I was going to die. It would take two years, I guessed. At my fit doctor’s dull-lit room, I got no diagnosis, just her sweet welcome, her crossed leg gently kicking to a rhythm. Oh, and I got plenty of x-rays.
On one of my trips to my doctor, she spoke powerful words. “Change your lifestyle.”
I paid heed. I went into debt on a credit card to fund my healthy eating. And, wow, did I end up a fitness fanatic. Four springs later, I freed myself from the dying process.
This spring, I downloaded the app called The Daily Dozen by M.D. Michael Greger. Dr. Greger wrote the book How Not to Die. He donates every penny he earns from his books to charity. He’s a good soul with great diet advice.
So, let’s look at Dr. Greger’s list of the daily dozen that’ll help keep you and me alive.
Daily item #1: Three servings beans. A half a cup of lentils counts as one serving, according to Dr. Greger. You can buy a can of beans from Walmart for under $1.00. A can holds four servings. I eat a whole can every day.
You could buy uncooked hard beans and soak them for three to five days. (Drain and soak them in a fresh batch of water three times a day.) They’ll sprout in the water. Once they sprout, you can cook them. The sprouts will give you a healthy blast of vitamin K.
Daily item #2: One serving berries. A half a cup of fresh or frozen berries counts as a serving, says Dr. Greger. Today, I ate a half cup of frozen strawberries. I typically eat frozen blueberries, which offer great brain benefits. And students love a brain boost, right?
If the cost and short shelf life of berries concerns you, buy frozen bulk berries. They are frozen at the peak of ripeness, so they are super healthy. But fresh is best. Walmart’s prices are similar to Safeway’s: nearly $11.00 for a giant bag.
Daily item #3: Three servings other fruits. One cup of cut-up fruit or one medium whole fruit counts as a serving. Today, I ate one-and-a-half cups of frozen pineapple, mango, and peaches. I also ate two apples.
Again, fresh is best, but frozen makes it affordable for students.
Daily item #4: One serving cruciferous vegetables. A quarter cup of Brussel or cauliflower sprouts make up a serving, says the doctor. Since my budget tightened, I’ve cut out broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and sour cabbage. But I aim to return to sour cabbage, as it’s probiotic-rich.
A head of sour cabbage costs about $10.00 at Safeway. It’ll last you two weeks to a month if you eat a little every day. If you like sauerkraut, you’ll love sour cabbage. And it’ll keep your immune system strong. Students don’t need colds during studies, right?
Daily item #5: Two servings greens. One cup raw spinach or kale (or half a cup cooked) counts as one serving. I like to eat fresh kale, not the packaged kind. Oh, but if you want to go all out, grow an indoor kale garden. Wow! Homegrown kale will heal most any autoimmune disease, in my opinion.
Organic kale lasts half a week and costs about $3.00.
Daily item #6: Two servings other vegetables. A half a cup of non-leafy vegetables count as a serving, says Dr. Greger. Every day I eat an organic carrot and an organic celery heart. If I can afford it, I’ll eat a sweet bell pepper, too. I like to buy yams or sweet potatoes, too, as they are super-cheap, delicious, and healthy.
When you go to work, pack two big bowls of vegetables, along with nuts, seeds, or avocadoes. The fats in the nuts, seeds, or avocadoes will increase the nutrient uptake from the vegetables.
Daily item #7: One serving flaxseed. One tablespoon ground flaxseed counts as a serving, says Dr. Greger. Today, I ate two tablespoons flaxseed.
If you want brain friendly Omega-3, eat flaxseed every day. You can buy a bag that’ll last two weeks to a month for $4.00. I buy organic flaxseed from Amazon for $7.00 in a giant bag. Flaxseed will give your brain extra fuel during study time.
Daily item #8: One serving nuts and seeds. One quarter cup of nuts and seeds, or two tablespoons nut butter, count as one serving, says Dr. Greger. I used to eat six or more tablespoons almond butter each day. Oh, do I love it. But whole mixed nuts taste even better. Lately, I’ve been buying a bulk bag of mixed nuts for $21.00. It lasts me a week.
If you just want one type of nut, consider walnuts. Walnuts have potent omega-3 brain healthy fats. In other words, walnuts give you better brain power.
Daily item #9: One serving herbs and spices. A quarter teaspoon turmeric counts as one serving. I used to drink hot water mixed with either cinnamon or turmeric and black pepper. Those spices stained the counters, so I shield away from buying them. But turmeric is known in Eastern medicine to have powerful anti-cancer properties.
If you want one of the healthiest spice combos, mix turmeric with black pepper. The two together make the anti-cancer ingredient in turmeric—curcumin—incredibly more potent.
Daily item #10: Three servings whole grains. A half cup cooked grains or one cup cold cereal amounts to one serving, according to Dr. Greger. Today I ate three cups of Fiber 1 cereal. I go overboard on the fiber. It keeps me lean and regular.
Dr. Greger suggests bread as a source of grains. I don’t eat bread as it packs on weight and it’s constipating. I tend to eat steal-cut oats, wild rice, or high fiber cereal instead.
My dietitian told me to substitute bread with yams or sweet potatoes. These substitutes are starchy, just like grains, but won’t harm you if you have grain intolerances.
Daily item #11: Five servings beverages. A serving includes one cup of tea, coffee, or water (without sugar and cream). I drink just water. I’ll drink milk, too, which is not on the list as dairy can contribute to cancer. If you want dairy, I’d recommend plain yogurt: it’s probiotic rich.
Daily item #12: Exercise. The doctor recommends forty minutes of vigorous exercise a day. That’s 280 minutes a week, or 4 hours and 40 minutes. I tried exercising ten hours a week, and, yes, I got addicted to training, but I grew rundown, weak, and gained weight. In short, I over-trained.
For me, four to five hours of vigorous exercise a week is a healthy target. I nap for an hour and a half after a hard one-hour workout, but, oh, does it feel great.
Many studies show that exercise yields significant brain benefits, too.
Last item: B12: If you’re vegetarian, take a B12 supplement: “For adults under age 65, the easiest way to get B12 is to take at least one 2,000 mcg supplement each week or a daily dose of 50 mcg.” I like to get B12 from salmon or sardines. But I rarely eat meat. So, I need to supplement. Dr. Greger says lack of Vitamin B12 can lead to trouble: “paralysis, psychosis, blindness, and even death.”
If I could add two more items to Dr. Greger’s daily dozen, I’d include ice-cold showers and probiotic-rich foods. (I read a study that showed ice-cold showers benefit people with autoimmune diseases.)
If you eat nothing but what’s on Dr. Greger’s list, you could prevent or reverse—maybe even cure—disease. You’ll also lean down fast.
On a final note, if you’re ill or overweight, I recommend avoiding restaurants. When I dined out, I ordered just a water and treated the other person’s meal. No hard feelings that way.
Since I’ve gotten healthier, I dine out once a week with family. But I feel a tinge of fear every time. Dying is no fun.