“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!

How Not To Die

Since starting Dr. Michael Greger’s book, “How Not to Die” on October 9 I’m down 5.2 kg = 11.5 lb. My total weight loss so far is 22.8 kg = 50.2 lb. Yes – over 50 lb now!
I highly recommend the book. It’s the best health and nutrition book I’ve ever read. It’s also the only book in that category I’ve ever gifted to friends and relatives! I’m that excited by it.
I’ve had ups and downs over the last few years, and still have quite a ways to go, but I’m on a weight loss streak again. I’m in “healthy eating” mode. I attribute that mostly to:
(1) Dr. Greger’s book for getting me psyched again. Following his “Daily Dozen” has been helpful and revealing. I’m doing some things I hadn’t been doing carefully before. I’m adding a tablespoon of walnuts to my green salads. I’m also adding ground flaxseed, which I never bought before. I’m making sure to get in my daily servings of cruciferous veggies, other veggies, whole grains, legumes, and fruits – particularly berries, and a variety of spices, including turmeric – also a first for me. And I’m exercising more. Obviously all of that has given me a boost!
(2) The encouragement and advice of people like Chef AJ (who taught me the best way to air fry potatoes), Plant Based Gabriel and Potato Strong guy, all who have been supportive and have great advice. You can find them all on FaceBook.
And onward! Stay the course!

And the best diet advice is…

I started a discussion in a healthy eating / diet group I’m a member of (Whole Foods Plant Based) and it generated a lot of comments. A lot! I tallied the opinions expressed, and thought my friends might find the results interesting.

As I have experienced in the past, a lot of the info is contradictory, so ultimately I need to use my best judgment and sort out what is practical for me and what is not.

The numbers are the numbers of mentions of that opinion. I’ve listed in the order of most comments expressing a particular opinion.

– Calorie limits (in vs out) and tracking are needed: 27

– Limiting starches is needed: 11

– Chef AJ is helpful (and her new book): 10

– No food limits are needed: 9

– Intermittent fasting is helpful: 8
– Everyone is different (what works for some doesn’t work for others): 8

– Calorie tracking/limits are not needed: 6

– More exercise is needed: 5

– Portion control is important: 4
– I’m eating too few calories: 4
– Greens are important: 4
– Dr. Joel Fuhrman is helpful: 4
– Weight Watchers is helpful: 4
– Nuts, nut butters, processed grains, avocados, etc. will hurt weight loss: 4

– Calorie density is key or all that matters: 3
– Avoid sugars, dairy, excess oil, processed food, fried foods: 3

– Adding more starches is needed: 2
– Eating fruits is good: 2
– Lots of beans and veggies are good: 2
– Fruit should be limited: 2
– Starch/carb calories don’t count as much as fat calories: 2
– Aging slows your metabolism: 2
– Following Engine 2 resulted in weight loss slowing down: 2
– WFPB is for everyone: 2
– Drinking more water is helpful: 2
– Crack and meth are bad: 2
– Salads are good: 2
– Gut health is important: 2
– Dried fruits and fruit juices hurt weight loss: 2
– Increasing fiber is helpful: 2
– Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson is helpful: 2
– RH fitness in the UK is helpful: 2
– Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution is helpful: 2
– The time of day you eat is important: 2
– Going to a program center is helpful: 2
– Amla Green is helpful: 2
– WFPB is about healthy eating, not about losing weight: 2

– Gbombs are good: 1
– Chef AJ didn’t really help: 1
– Juice cleanses help: 1
– Smoothies are good: 1
– Nutritionfacts.org is useful: 1
– Keto is bad: 1
– Nutritionists and therapists can help: 1
– No exercise is needed: 1
– Never eat until you are full: 1
– Eat whenever you are hungry: 1
– Dr. Neal Barnard is helpful: 1
– Dr. Doug Lisle is helpful: 1
– Yo-yo dieting makes it harder to lose weight: 1
– Menopause makes it hard to lose weight: 1
– Humans are herbivores: 1
– Humans are omnivores: 1
– Keto works for no one: 1
– Keto works for some people: 1
– WFPB is a lifestyle, not a diet: 1
– Overeaters Anonymous is helpful: 1
– Barbara O’Neil’s Proper Diet is helpful: 1
– Strength training is helpful: 1
– Brightlineeating.com is helpful: 1
– Limiting high fats and adding starches is all you need: 1
– White rice is not good: 1
– Beachbody 21 day fix is helpful: 1
– Dr. Alan Goldhammer is helpful: 1
– I may be in starvation mode: 1
– Mastering Diabetes is helpful: 1
– The Pleasure Trap is helpful: 1
– The Power of Habit is helpful: 1
– Starches are just side, not main courses: 1
– Mindset breakthrough sessions are helpful: 1
– Calories don’t count: 1