“Nuts won’t save your life” – some common sense rethinking about healthy eating

I am feeling a bit devastated. I’ll explain why below.

But first, let me start out by saying I’m doing really well since recommitting to WFPB (whole food plant based) eating. Over the last 90 days I’ve lost 20 lb. I’ve lost 59 lb in all by eating WFPB over the last few years. My blood tests are amazing. My total cholesterol is down to 124 and my bad cholesterol, LDL, is down to 67. My HbA1c blood sugar is almost down to normal. My blood pressure is 116/67. I’m feeling great. I have more energy. Even my skin is clearer! I am “staying the course” and sticking with WFPB eating. I’m convinced it’s the healthiest diet, and the most suitable for me. My doctor is also impressed and says, “Just keep doing whatever you’re doing.” I’m even doing daily exercise!

A few months ago I bought the best book I ever read on health and nutrition, “How Not to Die” by Dr Michael Greger. It is so gripping and convincing I gifted the book to friends and relatives and have been talking it up all over the place. And reading the book jump-started me back on WFPB eating 90 days ago. It is that inspiring.

Over the last two weeks my weight loss has stalled. That’s not a big thing in and of itself. That’s not the cause of feeling devastated. I’ve had stalls before, even over the last 90 days. But the reason for this stall has led me to seriously rethink some premises in Greger’s book.

In particular, it has me rethinking nuts – part of Dr. Greger’s “Daily Dozen” in “How Not to Die.” He stresses how important they are to ensure you are absorbing the nutrients from your salads. He even claims they won’t hurt weight loss. I am thinking now that is just not true.

Right now I’m doing an experiment to see how much the nuts really do affect my weight by counting them very strictly, even when they’re in salads, despite the videos and claims of Dr. Greger saying they don’t count.

Because of Dr. Greger’s claims that the calories in nuts do not affect weight loss when added to green salads with no other healthy fats, I’ve not been logging the nut calories in my salads. I’ve not been counting them towards my daily 1800 calorie net calorie count. Yes, I know that seems strange (calories count whether you count them or not), but Dr. Greger quotes all sorts of research studies showing why that’s possible. But is he right?

The true total calories of my regular salads (cukes, tomatoes, legumes, 1 tablespoon of walnuts, 1 teaspoon of flaxseed and my own homemade dressing made with soy milk, dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar) jumps to an actual 245 calories per salad instead of the 99 calories I had been “guesstimating” by deliberately not counting the nuts, and failing to add in the calories for my homemade healthy dressing, which I started making after dropping commercially bought low-cal or zero-cal dressings.

Here is what shook me today. Take a look at this video somebody in a HNTD group introduced me to: “Nuts won’t save your life.”


It’s 48 minutes long, but gripping. All the details about Dr. Greger and HNTD start at about 13:30 minutes. I watched the video today from beginning to end. The presenter, Jeff Nelson, seems incredibly knowledgeable and convincing. What do people know of him?

The reason I’m feeling somewhat devastated is because he really does a job on Dr. Greger’s claims, all in a very pointed, scientific way. Dr. Greger really needs to respond. It’s perfectly fine for Dr. Greger to acknowledge mistakes and update his book and site if it needs to be changed. But he needs to respond.

If the video presenter is right though, what does this mean about the rest of what Dr. Greger reports in his book? The video claims that all this macro-management of nutrients (Greger’s initial point about adding walnuts) is meaningless. That the Daily Dozen is essentially meaningless. That all that matters is being vegan, with no oils or added fats and basically that’s it. If you want to cut back on sugar and salt fine, but all the other stuff is basically like adhering to a cult.

In other words, what Ornish and Esselstyn and McDougall and Chef AJ, etc., all have been saying for years is sufficient for healthy eating. There is no health advantage to adding the nuts. And it probably hurts weight loss. And they might not be good if you have heart disease.

If the video is correct, then what’s the point of “How Not to Die”?

Well, the book did inspire me to get back on WFPB. And I mentioned all the positive outcomes so far. That’s all great of course. But is the rest of the book just mumbo jumbo?

I’m sticking with WFPB eating. I’m convinced it’s the healthiest way of eating and it is doing me good.

But for now I’m a HNTD skeptic. I’m testing the calories of the nuts, because they are tasty. But I may give them up. And WFPB eating can be easy with fewer rather than more rules and lists and worries.

It might be best to just keep it simple: vegan, whole foods, no oils, exercise, and also limit the very high fat otherwise healthy foods like avocados and nuts, without any daily check lists or going crazy about worrying about macronutrients and so forth.

What do people think?

“How Not To Die” update – week 9

Things are really going well following Dr. Greger’s guidelines in “How Not To Die.” I got the book 63 days ago – exactly 9 weeks today. I also want to say special thanks to Chef AJ for her always helpful advice, as well as the great advice from Plant Based Gabriel and Potato Strong Guy. All very supportive!
In these past 9 weeks, by following Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen and avoiding animal products and oils, and limiting any intake of sugars and salt as much as is practical, my weight has dropped 8.0 kg = 17.6 lb.
In total, since I began my WFPB voyage some years ago (I’ve had ups and downs) I am down a net 25.6 kg = 56 lb.
I’m convinced WFPB is the way for me to go for the rest of my life.
Note: Since I am also concerned about my weight I am also logging my calories in MyFitnessPal and limiting my net calories (food in minus exercise) to 1800 calories/day. Calories do count – whether you count them or not. I find this easiest for me, and my daily loggings of food, exercise, and weight is a sanity check for me. I’m convinced that this logging is what has prevented a complete rebound for the first time in my life. Today is also MyFitnessPal streak day 2,396!
The only exception to my calorie logging is the 1 tablespoon of walnuts I have been adding to each green salad. Dr. Greger advises having 1 tablespoon of walnuts with each green salad when no other fats are added, and also reports that doing so is shown not to adversely affect weight loss. I was skeptical, but it’s safe to say that so far the walnuts have not hurt me.
I have also increased my exercise. While I am not at Dr. Greger’s recommended 90 minutes a day yet, I’m happy to report I have done at least some exercise (walking or cycling) every day these past 9 weeks.
I don’t think there has been a noticeable change in my blood pressure so far, but my doctor says my current blood pressure is not a worry.
I do have high blood sugar, HbA1c, though. I am looking forward to my next quarterly blood test on December 15th. I hope it has dropped and that I can say, “Hahaha! Whole grains and fruits don’t hurt my blood sugar!” We’ll see. I’ll report when I get those results. I expect my blood sugar will have gone down simply because of the weight loss. That has been my past experience.
In the meanwhile I am feeling fine. I definitely have more energy. I do not feel deprived. I don’t feel like I am missing anything. If I ever get tempted at all by something I shouldn’t have I just say my mantra, “stay the course” and go past it.
So – stay the course!

Happy 8th birthday, Monta

It was Monta’s 8th birthday today. He’s gotten quite old in bird years – somewhere in his 90s to be sure. He can really fly anymore (he can take leaps and then sort of flutter to the ground). He needs help getting from his favorite spot – his swing – to his food. But he still has a good appetite, and enjoys listening to the radio (“81.3 J-Wave….”) and had a good birthday today.

Please check out the videos below too!

A collage of Monta on his birthday.

A Happy Birthday video to start the morning.


Then a couple of cute, short videos of Monta snuggling.



Monta feasting on his birthday. Water, millet, fruits, and seeds. And healthy green vitamins. Who needs anything more?