Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 25s.
Every once in a while, a book comes along that completely changes how you think and feel about a certain topic. Even as someone who reads quite a few books—I finish two or three a week—these books are rare.
Here are a few examples of books that have changed my outlook on a topic (I’d love to hear yours in the comments):
- Getting Things Done (changed how I thought about productivity)
- The Power of Habit (habits)
- Influence (psychology and marketing)
- Linchpin (individuality)
- Happy City (city design)
- Superintelligence (artificial intelligence)
In my view, a good book takes a topic you thought you knew, and explores it with a level of depth and curiosity that is unparalleled, and often from a perspective you hadn’t considered before.
The other week, I came across another one of these books, and it changed how I thought about food. That book, How Not to Die, is one of the best books I’ve read, and if you want to die later, you should pick up a copy.
Food has a profound influence over how long we live—and the book explores which foods have been scientifically proven to help us live the longest. In my view, that’s what makes the book so great: it starts with the hard science around food, and then works backward to what we should eat every day. The author, Michael Greger, and his team pored over thousands of research papers on which foods help us live the longest. This isn’t a book about some corny 10-step diet plan; it’s a book about how to live as long as possible.
Time is the most limited resource we have—this is what makes productivity valuable. If we had an unlimited amount of time, productivity would be pointless. The fact that we can earn back time by changing what we eat is remarkable.
The book is broken down into two parts:
- Part One: How Not to Die. These 15 chapters go over all of the research—in plain English—around the profound effect food has on the major causes of death, including: heart disease, lung disease, brain disease, digestive cancers, infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, blood cancer, kidney disease, breast cancer, suicidal depression, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and doctor-related causes. This section is a lot more entertaining than you’d expect.
- Part Two: What to Eat. Here, the author connects this research to what we should eat every day. His recommendations are relatively simple. At the risk of simplifying this 144-paged section too much, the book suggests we should eat as many unprocessed plant foods as possible, while eating a reduced amount of animal foods and processed plant foods if we want to live longer. We should steer clear of everything else—processed animal and ultra-processed plant foods included.
This means getting what Greger calls the “Daily Dozen.” They are:
- Beans (3 small portions)
- Berries (1 portion)
- Other fruits (3 portions)
- Cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts—1 portion)
- Greens (2 portions)
- Other vegetables (2 portions)
- Flaxseeds (1 portion)
- Nuts and seeds (1 portion)
- Herbs and spices (especially turmeric)
- Whole grains (3 portions)
- Water (5 glasses)
This list might look daunting, but you can often tick several of the boxes at once—for example, a smoothie with greens, vegetables, spices, flax, and berries, can check off about half of these boxes.
It’s hard to condense a 500-page book into a blog article, and it’s unlikely that this overview will motivate you to change anything. It probably wouldn’t have for me—because unless I really know why I need to make a change, I won’t make it. But the book will give you that understanding. It’s no wonder this book is so highly rated on Amazon.
If you want to live longer, and you want to know which foods will help you get there, you should buy this book. If you’re anything like me, this book could quite possibly add decades to your life. Given how valuable your time is, that’s $20 well spent.