To heal your stressed-out, strained body, step away from the medicine cabinet. The miracle drugs you need are in the kitchen. Certain foods have been shown to have measurable effects on specific body parts and functions — from soothing your gut to lowering your blood pressure, from slimming your waist to helping you stay hard. Here are 20 of the best.
Healing power: Keeps eyes sharp and bones strong
Behind that squint, Popeye’s vision was probably 20/20: His preferred veg is high in carotenoids, which prevent age-related macular degeneration, the primary cause of blindness in older adults. It’s also packed with Vitamin K, which preserves bone strength.
Healing power: Detoxifies the body
Instead of coffee, try starting your day with a glass or two of water with lemon juice. Why? Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant de-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates the liver to help remove toxins from the body and stimulate a sluggish bowel.
Healing power: Soothes the belly
According to legend, Confucius ate ginger after every meal, and he apparently knew a thing or two. The root’s soothing power has been documented in medical texts as far back as four B.C. It fights nausea and indigestion and, according to a study documented in The Journal of Gastroenterology and Hemotology, speeds gastric emptying, keeping your digestive system on track.
Healing power: Lowers blood pressure
Yogurt doesn’t just taste soothing: A study of more than 2,000 adults revealed that those who consume just 2% of their total daily calories from yogurt have a lower incidence of hypertension (high blood pressure) than those who eat it less often. And yogurt’s often high in potassium, a proven blood-pressure reducer.
Healing power: Guards against heart disease
The National Institutes of Health reports that eating garlic regularly may slightly reduce lower blood pressure up to 8 percent, and that it seems to guard against atherscloerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Healing power: May preserve muscle mass
An apple a day can keep younger men at bay: A recent University of Iowa study found that older mice fed diets high in ursolic acid, which is found in apple peels, experienced a 10 percent increase in muscle mass and 30 percent increase in muscle strength, putting them on a par with younger mice. They theorize it helps turn off the protein responsible for age-related loss of muscle mass.
Healing power: Prevents diabetes
The best thing you can do for your diet: Taste the rainbow — and we’re not talking Skittles. A recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study of more than 200,000 people found that a high consumption of berries—which are rich in anthocyanin, an antioxidant that gives them their color—was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. They also help turn off the “fat genes” that lead to obesity. Go for blue and red hues: Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are all especially high in flavonoids.
Healing power: Soothes your belly and reduces blood pressure
Potassium is a man’s nutritional best friend: The mineral aids muscle recovery, feeds good gut bacteria and has been shown to lower blood pressure. A medium banana has about 12% of the 4,700 milligrams you should shoot for daily.
Healing power: Protects against cancer and burns fat
To prevent colon cancer, bend an elbow. The antioxidants found in white tea help protect healthy cells against potentially cancer-causing damage — and can even prevent existing colon cancer cells from reproducing! Bonus: White has been shown to speed fat breakdown and even prevent fat cells from forming, thanks to its combo of caffeine and the powerful antioxidant ECGC.
Healing power: Prevents E.D.
According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, men who consumed between 85 and 170 milligrams of caffeine a day — the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee — were 42 percent less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED). Researchers attribute the benefits to caffeine’s relaxing effect on the arteries, which improves blood flow to the penis.
Healing power: Slashes cholesterol
Black beans contain soluble fiber, the type of fiber your body can digest; it’s a key nutrient in helping to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. A half cup of black beans will get you halfway to the five grams of fiber you should have each day.
Healing power: Detoxes the liver
You can put an ice pack on your throbbing head, but to get the same anti-inflammatory effect throughout the rest of your body, order the curry. Curcumin, a compound derived from the bright-orange spice turmeric, works as a powerful anti-inflammatory in the liver, research shows. A study in the journal Gut found curcumin could reduce bile duct blockage and curtail scarring, which helps the organ process whatever your favorite bartender throws at it.
Healing power: Heals arteries
When fats are good, they’re very good: Researchers say a diet rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids can help reverse arterial stiffness, which inhibits blood from flowing to vital organs. A study in the International Journal of Cardiology found that smokers who supplemented with just 2 grams of omega-3s a day—what you’ll find in a 4-ounce portion of salmon—saw a significant improvement in arterial elasticity.
Healing power: Aids muscle recovery
Recently, researchers said they may have found the perfect pre- and post-workout drink. It’s not sold in a $40 tub that looks like a spaceship; it’s what you used to drink after school: Chocolate milk. Why? It contains a near-ideal balance of carbs and whey protein (about eight grams per cup). Scientists say an ideal protein intake for building muscle is 10 to 20 grams, divided pre and post workout, so mix up a few cups and you’re there.
Healing power: Soothes an irritated belly
When it comes to digestion, fiber is essential, and few sources of the nutrient are as effective as kiwi. Each fruit contains about 2 grams of the 30 to 38 grams you should consume daily, and they seem to have special gut-soothing effects: In an Asian study, patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) who ate two kiwis a day for a month had less constipation and a general lessening of IBS symptoms.
Healing power: Hangover helper
The quest for the ultimate hangover cure is as old as the morning after. Researchers say they may have found it. In 2015, researchers at Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) said that pear juice can help the body better metabolize alcohol, reducing the toxin responsible for hangovers. Bonus: Pears also lower cholesterol, soothe constipation and reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Healing power: Cleans the liver
One of the most powerful detoxifiers couldn’t be more low-tech. A few daily handfuls of almonds could help clean your liver of fatty deposits, according to a recent study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Scientists have found a connection between between vitamin E intake and liver cancer risk; people who consumed the most E — about 16 mg, or about 15 almonds — showed a 40 percent lower risk of liver cancer than those who consumed less. Those 15 almonds provide about 30% of your daily recommended value of E.
Healing power: Detox the liver
With all the toxins in the modern world — pollution, food additives, the guy in the next cubicle over — the body needs all the help it can get. Beets contain a type of antioxidant called betalains, which studies show can help repair and regenerate cells in the liver, the body’s primary detox center.
Healing power: Flushes fat
Eating a grapefruit before each meal can help you lose up to an inch from your middle in just six weeks! That’s according to a study printed in the journal Metabolism, in which scientists credited phytochemicals, a type of natural antioxidant that blasts fat. And that’s not all: Another study conducted by Japanese researchers found that the scent of grapefruit can “turn on” calorie-burning brown fat cells, enhancing the breakdown of fat while reducing appetite.
Healing power: Soothes hangovers
When you’re huddled over a plate of greasy diner food, begging the Hangover Gods for forgiveness, ask the waiter for a side of steamed asparagus. According to a study in the Journal of Food Science, the amino acids and minerals found in asparagus may alleviate hangover symptoms and protect liver cells against toxins. The veggie spears are also a natural diuretic, which will help flush the excess toxins from your system.