Greger’s Vegan Daily Dozen: An Evolutionary Mess

dr greger's deficient daily dozen

Does Dr. Greger’s Vegan Daily Dozen food recommendation checklist contradict his own beliefs and even show that humans are not meant to be herbivores? We first discussed Greger on our Vegan Doctor Admits Humans are not Herbivores page. You should go read that first if you haven’t already to get a background for this article.

The Vegan Daily Dozen

Today, we’ll go over his own ‘Daily Dozen‘ food recommendations and show how this flies in the face of his own claim that veganism is supported on an evolutionary basis. What Greger’s list ACTUALLY does is support a missing evolutionary protein and fat source that we got from animals.

What’s Not on the List is Important

What’s not on his vegan daily dozen is just as important as what’s on his list because, remember, his argument is that veganism is ‘The Diet We Were Designed to Eat” from an evolutionary standpoint.

So, what is NOT on the vegan daily dozen? Basically most of the food that modern primates eat, such as:

  • Plant stems, leaves, flowers, and tree bark most of which are indigestible or toxic to humans
  • Bamboo shoots, which are deadly toxic to humans unless cooked 1
  • Termites, ants, eggs, and other animals – whoops, those aren’t vegan. I thought Greger said humans are evolutionary vegans and we should eat like our closest ape relatives? Chimps are described as ‘omnivores’ by and the Jane Goodall Institute, who state they get up to 6% of their calories from animal products.
  • Western gorillas prefer plants from the ginger and arrowroot families. Why didn’t Greger recommend those? I guess it’s because ginger is too strong to eat more than a few bites of, and too fibrous to be worth it. While arrowroot is sometimes used in cooking, it’s otherwise not even available as a root to eat. That’s probably because it’s too starchy and bland to be worth marketing for food.
  • Mountain gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes eat mainly Galium, thistles, celery and nettles. Gregor would recommend celery, but not the others. Well, you can eat Galium and nettles if you don’t mind all the little spines and don’t get contact dermatitis.
  • Soil- to make up for the minerals their diet does not provide them.
  • Honey and Wine- Strangely not on Greger’s list despite chimps and humans both enjoying them.
  • Above list from the following sources: 2 3 4 5

What’s On His List That Apes Actually Do Eat

Those are the foods that the great apes eat that Greger DOESN’T recommend, but he does recommend some of the foods that apes DO eat.

  • Seeds
  • Leafy greens
  • Starchy root vegetables
  • Whatever fruit is in season (often eaten unripe by apes)
  • Nuts
  • Celery
  • Figs. I know figs are a fruit, but they deserve a special mention because chimps can eat almost half their calories in figs 6

And that’s really it. If Greger actually believed we have no evolutionary differences from our great ape hominid ancestors, then he should be recommending a diet composed of:

  • 50% or more of fruit
  • 6% animal products
  • And the rest some combination of raw leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and starchy root vegetables.

The Magical Macro- Protein

While Greger does recommend fruit, leafy greens, and some starchy root vegetables, and nuts, he then goes on to emphasize a whopping 6 servings of beans, and whole grains! This would comprise between 1/3 to 1/2 of the recommended daily caloric intake. 7

“[C]ontemporary hunter gatherers did not exploit grains except as starvation foods because they yielded such little energy relative to the energy obtained (optimal foraging theory). “


But great apes don’t eat beans or grains (although some did eat somewhat large quantities of legumes), nor have any human hunter-gatherer societies ever studied! Why such an emphasis on foods that neither hunter-gatherer societies nor our closest evolutionary ancestors have ever eaten when his argument is that our digestion and nutrient needs are the same as the great apes?

Because… PROTEIN.

The foods Greger recommends are particularly high in protein (for plant foods). But here is the kicker, the protein in these foods is either indigestible or toxic to us unless they have been cooked thoroughly. And not only did we not get fire until our brains were already triple the volume of primitive hominids, but we couldn’t have eaten any significant amount of beans or grains until the advent of agriculturalism around 10,000 years ago with the earliest evidence of exposure to grains around 23,000 years ago. 8

So, again, he’s claiming that we are evolutionarily unchanged from the great apes, but he’s recommending we get 1/3 of our caloric intake from foods we did not eat, and could not have eaten, until we were already completely human! Why? Why high protein foods? Don’t we get enough protein from leafs and fruit?

Ouch, What Did Greger Just Admit?

In case you missed it, this is a tacit admission by Greger that humans are not evolutionarily the same as our great apes relatives because during our 4+ million years of hominid evolution there existed a high protein food source not from beans or grains and that is absent in his dirty dozen list.

Apes and Fat, Oh My

Additionally, Greger’s vegan daily dozen doesn’t even mention fat, but he says that we should eat like the great apes, so I plugged in the dirty … I mean the daily dozen… into an app called Chronometer and rounded out the rest of a hypothetical 2000 calorie day with what a chimpanzee or gorilla might eat: greens and figs.

This gives us:

  • 9% protein
  • 6% fat
  • 85% carbohydrate

While, on the surface, this might appear to be similar to the macronutrient ratio of the great apes, it’s far from it. In fact, the great apes eat about 25% protein and derive over 50% of their energy (calories) from fat! 9 And not only do they get 50% of their calories from fat, they get it from saturated fat!

greger's vegan daily dozen is deficient in protein and fat

What!? But didn’t we just read that gorillas eat mostly greens, and chimps eat 1/2 their calories in fruit and the other half in greens? Yes, yes we did. But what chimps and gorillas do that humans can do only inefficiently is to transform cellulose into fat! One of the main reasons chimps and gorillas eat foods like bark and stems, but we don’t, is because they turn them into fat in their colon and cecum.

“The macronutrient profile of [the gorilla’s ingested] diet would be as follows: 2.5% energy as fat, 24.3% protein, 15.8% available carbohydrate, with potentially 57.3% of metabolizable energy from short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) derived from colonic fermentation of fiber.”

The western lowland gorilla diet has implications for the health of humans and other hominoids

So, while Greger is saying that humans have the same nutritional needs as when we were primitive hominids, he’s recommending a diet of less than 10% protein and less than 10% fat, vs the great apes 25% protein and 50% fat! Humans can turn cellulose into fat, but only enough to supply a maximal 10% of calories. So, lets add that to our Chronometer totals and we now have 20% of calories from fat. That’s still a far cry from the 50% of the great apes.

Now, Greger’s response would be likely to be that his Daily Dozen is a ‘base’ for the rest of the diet, and that you should add fat in the form of avocados or olive oil. But why should we need to do that if we are evolutionarily adapted to the same diet chimps and gorillas have? Why do we need to add both modern high(ish) protein foods (that still leave us short on matching the protein intake of the great apes) and extra fat sources? If we can’t meet all our needs on fruit and foliage, like the great apes do, then how can Greger be making the claim that we have not made evolutionary changes away from the great apes?

Greger also suggests taking Omega 3 fatty Acid supplements because, “These long-chain Omega-3s aren’t found naturally, in terrestrial plant-based diets, but actually are made by little algae out in the ocean–that’s where the fish get it from”. So he’s admitting right there that, on a plant-based diet, humans will be deficient in fatty acids we’d normally get from fish and that there are no plant-based sources we would have got them from in nature (no hominid eats yeast or algae)! 10 11

Through Greger’s daily dozen, he’s tacitly admitting that 4 million years of human evolution gave us a protein and fat source that is missing if we eat a diet that matches that of the great apes. That fat and protein source is obviously animals. That’s why there is an exodus of malnourished vegans leaving the vegan cult to begin eating animal foods again. Animal products are a biologic evolutionary imperative for good health.


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