Our Interview with Michael Greger, M.D.

Hubby Jeff and I are so happy to present this interview with Michael Greger, M.D., to you today.

Photo of Michael Greger, M.D.

Dr. Michael Greger is a medical doctor with a degree in biology. He is the planet Earth’s foremost pioneer in broadcasting free nutrition information to humanity at large, first in an exhausting road series of lectures.

These lectures have now transformed into an exhausting commitment of one video clip per day added to his website NutritionFacts.org, which is a clearinghouse for information related not only to veganism but also to showing which foods are the most nutritious.

NutritionFacts.org is based upon the ongoing series of videos Dr. Greger has been producing since 2007 which cites academic study after study that effectively proves over and over and over again that eating animals and animal products is not only going to shorten your life, it will also most likely make those years painfully ridden with one or more of a variety of degenerative diseases.

Dr. Greger's vegan nutrition advice has been rocking our world over here since 2009 when we first discovered his FANTASTIC video series. In these DVDs, Dr. Greger presents information based on scientific studies in a game-show like fashion. Such a blast to watch (OMG, soooo funny!), and a cool way to present facts that most people might otherwise find bor-ing.

Upon visiting the website or watching a few videos he has produced, one easily comes to the conclusion that a plant-based diet is the superior diet for herbivores such as us humans.

JEFF: Can you describe your "ah-ha!" moment or revelation that clued you into the problem with eating animals? Was it a book or your pre-med work in biology or...?

MICHAEL: For me it was a picture in National Geographic, 22 years ago. A puppy in a cage. Not at a shelter, not at pet store, but at a meat market. It is a picture I'll never erase from my mind.

Later that day at the dinner table, the dog I grew up with, shuffled over and gave me the "you're not going to eat all that are ya?" It was the same look that puppy had. Instead of beggin' for table scraps, though, the puppy was begging for his life. And then I looked back and saw what was on my plate - really saw. It actually still took me a couple months, but that was the last year I ate animals.

JEFF: Yes, it's odd for us to think of certain animals as food, like cats or dogs.

SASSY: DVD cover Latest in Clinical Research Volume 2 -- Apples with Superman logoYour videos are a-ma-zing! They're loaded with serious peer-reviewed academic studies. We just LOVE those facts you can't argue with!

What makes your videos so unique is, of course, your ability to toss in a good dose of humor. Jeff and I watch the videos waiting for your next funny comment. How did you come up with the idea for your videos? And where does your sense of humor come from?

MICHAEL: Thank you for your kind words. The content is all directed by where the science takes me. Every year I scan through every issue of every English-language nutrition journal looking for groundbreaking science that I think I can make interesting and practical in terms of guiding day-to-day grocery store decision.

In a typical year about 13,000 articles are published in the medical literature on nutrition. I'm able to usually eliminate about 90% right off the bat, and then end up reading and analyzing about 1,300 a year, which I turn into hundreds of videos so I can post one every day to NutritionFacts.org!

In terms of my sense of humor, I attribute all my good qualities to my dearest mom (my brother's pretty funny too!).

SASSY: Thanks, Mom.    :)

JEFF: Before you came along, I get the feeling that all this data would be lost in journals. Even so, a doctor recently asked me where I get my protein! With all the studies substantiating the need to avoid animal consumption, are there any efforts to educate the smart people?

MICHAEL:Carbophobia book coverThat's exactly why I started the site. And it has defined much of my work. Like my Atkin's diet book Carbophobia, there was literally a century of data about the potential dangers of low carb diets, yet none of it was making it out to the public.

Until the broccoli lobby wins the lottery or something and is able to spend millions of dollars a week in advertising like McDonald's I'm afraid we have to rely on sites like NutritionFacts.org.

Did you see that CNN documentary with President Clinton, The Last Heart Attack, featuring the work of Drs. Ornish and Esselstyn? Sanjay Gupta made it sound like this was some new cutting edge research, when both of those esteemed physicians have been publishing in the scientific literature for literally decades. In that time, millions have died--totally unnecessarily!

We have the miracle cure for heart disease, we've had it for decades, yet hundreds of thousands continue to perish without even being given the option to save their own lives. What else is laying fallow in the medical literature that has yet to see the light of day but hasn't just because there's no money to be made?

That's why I've kind of made it my mission get this life-changing, life-saving information out to the world.

SASSY: Well, we're sooooooo thankful for all the work you are doing to get the truth out.

I think everyone would probably love to know what a typical daily menu is for the Greger household.

Dr. Greger in chef's hat holding broccoli

MICHAEL: When I'm not traveling -- I promised myself and my family I wouldn't travel as much this year, but, as you can see, so much for that (sad face).

(Click here to see current schedule.)

My breakfasts are typically green smoothies (parsley-mint-mango-strawberry-white tea-lemon-ginger-flax) during the warmer months, and an 8-or-so grain hot cereal with toasted walnuts, seeds, dried fruit (barberries my fave), and as much cinnamon as I can stand when it's cold. Basically anything quick and simple--I've got a website to run! :)

Lunch is leftovers from the day before, and supper is usually some intensively flavorful/colorful world cuisine type concoction with beans and greens (and lots of hot sauce). And a big salad of course! :)

My fave snacks at the moment are baked purple sweet potato fries encrusted with fresh rosemary/garlic/chickpea flour, "zombie corn" (air-popped popcorn sprinkled with Bragg's and nutritional yeast, and turned bright green with chlorella), steamed collard green leaves wrapped "cigarillo" style around canned refried beans and jarred salsa (with some adobe-sauce sautéed onions & mushrooms if I have the time), and during the Fall my "caramel apple" combo of local Honey Crisp apples with some crazy-wet date variety like black sphinx. OK, I'm getting hungry now…

SASSY: We are really enjoying this peek into your kitchen.    :) You sound like quite the gourmet chef over there! And I love the idea of those baked sweet potato fries. Since Jeff loves his sweet potatoes, I think I’ll make up a batch soon.

Regarding your breakfast of 8-grain hot cereal, that brings up a point I am curious about. It seems lots of people these days have trouble with wheat due to the gluten. And of course, kamut and spelt also contain gluten, but to a far lesser degree.

For those who opt to go with pseudo-cereals (such as quinoa, millet, and buckwheat) do you feel they are covered nutritionally in the same way as wheat, kamut and spelt? Do gluten-containing grains have any nutritional advantage?

MICHAEL: That's one of the 1,000+ topics I cover on NutritionFacts.org. The vast majority of people (more than 99%) don't have celiac disease, the condition in which one must avoid gluten. Though gluten may play a role in other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, there is no reason healthy people should avoid gluten, and in fact studies have found gluten-free diets tend to be nutritionally inferior (though don't necessarily need to be).

But I love quinoa and buckwheat! (Millet is a bit mushy for my taste.) So if you want to eat those instead there's nothing wrong with that, but why unnecessarily exclude healthy foods like seitan?

JEFF: Years ago I remember listening to smokers complain about new laws banning them from lighting up inside public buildings. They could not see the connection in how their habit was hurting other people. But are there any health risks posed to us vegans by the dietary habits of our omnivorous family and friends, or should we just eat our broccoli and mind our own business?

MICHAEL: When vegetarians (or anyone) get food poisoning from produce, it's likely to arise from fecal contamination (such as manure run-off). E. coli is an intestinal bug; spinach doesn't have intestines. It came out of someone's gut! So how we treat animals can have food safety implications for anyone participating in our food system.

So for your own family's sake and for everyone else's we can't just clean up our own diet, we need to be active to fight for a more just, sustainable food system for all.

And think about something like swine and bird flu! Now that we know that chickens and pigs can harbor viruses with the potential to trigger human pandemics, the numbers and conditions in which they're raised is everyone's business, no matter what we individually choose to eat. Because we can't choose not to breathe.

Bird Flu Book Cover

JEFF: So, are you saying that bad viral and bacterial diseases from animals can be transmitted through the air? Lordy - you've added another fear to my list!

MICHAEL: Influenza is the prototypical airborne virus from animals that is responsible for pandemics that over the last century have killed tens of millions of people. For those interested in these so-called "zoonotic" diseases (animal-to-human) folks can read my book Bird Flu, available full-text at no cost at BirdFluBook.org

Diary of a 3rd Year Medical Student Cover

JEFF: Another book you offer for free online, Heart Failure: Diary of a Third-Year Intern, is shocking. It almost seems that the medical community has little regard for the dignity or even the well-being of the patients they are dedicated to serve. What advice would you have for those who aspire to the medical profession?

MICHAEL: I would definitely advise them to think long and hard if they are sure that's their best path for making a positive impact on the world.

SASSY: I am always sad when I hear of the occasional person or a celebrity who goes vegan, and then at some point resumes their old non-veg diet because they were feeling weak. Do you think it is because they were not eating a balanced vegan diet? A common question out there is: are some people better off eating animal products?

MICHAEL: I think the most common problem is they're not eating enough. People are used to eating a certain volume of food, but since whole plant foods are so calorically dilute you have to eat a lot more to maintain your caloric intake. So the secret to a successful healthy vegan diet may be eat eat eat!

SASSY: Your website is such an amazing resource that everyone should take the time to see. We use it along with your DVDs to share with our newsletter subscribers and members of our forums the vital information that academic studies have discovered. We are so thankful to you and your team for uncovering this data that would otherwise be collecting dust.

MICHAEL: Thank you for your kind words and interest in my work! Since my chosen specialty was lifestyle medicine, I felt it was my duty to stay on top of the rapidly evolving scientific nutrition literature since there was no financial interest in exposing that sort of data.

Doctors all hear about the latest drugs and medical equipment because there are full page ads in the journals, cushy Caribbean symposia etc.

But how's the world going to find out about the benefits of cinnamon for diabetes, or the spice saffron for Alzheimer's, or kiwi fruit for irritable bowel syndrome? Big Broccoli isn't likely to be running prime time ads anytime soon. I felt if I didn’t get this information out there it could remain buried forever.

I was fortunate to have access to Countway, Harvard's medical library.

So I had this rare opportunity to take a deep dive into the latest discoveries. I started doing it strictly for my patient population, then began giving lectures around the world, then started an annual DVD series. Then thanks to the generous support of a public health foundation was able to put all my work online at no cost, and now NutritionFacts.org is its own 501c3 nonprofit organization.

And it looks like we're on track for reaching a million people in our first year!

SASSY: Thank you so much, Dr Greger, for taking the time to do this interview. We hope that everyone who reads this will not only take the time to visit your site, but also share it with everyone they know.

We'd like to offer a special thank you to Dr. Michael Greger for sharing such a wealth of information to all of us. And most of it is absolutely FREE! How cool is that?

Please note, when Dr. Greger DOES charge for books and DVDs, the proceeds are donated to charity, so please do your best to do your shopping on his website Dr. Greger.org. (He didn't ask us to say that, but we felt it needed to be said.)

Dr. G, you rock!    :)

Heart with quotes"In all my searches on the Internet, nothing has been as informative or helpful as your site!!"
-- Christina Bennett, Paducah, Kentucky

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Join us December 5th for our next recipe-free seasonal online cooking class - Click here to learn more!