How Not To Die Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: How Not To Die delivers a template for extending your life based on scientific research which recommends switching to a mainly plant-based diet.

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Chances are, you’ve been on a diet at some point in your life or someone close to you has. Diet programs are everywhere, and many tout that within a few weeks you’ll be able to drop amazing amounts of weight. Have you ever thought about how overly concerned with the number on the scale instead of overall health? Shouldn’t we make dietary choices based on health outcomes rather than just how we look in the mirror? After all, there is more to health than just weight.

Research shows that what you eat has a lot to do with not just your overall health but the length of your life. Did you know that the number one cause of premature death is a poor diet? Changing your diet can protect you from diseases like heart disease and even cancer. And don’t worry, there aren’t any juice-fasts or crazy programs involved. Living longer is just as easy as shifting your diet to be more plant-based

In How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease, author Michael Greger delves into the science of exactly what diet can help you live longer. He’s a physician, author, and he’s behind the popular site He uses up-to-date research to explain how the plant-based diet is proven to not only extend your life but improve your quality of living. Using scientific evidence, he cuts through all the contradictory diet advice to give you a simple, actionable plan that will transform your life from the inside out. 

Here are 3 great lessons I took away from this book:

  1. Poor diet is a huge problem the medical industry often ignores. 
  2. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will protect you from disease and extend your life. 
  3. In addition to the plant-based diet, exercise daily to live a long, healthy life.

Are you ready to live to a ripe old age and still be healthy? Let’s learn!

How Not To Die Summary

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Lesson 1: The medical industry often ignores the biggest health problem of all which is poor diet.

People are now living longer than they used to, but does that mean they live healthier? Not necessarily. In a study of 42,000 people 100 years and older autopsied after death, researches found the vast majority died with a chronic disease. So we may be living longer, but we are more likely to die of disease than of old age. The biggest culprit behind the increase of chronic disease over the years is diet. 

The “Nutritional Update for Physicians” in 2013 said that a typical American diet full of dairy, meat, eggs, and processed foods puts people at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and more. A study showed that when Japanese-Americans adopted a US diet, they had the same risk of having a heart attack at 40 as their counterparts in Japan did at age 60. 

Some research even suggests that diet can be more effective than drugs. In one study, doctors put patients who had advanced heart disease on a diet that was plant-based, hoping to slow the progression of the disease. It didn’t just slow down, but it actually reversed, as plaque buildup in the arteries started to dissolve. 

Lesson 2: Adopt a diet full of whole fruits and vegetables will prevent disease and prolong your life.

Okay so now that you understand the importance of having a healthy diet, let’s get down to the details of what to eat.

First, a healthy diet should consist of four servings of fruit, one of which should be berries. Fruit has been shown to improve lung function and decrease the risk of COPD. The antioxidants in fruit limit cell damage and reduce inflammation. Don’t worry about sugar; Greger says that the fiber and nutrients combat the effects of fructose. Berries have the highest amount of antioxidants and are especially important for their immune-boosting qualities and cancer-fighting abilities. 

Eating vegetables is also vital. Whole veggies protect the telomeres on DNA, which keeps cells healthy as they age and divide. They aid liver and lung functioning and even cut your risk of certain cancers.

Greger recommends five servings of veggies a day. Two should be leafy greens and one should be a cruciferous veggie like broccoli or cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables produce sulforaphane, which is an anti-inflammatory molecule with cancer-fighting properties. Dark leafy greens have the most nutrition per calorie of any food. 

In addition to fruits and veggies, Greger teaches that other essential foods you should be including as much as possible in your diet are: whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and herbs.

Lesson 3: Exercising will help you reap the most benefits from the plant-based diet.

Adopting the plant-based diet will do wonders for you down the road. But if you really want the recipe for a long and healthy life, combine it with regular exercise.

Society’s shift to a more sedentary lifestyle has been horrible for our health. A lifestyle with less movement in it is another major killer. A study following 100,000 people who were sedentary for six or more hours per day found they were 20 percent more likely to die than people who were sedentary for three hours or less.   

To stay healthy, you should engage in 90 minutes of moderate exercise or 40 minutes of intense exercise each day. Examples of moderate activities are walking quickly, hiking, or swimming. Vigorous activities can be things like soccer, weight training, or tennis.

If this time commitment sounds intimidating, Greger says something is better than nothing. Just walking for an hour every day can reduce your mortality rate by a whopping 24 percent!

How Not To Die Review

How Not to Die highlights a huge pitfall in Western Medicine today: the tendency to immediately turn to drugs rather than changing diet. Greger explains the problems with the system and goes in-depth on what the research really says about nutrition. Eating whole foods doesn’t just prevent disease, in some cases, it can actually reverse it and adds years to your life.

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Who would I recommend the How Not To Die summary to?

The 35-year-old with a family history of colon cancer, the 67-year-old with heart disease, and anyone who wants to live a healthier, longer life.

Last Updated on December 5, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.