Food Tips

What Nutritionists Eat for Every Kind of Ailment

Got a cold? Runner’s knee? Killer cramps? There’s a food for that.

K. ALEISHA FETTERS

Whether your head is pounding, the cold has caught you, or you have a nagging feeling that your stomach is auditioning for Cirque du Soleil, your first move is probably for the medicine cabinet. But the refrigerator and pantry also pack plenty of feel-better remedies. Check out the top foods nutritionists turn to when battling women’s most common ailments.

The Cold or Flu
“When I’m down and out with a winter bug, I reach for hot soup with ginger, garlic, chicken, and carrots,” says Georgie Fear, R.D., author ofLean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. “Hot liquids help clear clogged up nasal passages, and ginger and garlic may aid in the immune system and ease an upset stomach. Fluids are important for the immune system to do its work, as are protein in the chicken and vitamin A in the carrots.” In fact, research published in the American Journal of Therapeutics shows that carnosine, a compound found in chicken soup, helps the body’s immune system fight off the early stages of flu. The other bonus about soup—and we are talking fresh soup, not that stuff from a can—is that you can just drop all of your ingredients in the slow cooker, go back to bed, and when you wake up, your meals for the next seven to 10 days are ready to go. “When I’m sick, the last thing I want is to be in the kitchen a lot,” says Fear.

A Headache

“When I have a headache, it’s usually because I’ve done a poor job hydrating or I skipped my morning coffee,” says Pamela Bede, M.S., R.D., a sports dietitian with Abbott EAS Sports Nutrition. “That means that I will be reaching for water first and, if that doesn’t work, adding in somecaffeine from antioxidant- and potassium-rich java.” After all, there’s a reason that most migraine meds contain some caffeine: It constricts blood vessels in the brain to reduce pounding. However, when tension is the culprit, Debra Nessel, R.D., a dietitian with the Torrance Memorial Medical Center in California, opts for a handful of almonds. “They act as a pain reliever because they contain salicin, which is also an agent in popular over-the-counter painkillers.”

Nausea
To settle her tummy, Nessel opts for ginger, typically grating it to top off her green tea. “You can add it to any foods, either freshly grated or as a powder, to help relieve stomach aches and nausea,” she says. According to one review from the University of Exeter in the U.K., ginger makes a huge difference when it comes to fending off nausea, vomiting, and dry heaving, whether you’re preggers, seasick, or even undergoing chemo. Basically, it’s pretty powerful stuff. “If things haven’t gotten graphic and I just feel queasy, I’ll also eat some dry starchy foods to help calm my stomach,” says Fear. “Animal crackers are my go-to, but pretzels or Cheerios will do the trick, too.”

Allergies
“I’m unlucky to have lots of allergies, so if I’m having an allergy attack, I tend to eat fewer processed foods since fillers and other additives might trigger an immune response even further,” says Bede. “I just focus on eating whole foods, and if I do eat any packaged foods, they contain the shortest list of ingredients possible.” Over the long term, however, filling up on fatty fish like salmon and tuna may help keep inflammation at bay to prevent sneezing all winter long from exposure to indoor mold and dust mites, says Fear. “For extra potency in keeping inflammation moderated, I enjoy some blueberries or blackberries for dessert. The polyphenols are helpful for reducing sensitization of the immune system and have been shown helpful for allergic eczema, food allergies, and asthma.”

PMS
“I eat everything!” says Fear. “Just kidding. I actually stock up on fresh fruit. While it might be more appealing to eat a pound of Skittles, evidence indicates that minimizing added sugars can help reduce PMS symptoms. Naturally sweet fruit is much less glycemic way to enjoy sweetness, and the potassium will also help regulate fluid balance to get me through the bloat as fast as possible.”

Sports Injuries
While the game plan is to not get injured in the first place, when you do find yourself sidelined, reach for protein, recommends Fear. After all, 2015 research published in Sports Medicine suggests that filling up on protein can help you both recover from injuries and prevent you from losing muscle when a gimp keeps you from your normal workouts. “I’ll have a lean flank steak or use extra lean ground beef to make a meat sauce and then make sure to get plenty of rest,” she says. “Whey protein used in smoothies or shakes can also help with achieving a high protein intake of 2 to 2.5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day.” FYI, for a 140-pound woman, that works out to about 120 to 160 grams of the muscle-builder.

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