One of the best gifts we can give ourselves for 2018 would be to resolve to go plant-based for the New Year.

That means getting most, if not all of our calories from fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g., beans), whole intact grains, and nuts and seeds. To many of us who eat the standard way most Americans eat, that might sound like an extreme thing to do.

But as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic says, “Some people think the plant-based whole foods diet is extreme. But every year, a half million people will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn on to their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme.”

Perhaps the best way to explain why eating whole plant-based foods is not extreme, but rather very beneficial, is to recount my own experience. I went plant-based in my eating four years ago at the age of 66.

When I went whole food, plant-based, I weighed over 300 pounds. I was taking a number of different prescription medications, and I had a number of medical issues ranging from repeated heartburn and leg cramps at night, enlarged prostate, toenail fungus that even with prescription medication would not go away, neuropathy in my legs, and much more.

Today, at the age of 70 (and turning 71 next month), I feel better than I have ever felt. I lost 150 pounds while continuing to eat large quantities of food.

Some people want to attribute my newfound health fully to that weight loss. But better health is not just due to that.

For one thing, I am now off of all prescription medications, and yet I know plenty of people at my weight who are also taking medication for blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate and more.

There’s more to it than just losing the weight that caused my health to improve.

Today, I’m running in 5K races. Four years ago, I couldn’t even imagine running five steps, let alone 5K. The toenail fungus is gone.

My total cholesterol, without medication, is 101 and my bad cholesterol is 57. Even when I was taking statin drugs I didn’t see numbers like that. My blood pressure now averages 110/70 without medication, and I can now pee without medication. There’s no more neuropathy, no more heartburn and no more leg cramps.

Others can have this kind of healthy return too. Just vow to go whole food, plant-based.

Are you not sure how? Buy a copy of the book “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. The first half of the book will explain why you should go whole food, plant-based. The second half of the book will explain how to do it.

It will be the best present you ever gave yourself.

J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on the whole food, plant-based way of eating.