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Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy

Healthy food is the medicine we give our bodies every day. It can’t cure what ails you, but certain foods have the power to soothe symptoms and give your body a boost when you have specific illnesses or injuries. Help yourself to these healing foods.

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Chicken Pho

This Vietnamese soup packs more healing power than old-fashioned chicken and noodles when it comes to colds. Chicken pho (pronounced “fuh”) also packs the anti-viral power of star anise and the anti-inflammatory properties of cardamom and cinnamon. It has antioxidants in the form of goji berries and coriander seeds. Jalapenos bring calcium and vitamins A and C -- along with some nose-clearing spice.

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Sardines

Sardines may not be the sexiest fish at the supermarket, but their little bones may help your broken bones heal faster. Usually packed into small tins with water, olive oil, or tomato juice, these tiny fish are full of calcium and vitamin D. They also have more bone-strengthening omega-3 fatty acids than most other fish. Bonus: Sardines are caught wild and young, which means their mercury levels are low.

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Unripe Bananas

Green bananas have a secret superpower: They’re great for diarrhea. They contain resistant starch, which means it doesn’t let your small intestine absorb it quickly. Instead, it feeds good bacteria in your digestive tract and tells the bad bacteria to get out. Bananas are also full of electrolytes like potassium, which can help you replace what you’ve lost.

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Honey

Skip the honey-flavored lozenges and treat your cough with the real thing. Honey lessens inflammation, soothes pain, and kills bacteria. It’s also full of antibodies that fight viral infections. It’s packed with vitamins like niacin and vitamin C, and minerals like calcium and iron, for a healthy boost of energy. Add 2 tablespoons to warm water or tea for a natural cough suppressant with big benefits.

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Kimchi

This traditional Korean dish may end your gas and bloating. It’s a spicy mix of vegetables like napa cabbage and radishes that are fermented, or preserved with natural good bacteria. When you eat it, it loads your gut with good bacteria, also called probiotics, and moves out bad bacteria that can cause belly distress. Some kinds of sauerkraut and pickles have the same effect: Look for the words “naturally fermented” on the label.

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Horseradish

This cousin of mustard, onion, and garlic is anything but subtle. When you grate horseradish, it crushes the cells of the root. This releases the oils that bring out its signature heat. Even a small dab can make your eyes water and nose run. That’s great news if you have sinus or nasal issues: Horseradish moves out mucus that attracts bacteria if it stays in your system too long. Same for the green mound of wasabi that comes with sushi.

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Coffee

When you have a headache, the blood vessels that feed your brain get tight, then enlarge and press against your nerves. That’s what causes the throb in your head. The caffeine in coffee, black tea, and chocolate causes your blood vessels to go back down in size. Don’t take this as permission to guzzle down cup after cup: You can also get a withdrawal headache after you have too much caffeine.

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Kale

Small scrape? Knife cut? Start healing yourself with kale or other dark, leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and collard and turnip greens. They have high amounts of the essential nutrient vitamin K, which helps your blood cells group up and clot. Not only does this stop you from losing more blood; it also protects your wound. K also helps your body build healthy bone tissue.

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Ginger

Whether you love or hate the spicy bite of ginger, it’s great for your stomach. The root of the ginger plant has compounds called gingerols. They block the receptors in your digestive tract that cause nausea. Use it to treat morning sickness, motion sickness, and post-surgery or chemotherapy-related stomach issues. Ginger comes in many forms, including candied, dried, fresh, pickled, powdered, and ground.

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Herbal Tea

Soothe your sore throat with a warm cup of herbal tea. If your throat hurts, peppermint tea has natural numbing qualities. Clove and green tea fight bacteria. Raspberry-flavored tea reduces inflammation. Chamomile will lubricate your throat: Drink it if you’re hoarse. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s decaf so you’re able to rest and sleep.

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Apples

You know what they say about apples -- and with good reason. Apples have high amounts of pectin, a soluble fiber in the walls of its cells. If you’re constipated, it gets your bowels moving. And if you have diarrhea, it reduces inflammation and helps firm up your bowel movements. To get the most fiber, leave the skin on. Other naturally high-fiber foods include raspberries, cooked artichokes, and Brussels sprouts. 

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 03/18/2020 Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on March 18, 2020

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SOURCES:

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics: “Warfarin, your diet, and vitamin K foods.”

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: “Vitamin K.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “How Wounds Heal.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Vitamin K,” “Bananas.” 

UCCE Master Food Preservers of Amador/Calaveras County: “Fermentation Kimchi, Kombucha, Kefir.”

Michigan State University, MSU Extension: “Interested in making your own home-fermented foods?” “Benefits of honey.”

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School: “Fermented foods can add depth to your diet,” “Hot stuff has the right stuff,” “Natural ways to relieve constipation.”

Mayo Clinic: “Belching, gas and bloating: Tips for reducing them.”

UCLA History & Special Collections, Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library: “Horseradish.”

Penn State Extension: “Growing Horseradish.”

Sutter Health: “The Health Benefits of Goji Berries.”

University Health News: “7 Surprising Coriander Health Benefits: From Fighting Cholesterol to Treating Diabetes and More.”

University of Maryland Graduate School: “Health Benefits of Cinnamon.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: “The effect of cardamom supplementation on serum lipids, glycemic indices and blood pressure in overweight and obese pre-diabetic women: a randomized controlled trial,” “The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy,” “Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research.”

Wiley Online Library: “Star anise (Illicium verum): Chemical compounds, antiviral properties, and clinical relevance.”

Penn Medicine: “6 At-Home Remedies to Ease Your Sore Throat.”

Columbia University Department of Neurology: “Pulling Ahead of Headaches.”

National Headache Foundation: “Does Caffeine Trigger or Treat Headaches?”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Ginger.”

Bastyr University: “Ginger: Boundless Culinary and Medicinal Applications,” “4 Reasons Sardines are Great -- and 2 Recipes to Convince You.” 

Cleveland Clinic: “3 of the Healthiest (and Worst) Fish, According to Our Dieticians.”

Molecules: “Pectin and Pectin-Based Composite Materials: Beyond Food Texture.”

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on March 18, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.