The 2019 roadmap to a healthier, happier you

Just once, I’d like us to ring in the New Year without being barraged by advertisements to go on some cockamamie weight-loss diet or lifestyle plan.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s always a good idea to maintain a healthy weight and stay active. But I wish more people realized there are much simpler, safer, and more sensible and effective ways to accomplish these goals.

So, over the next two days, I’m sharing with you my 10-point plan for good health in 2019 and beyond. Today, I’ll cover the first five steps.

1.) Eat like you’re in the Mediterranean

A few years back, I read that Oprah Winfrey bought Weight Watchers®. It’s a shame — this gimmicky diet and all the other low-fat, high-carb diets “du jour” are basically prescriptions for accelerated aging and increased risk of chronic diseases.

Instead of looking for ways to cut fat and calories out of your diet, you should focus on adding more protein — whether you need to lose weight or not.

Indeed, men and women who eat more protein have better odds of retaining their independence while performing everyday tasks — such as grocery shopping, lifting objects, and getting up from a seated position.

Specifically, I suggest you aim to eat between 1.0 and 1.5 grams of protein a day for each 1 kilogram of body weight.

Plus, no matter what Oprah says, you don’t have to join a sob-sister support group, guzzle down dastardly diet shakes, buy a hyped-up book, or pay a monthly fee to learn how to eat well.

As I’ve always said, the delicious, simple Mediterranean diet is probably the most powerful when it comes to preventing chronic diseases and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s a very easy eating plan that emphasizes extra virgin olive oil, fish, herbs, legumes, meat, nuts, produce, spices, cheeses, and moderate amounts of red wine.

At the same time, you should cut out processed and packaged foods and baked goods, which are typically loaded with sugar, simple carbs, and excess salt. These foods shouldn’t be a part of your diet anyway.

So, in 2019, stop counting calories or rigorously cutting out all carbs. As always, good health is about achieving moderation. So, eat like they do in the Mediterranean…and enjoy what you’re eating by adding in healthy foods, not depriving yourself of them!

2.) Keep up your vitamin D blood levels

A wealth of evidence reveals how vitamin D can improve your health from head-to-toe. And this wonder vitamin may also be the world’s most potent natural blood pressure protector.

In fact, some researchers theorize this effect relates to vitamin D’s unique connection to an enzyme called renin. This enzyme’s primary function is to help regulate blood pressure throughout the body. And, of course, vitamin D is vital in its synthesis. (I studied renin at the City of Hope National Medical Center under a college research scholarship back in 1973.)

Vitamin D also does double duty for heart health by reducing inflammation. A study of approximately 960 older adults with high blood pressure found that the people with lower blood levels of vitamin D had significantly higher markers of inflammation compared to those with elevated levels of D.

Vitamin D also reduces the risk of colon cancer, as I’ll explain in this Friday’s Daily Dispatch.

I recommend you take 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, especially during this time of year.

In addition, make sure to get your levels checked twice a year — once before winter and once before summer. Ask your doctor for a 25(OH)D test. Ideally, you want your blood levels to be between 30 to 80 ng/mL.

3.) Get serious about reducing stress

Stress is the hidden cause of heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death in America in both men and women, and one that also significantly contributes to other chronic diseases.

So, in 2019, incorporate some enjoyable, stress-reducing habits into your daily life — such as moderate exercise, spending time in Nature, or even reading a good book.

In addition, I find short, five-minute sessions of mindfulness meditation do wonders to reduce my daily stress levels. You can learn how to meditate in my book with Don McCown, New World Mindfulness.

You can also stimulate your vagus nerve to reduce stress, which I discussed at length in the September 2017 issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“Wandering your way to relaxation”). Subscribers can access this by logging into the “Subscribers Sign-In” tab via Click here to learn more, or subscribe today.

4.) Avoid taking antibiotics

As I’ll report later this month, it’s become easier to develop an untreatable bacterial infection. But remember, taking an antibiotic will never completely wipe out an infection. It’ll only reduce the number of harmful microbes in your body. And your immune system must handle the rest in order to overcome any infection.

So, unless you clearly need an antibiotic to prevent a more serious illness or disability, I recommend avoiding them as much as possible in 2019.

5.) Load up on foods that keep your GI system balanced

As I’ve often reported, probiotic supplements don’t benefit GI health, despite all the recent hype. Worse yet, they may even cause serious cognitive problems.

Instead, you should focus on eating whole foods that support your microbiome, the environment in your GI tract where billions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive.

Foods that contain a healthy, diverse variety of probiotics include plain yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, as well as traditionally prepared Korean kimchi, soy sauce, and fish sauce.

You can also eat “prebiotic” foods that nurture the probiotics in your gut, including apples, asparagus, flaxseed, garlic, leeks, oats, and onions. These foods basically “feed” good bacteria already present in your GI tract. Also, avoid processed and sugary foods, which disrupt the good bacteria in your gut.

And there you have it — your first five keys to health and happiness in the New Year and beyond. Pretty simple, right? Be sure tune back in on Thursday for the second half of the roadmap to a more vibrant, vivacious you.