Lillian Wilson

How Not to Die by Michael Greger

Learn how to ward off chronic diseases via diet with a comprehensive read – 'How Not to Die'.

‘How Not to Die’ by Michael Greger; A Book Review
"Absolutely the best book I’ve read on nutrition and diet" 
– Dan Buettner, author of 'The Blue Zones Solution'

Surprisingly, the number one cause of premature death can not only be attributed to accidents or genetic factors but also to a poor diet. The good news is that making changes to what we eat can provide powerful protection against diseases like heart disease and cancer, ultimately extending our lifespans.

And the best part? There’s no need for juice fasts or extreme programs. Living a longer, healthier life can be as simple as shifting towards a more plant-based diet. Enter ‘How Not to Die‘ by Michael Greger, a book that delves into the profound impact of nutrition on our health and longevity. In this review, we will explore the valuable insights this book offers, highlighting the transformative potential of dietary choices in safeguarding our well-being and embracing a vibrant future.

Author’s background

Michael Greger is a renowned physician and author, who is dedicated to promoting evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle choices for optimal health and longevity.

He is a founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and, a non-profit website that provides free, science-based information on the latest in nutrition research.

What is the book about?

How Not to Die‘ is a book that provides comprehensive knowledge about health and longevity. It offers scientifically-based information on nutrition, physical activities, social connections, and proven knowledge to improve healthspan and quality of life.

The book also explores the role a plant-based diet rich in certain foods may play in helping to prevent, treat, and even reverse the fifteen leading causes of death which are ranging from stroke and heart attack to different cancer types.

The book emphasizes that the vast majority of premature deaths can be prevented with simple changes in what you eat and how you live. It also covers practical aspects of healthy eating and offers real-world tips for grocery shopping and meal planning.

The list of contents

  • Dedication
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Part 1
  • 1. How not to die from heart disease
  • 2. How not to die from lung diseases
  • 3. How not to die from brain diseases
  • 4. How not to die from digestive cancers
  • 5. How not to die from infections
  • 6. How not to die from diabetes
  • 7. How not to die from high blood pressure
  • 8, How not to die from liver diseases
  • 9, How not to die from blood cancers
  • 10. How not to die from kidney disease
  • 11. How not to die from breast cancer
  • 12. How not to die from suicidal depression
  • 13. How not to die from prostate cancer
  • 14. How not to die from Parkinson’s disease
  • 15. How not to die from iatrogenic causes
  • Part 2
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen
  • 3. Beans
  • 4. Berries
  • 5, Other fruits
  • 6. Cruciferous vegetables
  • 7. Greens
  • 8. Other vegetables
  • 9. Flaxseeds
  • 10. Nuts and seeds
  • 11. Herbs and spices
  • 12. Whole grains
  • 13. Beverages
  • 14. Exercise
  • 15. Conclusion
  • 16. Acknowledgements
  • 17. Appendix: Supplements
  • Notes
  • Index
  • About the authors
  • Copyright

Key takeaways from the book

1A plant-based diet is key in warding off diseases

Throughout the book, Dr. Gregg on real examples proves that a plant-based diet is a remedy for all kinds of diseases. For example, within just one year of eating healthier, patients in a study could drop their dose of asthma medication or get off their steroids and other drugs altogether. Objective measures like lung function and physical working capacity improved, meanwhile, subjectively, some patients said their improvements were so considerable that they felt like ‘they had a new life.’

2Medical treatment should not be overestimated

The book also suggests that there is an overconfidence in the power of pills and procedures for disease prevention, which may be one of the reasons doctors and patients undervalue diet and lifestyle interventions.

The book also points out that in 97% of cases, taking pills may not bring immediate results. It emphasizes that relying too much on medication and medical procedures for preventing diseases might cause people to overlook the importance of making changes in their diet and lifestyle.

3The role of sleep in disease prevention is invaluable

According to the book ‘How Not to Die‘, studies have shown that sleeping for around seven to eight hours a night is associated with the lowest risk of stroke and other chronic diseases. Higher stroke rates were found among individuals sleeping six hours or less, or nine hours or more.

4Exercising has a powerful impact on healthspan

According to the book ‘How Not to Die‘, exercise can help maintain healthy body weight, ward off and possibly reverse mild cognitive decline, boost the immune system, prevent and treat high blood pressure, and improve mood and quality of sleep, among many other benefits. Walking for at least 150 minutes a week can reduce the overall mortality rate by 7% compared to being sedentary, and walking for 300 minutes a week can drop overall mortality by 14%. An hour-long walk each day may reduce mortality by 24%. However, physical inactivity is not the biggest public health problem of the 21st century, and diet is by far our greatest killer, followed by smoking.

Overall rating & strengths and weaknesses according to readers’ reviews

The book has gotten 4.44 ⭐️ on GoodReads


  • Provides comprehensive and unbiased knowledge about health and longevity, with a focus on preventive health.

  • Includes Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, a list of foods and activities that can promote health and longevity.

  • Is easy and interesting to read as the author includes not only scientific facts and conclusions but also his patient’s stories.


  • Veganism is overly recommended: The author’s ultimate recommendation in the book is for everyone to adopt a vegan diet, although he avoids using the term explicitly. He categorizes all meat and animal products as ‘red light’ foods to be avoided entirely, which essentially aligns with veganism. However, a vegan diet may require supplementation of nutrients such as B12, vitamin D, and iodine, indicating that it may need more critical nutrients and more naturally sustainable with modern supplements.

  • Cherry-picked: The book has a vice of cherry-picking the research papers that suit the author’s point of view. The read would have been stronger and more trustworthy if Dr. Greger had addressed the counterpoints directly instead of omitting them.

Best quotes from ‘How Not to Die’

"The primary reason diseases tend to run in families may be that diets tend to run in families."
"With no serious downsides, a one-in-three potential benefit for end-stage cancer seems like it would spark further research, right? But who’s going to pay for a study of something that can’t be patented?" 
"Back in 1903, Thomas Edison predicted that the “doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of [the] human frame in diet and in the cause and prevention of diseases."

Final takeaway

How Not to Die‘ by Michael Greger provides valuable information on evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle choices for optimal health and longevity. The book emphasizes the role of a plant-based diet in preventing and treating various diseases, backed by scientific research from reputable sources.

While the book may have its biases and is not without its limitations, it provides plenty of material to make readers think critically and stay engaged in their pursuit of good health.

Readers who want to learn more about life changes that are capable to improve one’s healthspan and are open to being challenged and willing to fact-check when they have doubts will benefit greatly from Greger’s passionate and imperfect work.

Where to buy

You may purchase ‘How Not to Die on Amazon at the best price. It is available in Kindle, paperback, and audio versions, so you are free to choose the format that suits you best.

Healthypedia FAQ

The book encourages individuals to incorporate more whole, unprocessed plant foods into their meals while minimising the consumption of meat and animal products. The focus is on adopting a balanced and nutritionally-rich approach that prioritizes the health benefits of plant-based foods.

No, 'How Not to Die' does not promote extreme or complicated programs. The book offers practical and actionable advice that can be easily incorporated into everyday life. It provides guidance on making healthier food choices, offers meal planning tips, and suggests lifestyle modifications that are sustainable and realistic for long-term success. The focus is on gradual changes that can lead to significant improvements in health and well-being.

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