Way back when Hippocrates was telling his compatriots to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” he wasn’t just talking about laying off the ancient Greek equivalent of Twinkies. Pretty much every day-to-day health ailment can be cured with a healthy diet. He knew it then, and we know it now—we just prefer to take the easy way out and reach for a pill bottle or make an appointment with an M.D. That gets expensive, not to mention inconvenient, especially when the answer for what ails you—whether it's PMS or a mild case of the blues—is no further than your refrigerator.
Eat asparagus, prevent a hangover.
The leaves and shoots of this super-veggie contain enzymes that break down alcohol after heavy drinking, preventing a hangover, and even eating it the day after can tame one that is already making you miserable, according to Korean scientists. The best way to prevent a hangover, of course, is to avoid overindulging. Munch on some stalks before you head out or during your bar visit, though, and not only will you get the beneficial enzymes but your stomach will be full of food, which slows down your body’s absorption of alcohol in the first place.
More: Grow Your Own Asparagus
Photo: Marcus Nilsson
Both are rich in thiamine and riboflavin, two B vitamins that could prevent you from developing PMS, according to research from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. The study found that women who consumed 1.9 milligrams per day of thiamine and 2.5 milligrams of riboflavin per day had a 25 to 35 percent lower risk of developing PMS than women who consumed less, but they didn’t see those same benefits when they took supplements. And pork and beans are your best sources of both vitamins. Eating a 3-ounce serving of the meat and a cup of cooked beans on a regular basis will provide you with the amount you need to keep those cramps away.
Photo: (cc) Jeremy Keith/Flickr
Kidney stones have become a more common health complaint than heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, according to figures released this year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of people suffering from them has doubled in the past 13 years. If you fall into that crowd, start downing lemonade. Lemon juice has the highest levels of citrate of any citrus juice, and that citrate helps dissolve any calcium deposits that will eventually turn into kidney stones. Squeeze your own fresh lemons to make lemonade, or buy a commercial mix. Doctors say that you can get as much citrate as you need from regular old lemonade, without having to make your teeth curl by sucking on a raw lemon.
Drink coffee, defeat depression.
Here’s a disturbing stat: More than 10 percent of the U.S. population is now on expensive antidepressant medications. But researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health are wondering if a few cups of coffee couldn’t render those drugs unnecessary. In a study published last year, they found that women who drank an average of four cups of coffee per day were 20 percent less likely to develop depression than people who didn’t drink coffee, or any other caffeinated drinks, for that matter. Caffeine may protect the brain against certain neurotoxins that can cause depression, the authors wrote, or it could be nothing more than the energy lift you get from chronic, low-level exposures to the stimulant. Either way, drink up! And make sure your morning joe is certified organic.
Ward off colds with yogurt.
Start bolstering your immune system for fall and winter by downing a cup of probiotic-rich yogurt every day. Those good bacteria strengthen your immunity and have been associated with a 42 percent lower risk of getting upper respiratory infections, such as colds. The strains of probiotics are found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. And while you’re downing those, lay off the excess sugar, antibiotics, and stress, all of which can kill good bacteria in your gut and make you more susceptible to cold-weather ailments.
Photo: Sang An
Prevent weight gain with red wine.
As if you needed another reason to enjoy a good glass of red wine! Researchers from Purdue University have found that a compound called piceatannol found in red wine prevents or delays immature fat cells from developing into mature fat cells. Not a drinker? The same compound exists in the seeds and skin of red grapes and blueberries.
Eat pomegranates to ward off sunburn.
Pomegranates are a rich source of ellagic acid, which can help protect your skin from UVA- and UVB-induced cell damage, according to research from the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Texas A&M University. Aim to get the health benefits of pomegranates from whole fruits, which are a more potent form of the skin-protecting acids than juices or supplements.
Learn More: More Foods to Prevent or Soothe Sunburn
Photo: Christa Neu
Beat back a headache with beef liver.
Plagued by migraines? You may be suffering from a liver deficiency. Beef liver is one of the best dietary sources of the B vitamin riboflavin, which has shown some promise in reducing the frequency of migraine headaches. Of course, the effective dose is 400 milligrams of riboflavin per day, far more than you’d get from a serving of liver (about 3 milligrams). So eat your riboflavin-rich beef with other foods high in the vitamin, including dairy products and vegetables, and consider taking a supplement if you’re plagued by bad headaches.
Photo: (cc) Ryuta Ishimoto/Flickr
Eat organic, heal…anything.
Diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, obesity—there seems to be no end to the ill health effects attributed to the synthetic pesticides used on nonorganic food. And that’s just on the adults who eat them. Pesticides have been linked to lower IQs and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, and there’s some suspicion that pesticides on food may play a role in the development of autism. Then there’s the planet: Organic farming sequesters more carbon from the atmosphere than chemical farming, and requires fewer greenhouse-gas-emitting petroleum-based fertilizers. So simply by looking for that telltale green-and-white USDA Organic seal, you’re doing yourself and the planet a world of good.