We’ve all been hit with the splitting headache that just makes you want to shut off all the lights and hide under the covers, or the head cold that’s so bad that you can’t remember the last time you could breathe out of both of your nostrils (ah, simpler times). When you’re sick, it seems like everyone and their mother has some weird food-related thing that they swear could cure all diseases known to man. Someone once told me to take a shot of vinegar for my allergies. Like, thanks, but no thanks.
But, I have to admit, everyone who’s ever suggested that you take a shot of vinegar or put garlic cloves in your socks isn’t wrong to try to help you combat your illnesses with foods. When used the right way, food can be the most natural and fast-working medicine at your disposal. So, munch away your maladies with these foods!
Garlic – Common Cold, Flu, and Allergies
When it comes to fighting off a cold, we’ve heard it all: chicken soup, tons of OJ, a hot cup of tea – you know, everything your grandma tells you to eat when you’re sick. But, when it comes to the sniffles, garlic is a superfood. Garlic has been proven to boost the immune system, and people who eat garlic on a regular basis tend to have shorter colds and less severe cold and allergy symptoms. Add a pinch of garlic powder to your cup of tea for a quick fix (it’s actually really good!). Or, if you’re really down for the count, follow this recipe for a cold-killing vegetable and garlic soup. Don’t be surprised that the recipe calls for wine; in fact, people who drink white wine are less susceptible to the common cold! Get our Basic Vegetable Soup recipe.
Russet Potatoes – Headache
Everyone knows that potatoes are beautiful in all shapes and sizes. Mashed, fried, we don’t discriminate. Believe it or not, potatoes are actually one of the best foods you can eat when you have a headache. Whether you’re just under the weather or you drank too much (we won’t judge), most headaches are caused by dehydration or mineral deficiency. Russet potatoes are high in both potassium and water, making them the perfect defense when a headache attacks. Instead of popping a pill, try this simple baked potato. An extra tip: although cheese and sour cream are delicious on a baked potato (and recommended in this recipe), these toppings may actually make your headache worse! Try seasoning your potato with a bit of melted butter and a pinch of crushed red pepper, because spicy foods are great for headaches, too! And rejoice because now you’re justified in eating a large fry all by yourself. Get our Perfect Baked Potato recipe.
Bananas – Menstrual Cramps
It’s a universal truth among women – cramps are the WORST. You know when you just feel like curling up in a ball and eating away the pain? Turns out you can do exactly that! Bananas are super high in vitamin B6 and potassium, which fight menstrual and muscle cramps. An added bonus: bananas help to reduce water retention and bloating, too! While a banana a day would definitely suffice, here’s a sweet, chocolatey banana bread that will satisfy all your cravings and conquer all your cramps (because, let’s face it, we all would kill for some chocolate when we’ve got cramps). Get our Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe.
Ginger – Tummy Troubles
Whether you’re experiencing nausea, vomiting, a stomachache, or the general stresses of life, ginger is a quick fix to settle the stomach. Ginger is great as both an old lady candy and a digestive aid, and it’s also a great immune boost, so kiss the stomach flu goodbye! Sip slowly on a cup of hot ginger tea, or try this ginger chicken noodle soup. The garlic and thyme in the soup are both relaxing herbs that settle an upset stomach. For extra relief, add a mint leaf or two. Mint is a well-known herb for soothing the stomach. Get our Gingered Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.
Cherries – Insomnia
Can’t sleep? Me neither. Turns out, tart cherries are a great natural source of melatonin – the sleep-regulating hormone. In fact, a recent study actually showed that people who drank tart cherry juice before bed had higher melatonin levels and better quality of sleep. For a light nighttime snack, try this nutty trail mix. In addition to the dried tart cherries, the almonds in the trail mix are rich in melatonin. Sweet dreams everyone, unless you’re super allergic to both cherries and almonds like I am! Get our Nutty Trail Mix recipe.
Berries – High Blood Pressure
We have jobs, families, and (lack of) love lives that seem to know how to tickle every. Last. Nerve. So, if your blood pressure is a bit higher than you’d like it to be, berries – especially blueberries – are a delicious and easy way to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of hypertension. Berries make a sweet dessert, a great addition to a heart-healthy salad, or the perfect topping on your morning oatmeal. Here’s a healthy blueberry smoothie to bring your blood pressure back down! The spinach in the smoothie is a blood pressure bonus, as spinach is known to reduce hypertension. A tip: use skim milk in the smoothie; it’s healthier and much better for your heart! Now maybe you won’t feel your blood boiling the next time you hear “Are you seeing anyone these days?” Get our Healthy Blueberry Smoothie recipe.
Matcha – Low Energy
When it’s one of those days where you just feel sluggish, matcha is the perfect source of longer-lasting natural energy. Don’t be deterred by the fact that it looks like grass – it’s delicious, I swear! It’s also a great substitute for coffee (seriously, don’t even talk to me until I’ve had my morning matcha). Add matcha powder to room-temperature or boiling water for an on-the-go boost, or try this bittersweet, homemade matcha and grapefruit iced tea. The vitamins and minerals found in grapefruit are also a great energy source, so this tasty tea will have you feeling great! Get our Pink Grapefruit and Green Tea Drink recipe.
Avocados – Stress and Anxiety
Fellow millennials, rejoice! Now you have an excuse for putting avocado on literally anything. Avocados are high in B vitamins that help reduce anxiety and stress. Make your own avocado toast in the morning, or follow this recipe for a summery chipotle avocado dressing. My advice: carry a bottle of that dressing with you everywhere you go so you can put your own stress relief on everything you eat. Get our Chipotle-Avocado Salad Dressing recipe.
Mangoes – Breakouts
You may have heard that mangoes are the superfood of superfoods. Well, it’s true! Mangoes have been linked to diabetes and cancer prevention, and are a natural immune booster and cholesterol regulator. If that doesn’t sway you, mangoes are also great for the skin. The vitamins and minerals are proven to prevent pimples and clear pores. You can actually use mangoes directly on the skin, but if you don’t want to have to explain why you’re rubbing yourself with a mango, try this spicy jicama, mango, and grapefruit salad. Get our Spicy Jicama, Mango, and Grapefruit Salad recipe.