans are fine as long as they have low sodium.
  23. Whole grains reduce the risks of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity and strokes. Research shows that people live longer when they eat whole grains.
    1. The more colorful the grain, the more antioxidants it contains.
    2. Products labeled “multi-grain” or “stone-ground” are not whole grains.
  24. One global research shows that insufficient consumption of nuts and seeds is the third leading dietary risk for death and disability.
  25. A serving of brazil nuts can lower cholesterol levels more effectively than statins.
  26. Nuts and seeds contain phytates, which reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and increase bone density.
  27. Research shows people don't gain weight from nuts and seeds despite their high calorie count. The body doesn't absorb all of the fat and the nuts boost metabolism.
  28. Chia, hemp, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower are good examples of healthy seeds. You can incorporate seeds into salad dressings and sauces.
  29. Walnuts are one of the most nutritious nuts and have lots of omega-3. Pistachios can serve as a substitute for Viagra.
  30. Herbs and spices combat diseases (especially cancer), and contain the most antioxidants of all food groups.
  31. A study found saffron improves cognitive functions.
  32. Spices like cloves, cinnamon, oregano, and nutmeg inhibit monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that can trigger depression.
  33. Black pepper helps with turmeric absorption. Both black pepper and turmeric are widely used in Indian curry powder, that's potentially why Indian women have much lower rates of colorectal cancer and lung cancer (10x and 17x, respectively) than US women.
  34. People with gallstones and kidney stones should be cautious with turmeric consumption, as it can stimulate the gallbladder and contain oxalates that may contribute to kidney stone formation.
  35. Aim for at least five 12-ounce servings of daily beverages.
  36. Water is the best beverage choice for overall health, and it should be the primary source of hydration.
  37. Water can be obtained from various sources, including fruits and vegetables.
  38. Coffee, when consumed in moderation, can have positive effects on the liver and brain. Drinking more than two cups of coffee per day is associated with a reduced risk of chronic liver issues and suicide.
  39. Tea, particularly hibiscus tea, has shown medicinal benefits, such as lowering blood pressure in prehypertensive patients.
  40. Soda, beer, and milk are not recommended. Milk has links to prostate cancer.
  41. Moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women, two for men) may have benefits for heart disease if you have a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, but it is also correlated with an increased risk of cancer.
  42. Sleep and stress-management are important to maintaining your health.
  43. Being sedentary for six hours or more increases your risk of death by 20%.
  44. America's sedentary habits is a contributor to two-thirds of adults being overweight and the tripling of childhood obesity in the last 30 years.
  45. The recommended daily exercise duration is 90 minutes of moderate activity (e.g., hiking, fast walking, swimming) or 40 minutes of intense exercise (e.g., basketball, weight training, tennis).

How Not to Die: Resources