In his book “How Not to Die,” Dr. Michael Greger summarizes the research on health and nutrition and suggests a list of 12 foods we should eat daily. He then gives recommended intakes for those 12 foods.
The idea is that eating those 12 items will promote health, according to current research. And by eating those foods, you’re of course replacing diseases-promoting foods like dairy, eggs, and meat.
However, I think that the daily dozen is too complicated. And not all of the 12 foods are based on super-solid science.
I also think for most people, thinking about eating 12 different foods and spices every day is too much.
So I have decided to simplify the daily dozen to my own, shorter list.
Fred’s Daily Dozen Review
Let me go through the list that Greger recommends and which of his foods I have decided to keep and which foods I have dropped.
Flax seeds – Greger recommends eating ground flax seeds daily for the anticancer lignan compounds. I think it’s a great idea to eat flax seeds every day but I don’t think they need a separate category of their own.
Beans – Beans belong in the daily list due to their fiber and plant-protein content and overall nutrition.
Berries – I also don’t see why berries need a separate category of their own, apart from fruit. Yes, they may be somewhat healthier, but I don’t like to think of food as medicine. Eating a wide variety of fruits will yield more overall benefits than obsessing on berries because of the results of some (questionable) health studies.
Greens – Greens belong in the “daily” list due to their nutritional profile.
Cruciferous vegetables – No need to put them in their own category. While eating plenty of greens, you can remember to include cruciferous vegetables.
Other vegetables – This could be a category of its own. But I think greens are the only essential group of plants to eat daily.
Nuts – I only eat nuts if I feel like eating nuts.
Spices – The alleged benefits of turmeric are highly debatable and based on laboratory studies and not reliable human studies. I also see eating turmeric daily as a sort of “food as medicine” imperative.
Whole Grains – I don’t think it’s necessary to eat whole grains daily. On most days, I eat just root vegetables as my source of starch.
Beverage (water) – Drink according to thirst, and there’s no need to track your intake.
Exercise – It’s not a food, so I don’t include it on my daily list.
My Simplified Top-6 List
Beans – Eat a cup (or more) daily.
Fruit – Eat at least five servings daily, and try to include berries.
Greens – Eat at least half a pound of greens daily, and try to include cruciferous vegetables.
Omega 3 – Eat some foods high in omega-3 fats: ground flax, chia, walnuts.
Soy products — Eat one cup of fortified, no-sugar-added soy milk daily. This is a good idea for people who forget to take their B12 or vitamin D sometime. Soy milk also contains a boost of plant-protein that is useful. You can also eat another serving of soy products (tofu, tempeh, etc.). For those who are afraid of eating soy, please see my article on the topic.
Plant Fats – To feel satisfied, eat some nuts, avocado whenever you feel like eating them. This could be every day, but you don’t need to eat nuts AND avocados on the same days.
I feel that my list makes a lot more sense than Dr. Greger’s. The fortified soy milk takes care of a lot of you how to forget taking their vitamin B12 or vitamin D, and contributes additional protein to the diet. And then, I’m simplifying the list by removing redundant items, or where it’s doubtful that they are necessary (like turmeric).
I’m a believer in the 80-20 rule and think that one of the reasons why people fail on plant-based diets is that they make them too complicated with too many moving parts that don’t have the same level of importance.
What do you think of my simplified top-6 list?