Our journey to a whole foods plant based diet began with a phone call last October. I’d been feeling rather run down physically and thought I’d get some words of wisdom from my niece, Melissa. She runs a virtual franchise for Juice Plus+ and has helped scores of people realize significant gains in health and vitality through lifestyle changes combined with use of her products. Her husband and two children join her in whole foods plant based eating, and Melissa reports that they rarely get sick. Wow!
In the course of our conversation, Melissa mentioned Dr. Michael Greger, MD and his New York Times bestselling book, How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. I was intrigued and made a quick trip to the library to check it out.
The book is divided in two sections. The first section reviews the 15 leading causes of death in the United States: heart disease, lung disease, brain diseases, digestive cancers, infections, diabetes, hypertension, liver diseases, blood cancers, kidney disease, breast cancer, suicidal depression, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and iatrogenic causes (e.g., hospital-acquired infections, medical errors, side effects from prescription drugs). For each disease, he provides nutritional strategies that minimize one’s risk of an untimely demise. While the particulars vary somewhat by condition, the message “Eat a whole foods plant based diet!” shines through consistently.
Part II provides detailed recommendations for daily eating habits. These habits are informed by the findings in Part I and are designed to yield the requisite vital nutrients and maximize health-promoting benefits. Frankly, given the degree to which my head was spinning after reading Part I, I was delighted that he transformed all of his research into a simple set of instructions. I’ve summarized his recommendations in the attached one-page document and created a simple check list to track weekly consumption.
Note that neither Dr. Greger nor Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University is big on vitamin supplementation with two notable exceptions:
- Vitamin B12: Meat, milk, and eggs are the primary sources of Vitamin B12 in the American diet. Dr. Thomas Campbell recommends a daily dose of B12 (usually 100 mcg) for adults following a whole foods plant based diet. (See 12 Questions Answered Regarding Vitamin B12.)
- Vitamin D: Our bodies have the ability to manufacture Vitamin D given exposure to the midday sun (between 10am to 3pm) on the arms and legs for 30 minutes at least twice weekly. If the climate or one’s schedule proves inhospitable to that regimen, then some supplementation might make sense. (See Shining a Light on Vitamin D.)
In addition to a daily dose of wholesome food, vitamins, and exercise, Dr. Greger says: “We need to make each day count by filling it with fresh air, laughter, and love.” Now that’s a recipe for good health!
For the latest research on nutrition, check out the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies for an impressive array of blog posts and Dr. Greger’s NutritionFacts.org for an equally impressive array of videos.