Cure for: Stress or anxiety
Next time your buttons get pushed, reach for a banana, says Molly Kimball, RD, a certified specialist in sports dietetics with Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans. With only 105 calories and 14 g of sugar, a medium banana fills you up, provides a mild blood sugar boost, and has 30 percent of the day’s vitamin B6, which helps the brain produce mellowing serotonin, getting you through a crisis peacefully.
Cure for: High blood pressure
Sixty raisins—about a handful—contain 1 g of fiber and 212 mg of potassium, both recommended in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Numerous studies show that polyphenols in grape-derived foods such as raisins, wine, and juice are effective in maintaining cardiovascular health, including bringing down blood pressure.
Cure for: Constipation or gas
One and a half cups of live-culture yogurt (high in gut-friendly bacteria) pushes food more efficiently through the gastrointestinal tract, says a 2002 study in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. The beneficial bacteria also improve your gut’s ability to digest beans and dairy lactose, which can cause gas, adds Kimball.
Cure for: Preventing kidney stones
Eight dried apricot halves have 2 g of fiber, only 3 mg of sodium, and 325 mg of potassium—all of which help keep minerals from accumulating in urine and forming calcium oxalate stones, the most common type of kidney stones, says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, an integrative nutritionist in private practice in Sarasota, FL, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
5. Can of Tuna
Cure for: A bad mood
A 3-ounce serving of canned white tuna has about 800 mg of omega-3s, which research suggests may treat the kind of blues that leave you feeling low or anxious. The fatty acids in fish have been endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association as an effective part of depression treatment, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. For a seafood-free way to get happy, nosh on a small bagel. The 37 g of carbs will give you a dose of mood-boosting serotonin.
6. Ginger Tea
Cure for: Nausea
Dozens of studies reveal that ginger (1/4 teaspoon of powdered, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of minced gingerroot, or a cup of ginger tea) can ease nausea from motion sickness and pregnancy, says Gerbstadt. Researchers are unsure which oils and compounds in ginger suppress nausea, but it’s safe and has none of the side effects (dry mouth, drowsiness) of OTC meds.
Cure for: Tummy troubles
Studies suggest that eugenol, a compound in basil, can keep your gut safe from pain, nausea, cramping, or diarrhea by killing off bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria. Eugenol even has an antispasmodic property that can keep cramps at bay, says Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, PhD, chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University. Use minced fresh basil in sauces or salads.
Cure for: High cholesterol
One medium pear has 5 g of dietary fiber, much of it in the form of pectin, which helps flush out bad cholesterol, a risk factor in heart disease.
9. Buckwheat Honey
Cure for: Coughing
In a study at Pennsylvania State University, 2 teaspoons of thick, dark brown honey were more effective than OTC cough medicines at limiting the severity and frequency of a cough in children. Honey’s antioxidants and antimicrobial properties may soothe inflamed throat tissues, says John La Puma, MD, director of Chef Clinic in California.
Cure for: Ulcers
A 2002 study at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that sulforaphane, a powerful compound in cabbage, clobbers H. pylori (the bacteria that causes gastric and peptic ulcers) before it can get to your gut, and may even help inhibit the growth of gastric tumors. For only 34 calories a cup, cabbage provides 3 g of fiber and 75% of the day’s vitamin C.
Cure for: Sleepless nights
A 3-ounce serving of turkey has nearly all the tryptophan (an essential amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate sleep) you need in a day, says La Puma. Studies show that people who suffer from insomnia are deficient in tryptophan.
Cure for: Hemorrhoids
The 3 g of fiber in four dried figs helps create soft, regular stools that will keep hemorrhoids from returning, says Somer. Figs also provide about 5 percent of daily potassium and 10 percent of manganese.
Cure for: Fatigue
The fructose in a 4-oz. glass is a perfect pick-me-up, says Gerbstadt. Some studies suggest that vitamin C’s ability to combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals may provide energy, and the vitamin plays a key role in metabolizing iron, which helps your body move energizing oxygen through your bloodstream, she adds.
Cure for: Yeast infection
Garlic contains essential oils that can inhibit the growth of the Candida albicans fungus, the culprit in the pain, itch, and vaginal discharge of yeast infections, says Gerbstadt. Recent studies suggest that thyme, cloves, and even the essential oils from oranges are also effective fungicides, she adds. Include garlic in sauces, salad dressings, and marinades.
15. Chamomile Tea
Cure for: Heartburn
“Chamomile can ease digestive inflammation, spasms, and gas,” says Dale Bellisfield, RN, a clinical herbalist in New Jersey. Steep 2 teaspoons of the herb in 10 oz. of very hot water for 20 minutes, covering the cup to keep the essential oils in the water. You may have to drink the tea a few times a day for complete relief.
Cure for: Headache
The 37 g of carbs in a medium potato can ease a tension headache by upping serotonin levels, as long as you keep the fat and protein below 2 grams.