I just finished reading How Not To Diet by Dr. Michael Greger. It took me a while – it’s packed with information. There’s something for everyone.
The main content is over 500 pages, and according to my Kindle, you’re only halfway through the book before you hit the endnotes. The sheer volume of notes is a testament to the number of studies cited.
Dr. Greger is a physician, New York Times best-selling author, teacher and international speaker. He is licensed as a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition and is a founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. I often refer to his website NutritionFacts.org for science-based nutrition guidance. I also enjoyed reading his book How Not To Die. He’s one of my favorite resources.
His latest book doesn’t disappoint. He shares valuable information in a clear and accessible manner, peppered with humor and wit. I have read numerous books on diet, health, and plant-based nutrition, yet I found plenty of details to pique my interest in this book. I highlighted over 400 notes.
While I won’t share all 400 notes – that would be crazy – here are 57 highlights I found particularly interesting.
Page 8 · Location 160
It’s not only what we eat but how and when.
I. The Problem
The Consequences > Page 56 · Location 1434
Keep your waist less than half your height.
II. Ingredients for the Ideal Weight-Loss Diet
High in Fiber-Rich Foods > Page 124 · Location 3225
It’s not what you eat but what you absorb, so you can lose more weight on a high – fiber diet eating the exact same number of calories simply because some of those calories get trapped and never make it into your system.
Low in Added Fat > Page 160 · Location 4087
So saturated plant fats like coconut oil not only join animal fats in increasing heart disease risk but may also play a role in the obesity epidemic.
Low in Added Fat > Page 163 · Location 4157
…high intake of saturated fat “might dampen motivation for physical activity.”
Low in Addictive Foods > Page 177 · Location 4525
The “sweet tooth” link to obesity may be more of a “sweet – fat tooth.”
Low in Addictive Foods > Page 177 · Location 4529
In nature, while there are foods that contain sugar (like fruit) and foods that contain fat (like nuts), sugar and fat rarely occur in the same food naturally.
Low in Addictive Foods > Page 177 · Location 4543
…dozens of foods were ranked based on reports of problematic, addictive – type behaviors from hundreds of individuals. The two most troublesome were high – fat, high – sugar combos: chocolate and ice cream.
Low in Calorie Density > Page 187 · Location 4763
Traditional grain-based diets represent what we’ve been eating for thousands of years before the Industrial Age, but if you go back millions of years to the dawn of humanity, we likely ate more like contemporary great apes, with whom our DNA still differs at most by only a few percent. This means a diet centered around leafy vegetables, shoots, roots, berries and other fruits, seeds, and nuts.
Low in Meat > Page 206 · Location 5201
What pregnant women eat and don’t eat doesn’t just help determine the child’s birth weight but their future adult weights.
Low Insulin Index > Page 217 · Location 5459
…thin person eating a low – carb diet can have the same level of fat in their blood that an obese person does.
Microbiome-Friendly > Page 225 · Location 5710
…there’s more life concentrated in our colons than anywhere else on Earth.
Microbiome-Friendly > Page 228 · Location 5792
What we eat affects not only what our gut microbes make but also which microbes exist.
Microbiome-Friendly > Page 232 · Location 5882
We’re slowly losing more and more of our microbes with every generation, placing some of our good bacteria at risk for extinction. It may be a case of use it or lose it.
Microbiome-Friendly > Page 234 · Location 5931
What we eat today can affect our microbiomes tomorrow.
Microbiome-Friendly > Page 242 · Location 6155
…by eating foods rich in prebiotics, in other words, increasing “whole plant food consumption,” we may select for and foster the growth of our own good bacteria.
Rich in Fruits and Vegetables > Page 247 · Location 6289
…the problems associated with fructose and sugar in general “come when they are added to foods.” Fruit, on the other hand, is not just harmless but described as “beneficial in almost any amount.”
Rich in Legumes > Page 254 · Location 6473
…meals featuring beans can disproportionally delay the return of hunger.
Rich in Legumes > Page 257 · Location 6539
Increasing diet quality appeared to work as well as decreasing diet quantity.
Satiating > Page 263 · Location 6677
Without sufficient fiber transporting nutrients all the way down our digestive tracts, we may never feel fully satiated.
III. The Optimal Weight-Loss Diet
Introduction > Page 272 · Location 6860
Lifelong weight control requires lifelong lifestyle changes.
Plant Yourself > Page 279 · Location 7009
The strategy is improving the quality of the food rather than restricting the quantity of the food.
Plant Yourself > Page 279 · Location 7023
Those who eat meat regularly may still benefit from eating more plants.
IV. Weight-Loss Boosters
Introduction > Page 291 · Location 7291
What we eat matters most, but how we eat and when can also make a difference.
Chronobiology > Page 319 · Location 8023
…it’s not just what we eat but when we eat. Because of our circadian rhythms — circadian coming from the Latin words for about and day — morning calories don’t appear to count as much as evening calories.
Chronobiology > Page 325 · Location 8169
…a calorie is not just a calorie. It depends on when it’s eaten.
Chronobiology > Page 331 · Location 8308
Our bodies just weren’t designed to handle food at night.
Eating Rate > Page 339 · Location 8519
…the human body doesn’t seem to register calories from liquids as well as it does calories from solid foods.
Eating Rate > Page 342 · Location 8596
Our bodies are built to expect us to take our time when eating.
Eating Rate > Page 346 · Location 8708
…eating without chewing seemed to register as little as not eating at all.
Exercise Tweaks > Page 367 · Location 9217
Easy gainers just don’t intuitively start moving more to compensate for the extra calories.
Exercise Tweaks > Page 368 · Location 9227
Just by subtly moving around more, your body can drain off as many calories as pounding it out an hour a day at the gym.
Exercise Tweaks > Page 369 · Location 9250
Sitting more than three hours a day may be responsible for more than four hundred thousand deaths every year worldwide.
Exercise Tweaks > Page 370 · Location 9292
…just because you’re sitting doesn’t mean you’re sedentary — just ask any cyclist or rower. The problem is sitting motionlessly.
Exercise Tweaks > Page 371 · Location 9303
…taking five – minute walking breaks every hour can prevent the stiffening of the arteries that comes with prolonged sitting.
Exercise Tweaks > Page 378 · Location 9489
“If exercise were a pill to burn body fat, it would be effective only when taken before breakfast.”
Habit Formation > Page 423 · Location 10715
There are two ways to break a bad habit: change the cue, or change the action.
Habit Formation > Page 434 · Location 10967
Cheating isn’t cheating if it’s baked into the plan. Those who prearrange to give themselves a certain number of passes every month to skip the gym or eat whatever they want can do so without deceiving themselves or inviting the wrath of the what – the – hell effect. Because it’s all just part of the plan.
Inflammation Quenchers > Page 443 · Location 11175
the single most pro-inflammatory food component is saturated fat. The single most anti-inflammatory food component? Fiber.
Intermittent Fasting > Page 451 · Location 11401
…weight loss doesn’t just slow our metabolisms — it boosts our appetites.
Intermittent Fasting > Page 452 · Location 11423
Sustainable weight loss is not about eating less food — it’s about eating better food.
Meal Frequency > Page 492 · Location 12488
Decreasing the number of times you consume calories a day, whether from dining, snacking, or drinking soda, juice, or the like, may help with weight control, especially if you’re eating junk. If you’re going to eat processed foods, tack them onto meals rather than having them as between-meal snacks.
Metabolic Boosters > Page 498 · Location 12634
Simply drinking a tall glass of water four times throughout the day would wipe out nearly one hundred extra calories, more than the calories burned by taking weight – loss doses of the now-banned ephedrine three times a day.
Metabolic Boosters > Page 500 · Location 12707
…plain water on an empty stomach may be best.
Sleep Enhancement > Page 518 · Location 13154
…sleep deprivation tends to lead people to overeat by about 180 – 560 calories a day.
Stress Hormone Relief > Page 525 · Location 13338
Under stress, we tend not only to eat more food but worse food, and we seem to deposit more fat in the worst place, in and around our abdominal organs.
Stress Hormone Relief > Page 528 · Location 13420
Exercise can have a powerful stress – buffering effect.
Stress Hormone Relief > Page 529 · Location 13439
…laughter can have an oversized effect on lowering stress.
Stress Hormone Relief > Page 538 · Location 13686
Five hundred men and women suffering from anxiety and depression were placed on a whole food, plant-based diet and lifestyle program. Most dropped out within the first two weeks because they felt the program was “too rigorous” for them. However, the majority of those who stuck with the program experienced substantial improvements in mood and a “large improvement or full remission” of anxiety symptoms
Stress Hormone Relief > Page 541 · Location 13766
It’s no surprise then that animal – protein intake during pregnancy may lead to greater weight gain for her children later in life, but remarkably, it may even impact her grandchildren.
Wall Off Your Calories > Page 545 · Location 13864
…it’s not what you eat but what you absorb. For some foods, the calorie count on the label may not accurately reflect the calories that make it into your bloodstream.
Wall Off Your Calories > Page 546 · Location 13883
The physical form of food can alter not only fat absorption but carbohydrate absorption as well.
Wall Off Your Calories > Page 548 · Location 13941
Just as our bodies weren’t designed to handle liquid calories, powdered grains also represent a novel challenge to our systems.
Wall Off Your Calories > Page 548 · Location 13942
Intact whole grains are superior to milled whole grains in the same way that whole grains are superior to refined grains.
Wall Off Your Calories > Page 550 · Location 13996
If there’s one recurring theme in this book, it’s wall off your calories.
Wall Off Your Calories > Page 555 · Location 14132
…only plants have cell walls. (Animals are made up of cells with fluid membranes, requiring bones to hold them up, whereas plants have rigid cell walls made out of fiber.)
Wall Off Your Calories > Page 556 · Location 14144
Eating whole grains is good, but eating whole-grain kernels is better.
For me, the main points I took from my reading include:
- Eat the bulk of my calories earlier in the day
- Avoid saturated fat – even if it’s plant-based – especially coconut oil
- Try to remain active while sitting – don’t stay seated for more than an hour
- Strive to drink two cups of water before each meal
- Intact grains are best
Dr. Greger summarizes his research with 21 Diet Tweaks. I encourage you to read How Not To Diet to discover which recommendations are meaningful to you. You can also track your progress with Dr. Greger’s free Daily Dozen App, which now includes his 21 Diet Tweaks.
I hope you have found this overview helpful. I debated sharing so many notes, but I wanted to demonstrate the depth and scope of Dr. Greger’s research. His book confirms the secret to dieting is not dieting at all. Instead, change what you eat and how and when you eat it.
Note: This page contains affiliate links. Veggie Primer may earn a commission if you use the links. I only recommend items/brands I use and trust.