Fix Your Health Problems With Food

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Can't sleep? Got the PMS blues? Before you open your medicine cabinet, step into your kitchen. "Real, whole, fresh food is the most powerful drug on the planet," says Mark Hyman, MD, author of The Blood Sugar Solution. "It regulates every biological function of your body." In fact, recent research suggests not only what to eat but when to eat it for maximum benefit. Check out the latest smart food fixes.

Problem: I'm bloated

Food fix #1: Dig in to juicy fruits and vegetables

When you're feeling puffy, you may not want to chow down on watery produce, but consuming foods like melon, cucumber and celery is an excellent way to flush out your system, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Food & Mood. "We need sodium to survive," she explains, "but because we often eat too much of it, our bodies retain water to dilute the blood down to a sodium concentration it can handle. Eating produce with high water content helps the dilution process, so your body can excrete excess sodium and water."

Food fix #2: Load up on enzymes

Bloating can also be a sign that your intestines are out of whack. "If you're irregular or experience gas right after eating, papaya can help," explains Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, author of Food as Medicine. "Eating 1 cup several times a week helps rejuvenate the gastrointestinal system, thanks to papaya's digestive enzyme papain, which breaks down protein." The fiber also helps push food through your intestines, improving regularity. Try a smoothie with papaya, pineapple (it also contains digestive enzymes), protein powder, ice and almond milk.

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eat-breakfast eat-breakfast includes a whole grain to supply glucose for your brain to run on, protein to satisfy hunger and keep your blood sugar levels steady and one or two antioxidant-rich fruits or vegetables. Somer's suggestion: a 100 percent whole-grain cereal that contains at least 4 grams of fiber and no more than 5 grams of sugar, eaten with fruit and low-fat milk.

Food fix #2: Stock up on selenium

A lesser-known trace mineral, selenium—found in Brazil nuts, tuna, eggs and turkey—helps keep you on an even keel. Women whose diets are deficient in the mineral are more prone to feeling depressed. Why? Selenium is crucial for the production of thyroid hormones, which govern metabolism and mood. You don't need much, though: The recommended daily allowance for selenium is 55 micrograms, and you can get that amount by eating one 3-ounce can of tuna.

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hydrate-airplane hydrate-airplane is to fast for several hours before arriving at your destination. That's because when you eat influences your circadian rhythms, in much the same way that exposure to light and dark does.

Let's say you're headed to France. On the plane, steer clear of most food (but drink plenty of water), set your watch to Paris time and eat a high-protein breakfast at 7 a.m., no matter where you are on your trip. "The fast depletes your body's energy stores, so when you eat protein the next morning, you get an extra kick and help your body produce waking-up chemicals," explains Dave Baurac, spokesperson for the Argonne National Laboratory, a research institute based in Illinois.

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spinach-iron spinach-iron , according to a new study.

Researchers looked at the diets of 3,000 women over 10 years and found that those who consumed more than 20 milligrams of the mineral daily had about a 40 percent lower risk of PMS than those who ingested less than 10 milligrams.

You can get almost your full daily dose by eating 1 cup of an iron-fortified cereal; other great sources include white beans (4 milligrams per one-half cup) and sautéed fresh spinach (3 milligrams per one-half cup).

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carrots-fix carrots-fix in watermelon and tomatoes. Keep in mind that the effect isn't instantaneous; you would need to eat a carotenoid-rich diet for at least 10 to 12 weeks in order to get the full benefit, says Stahl. Still, there is a reward for your patience: skin fortified to fend off sun damage and wrinkles.