Have you ever wondered if there’s a natural way to lower your high blood pressure, guard against Alzheimer's, lose weight, and feel better? Well as it turns out there is. Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, founder of NutritionFacts.org, and author of the instant New York Times bestseller “How Not to Die” celebrates evidence-based nutrition to add years to our life and life to our years.

Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen

Dr. Greger shares a handy checklist of all the things he fits into his daily routine.

This episode features audio from Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist. Visit the video page for all sources and doctor’s notes related to this podcast.

Discuss

Isn’t it crazy to think of all the different kinds of foods so many of us eat every day? Chips, cookies, burgers, fries. Our bodies dutifully process whatever it is we choose to swallow – regardless of whether or not what we eat could actually harm us or shorten our lives.  Our bodies are amazing as they try and pull out nutrients while trying to protect us from all the garbage.  So – maybe – just maybe – we should try and give our bodies a break. 

I’m Dr. Michael Greger and you’re listening to the Nutrition Facts podcast.  I’m here to tell you that nutrition matters.  We could choose a diet proven to not only prevent and treat but reverse our #1 killer, heart disease, along with other deadly diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. But many of us – don’t make that choice. 

Our goal today is to help you make that choice – and present you with the results of the latest in peer-reviewed nutrition and health research, presented in a way that’s easy to understand.

In my book, How Not to Die, I suggest we try to center our diets around whole plant foods. But, some plants are healthier than others. For example, you can apparently live extended periods eating practically nothing but white potatoes. That would, by definition, be a whole-food, plant-based diet—but not a very healthy one. All plant foods are not created equal.

The more I’ve researched over the years, the more I’ve come to realize that healthy foods are not necessarily interchangeable. Some foods and food groups have special nutrients not found in abundance elsewhere. For example, sulforaphane, the amazing liver-enzyme detox-boosting compound, is derived nearly exclusively from cruciferous vegetables. You could eat tons of other kinds of greens and vegetables on a given day, and get no appreciable sulforaphane if you didn’t eat something cruciferous.

It’s the same with flax seeds and the anticancer lignan compounds. Flax may average a hundred times more lignans than other foods. And mushrooms aren’t even plants at all; they belong to an entirely different biological classification, and may contain nutrients (like ergothioneine) not made anywhere in the plant kingdom. (So technically, maybe I should be referring to a whole-food, plant- and fungus-based diet, but that just sounds kind of gross.)

It seems like every time I come home from the medical library buzzing with some exciting new data, my family rolls their eyes, sighs, and asks, “What can’t we eat now?” Or, they’ll say, “Wait a second. Why does everything seem to have parsley in it all of a sudden?” or something! They’re very tolerant.

As the list of foods I tried to fit into my daily diet grew, I made a checklist, and had it up on a little dry-erase board on the fridge, and we’d make a game out of ticking off the boxes. This evolved, into my Daily Dozen: the checklist of all the things I try to fit into my daily routine. 

By beans, I mean legumes, which also includes split peas, chickpeas, and lentils. You know, while eating a bowl of pea soup or dipping carrots into hummus may not seem like eating beans, it certainly counts. We should try to get three servings a day. A serving is defined as a quarter-cup of hummus or bean dip; a half-cup of cooked beans, split peas, lentils, tofu, or tempeh; or a full cup of fresh peas or sprouted lentils. Though peanuts are technically legumes, nutritionally, I’ve grouped them in the Nuts category, just as I would shunt green beans, snap peas, and string beans into the Other Vegetables category.

A serving of berries is a half-cup fresh or frozen, or a quarter-cup of dried. While biologically speaking, avocados, bananas, and even watermelons are technically berries, I’m using the colloquial term for any small edible fruit, which is why I include kumquats and grapes—and raisins, as well as fruits that are typically thought of as berries, but actually technically aren’t, such as blackberries, cherries, mulberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

For other fruits, a serving is a medium-sized fruit, a cup of cut-up fruit, or a quarter-cup of dried fruit. Again, I’m using the colloquial rather than the botanical definition; so, I place tomatoes in the Other Vegetables group.

Common cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, collards, and kale. I recommend at least one serving a day (typically a half-cup), and at least two additional servings of greens a day, cruciferous or otherwise. Serving sizes for other greens and vegetables are a cup for raw leafy vegetables, a half-cup for other raw or cooked non-leafy vegetables, and a quarter-cup for dried mushrooms.

Everyone should try to incorporate one tablespoon of ground flax seeds into their daily diet, in addition to a serving of nuts or other seeds. A quarter-cup of nuts is considered a serving, or two tablespoons of nut or seed butters, including peanut butter. (Chestnuts and coconuts, though, don’t nutritionally count as nuts.)

I also recommend one-quarter teaspoon a day of the spice turmeric, along with any other (salt-free) herbs and spices you may enjoy.

A serving of whole grains can be considered a half-cup of hot cereal, such as oatmeal, cooked whole grains, or so-called “pseudograins” like amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa, or a half-cup of cooked pasta or corn kernels; a cup of ready-to-eat (cold) cereal; one tortilla or slice of bread; half a bagel or English muffin; or three cups of air-popped popcorn.

The serving size in the beverage category is one glass (twelve ounces), and the recommended five glasses a day is in addition to the water you get naturally from the foods in your diet. I explain my rationale in my video, How Many Glasses of Water Should We Drink a Day?

Finally, I advise one daily “serving” of exercise, which can be split up over the day. I recommend ninety minutes of moderate-intensity activity each day, such as brisk (four miles per hour) walking or, forty minutes of vigorous activity (such as jogging or active sports) each day. I explain my reasoning for that in my video, How Much Should You Exercise?

This may all sound like a lot of boxes to check, but it’s easy to knock off a bunch at a time. One simple peanut butter/banana sandwich, and you just checked off four boxes. Or imagine sitting down to a big salad. Two cups of spinach, a handful of arugula, a handful of walnuts, a half-cup of chickpeas, a half-cup of red bell pepper, and a small tomato. You just knocked out seven boxes in one dish. Sprinkle on your flax, add a handful of goji berries, and enjoy it with a glass of water and fruit for dessert, and you just wiped out nearly half your daily check boxes in a single meal! And, then if you just ate it on your treadmill—just kidding!

Do I check off each glass of water I drink? No. In fact, I don’t even use the checklist anymore; I just used it initially as a tool to get me into a routine. You know, whenever I was sitting down to a meal, I would ask myself, Could I add greens to this? Could I add beans to this? (I always have an open can of beans in the fridge.Can I sprinkle on some flax or pumpkin seeds, or maybe some dried fruit? The checklist just got me into the habit of thinking, how can I make this meal even healthier?

I also found the checklist helped with grocery shopping. Although I always keep bags of frozen berries and greens in the freezer, if I’m at the store and want to buy fresh produce for the week, it helps me figure out, you know, how much kale or blueberries I need.

The checklist also helps me picture what a meal might look like. Looking over the checklist, there are three servings each of beans, fruits, and whole grains, and about twice as many vegetables in total than any other component. So, glancing at my plate, I can imagine one quarter of it filled with grains, one quarter with legumes, and a half of the plate filled with vegetables, along with maybe a side salad, and fruit for dessert. I happen to like one-bowl meals where everything’s mixed together, but the checklist still helps me to visualize. Instead of a big bowl of spaghetti with some veggies and lentils on top, I think of a big bowl of vegetables with some pasta and lentils mixed in. Instead of a big plate of quinoa with some stir-fried vegetables on top, I picture a meal that’s mostly veggies—and, oh look! There’s some quinoa and beans in there, too.

But there is no need to be obsessive about the Daily Dozen. On hectic travel days when I’ve burned through my snacks, you know, stuck in some airport food court somewhere, sometimes I’m lucky if I even hit a quarter of my goals. If you eat poorly one day, just try to eat better the next.

To help track your progress, volunteers created Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen apps for both iPhone and Android. You can download and use them both for free; no ads, no cost.

My hope is that the checklist will just serve as a helpful reminder to try to eat a variety of some of the healthiest foods every day.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, or studies mentioned here, please go to the Nutrition Facts podcast landing page.  There, you’ll find all the detailed information you need plus links to all the sources we cite for each of these topics.

Be sure to also check out my new How Not to Die Cookbook, beautifully designed, with more than 100 recipes for delicious, life-saving, plant-based meals, snacks, and beverages.  And, like all my books, DVDs, and speaking engagements, all the proceeds I receive are donated to charity. 

NutritionFacts.org is a nonprofit, science-based public service, where you can sign up for free daily updates on the latest in nutrition research via bite-sized videos and articles.

Everything on the website is free.  There’s no ads, no corporate sponsorship.  It’s strictly non-commercial.  I’m not selling anything.  I just put it up as a public service, as a labor of love, as a tribute to my grandmother, whose own life was saved with evidence-based nutrition.

Thanks for listening to Nutrition Facts.  I’m Dr. Michael Greger.

This is just an approximation of the audio content, contributed by Allyson Burnett.

 

 

11 responses to “Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen

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  1. Thanks a mill, love your podcast on daily dozen. I thought there was a poster to go with this topic which we could buy, I don’t seem to be able to find it anywhere?

  2. Dr Greger suggests that four Brazil nuts a month is the optimum quantity fro cholesterol control (How Not to Die, pp 26/27 in the UK edition). But what constitutes a nut? What falls from the tree is 100 times larger than any of the pieces that one buys in the shop.

    Could one define the optimum quality by, say, weight? This would allow one to gauge how many pieces one should consume in a week.

    More seriously, a German magazine (Guter Rat, 2/2018, p.76) has suggested that insufficient cholesterol can lead to depression, aggression, and even cancer, and in the case of LDL cholesterol to memory loss, even totally so.

    1. just curious, has there ever been cases of insufficient cholesterol in the USA? I am guessing never. But according to statement above made me wonder???

  3. Does anyone know why Dr Gregor didn’t include AMLA in his DAILY DOZEN? Has he changed his mind about this?

    Thanks for your Reply.

    1. Hi Trisha,

      The recommendations are for everyone, but if eating all the recommended servings make you feel bloated and uncomfortable, then it’s probably not best to do that. This isn’t the case for everyone. Some eat the Daily Dozen and are still hungry, others feel satiated. Are you eating these foods and portions throughout the entire day or in a short window of time? I was only trying to communicate that it’s okay if you don’t follow it to a T and instead follow it to what works best for you.

      1. Thank you for your follow up response. I am eating throughout the day rather than all at once. I know that the Daily Dozen is supposed to be a minimum. My feeling about the Daily Dozen is that since women need fewer calories, perhaps cutting back on portion sizes would be more in line with a woman’s nutritional needs. Just food for thought.

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