When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with slabs of meat on my face.
As kids, my brother Eric and I fought like wild animals. He still sports a scar above his lip from a cut I accidentally gave him, and my nose isn't quite as straight as it might be if I hadn't taken so many shots to it. We're as close as can be today, but back in our teen years, we sported many a bruised ego and blackened eye. And the home remedy for the latter? A hunk of steak.
Turns out, a lot of moms don't have the whole story when it comes to food cures. Cold is good for a bruise, but meat doesn't do anything more than a bag of ice would. But there are plenty of foods that are effective home remedies for curing everything from pounding headaches to potency issues to procrastination. Take these 25 secret food cures, for instance. Incorporate these wonderfoods into your daily diet, and you'll be surprised at how quickly your body and your mind react.
And best of all? Nobody will laugh and call you "meat head."
1. BE MORE POSITIVE
Research shows that dark chocolate can improve heart health, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol, and increase the flow of blood to the brain. It also boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, which are associated with improved mood and greater concentration. Look for chocolate that is 60 percent cocoa or higher.
2. REDUCE ANXIETY
Tuck a few extra cloves into your next stir-fry or pasta sauce: Research has found that enzymes in garlic can help increase the release of serotonin, a neurochemical that makes you feel relaxed.
3. FIRE UP YOUR MORNING METABOLISM
A study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that the average metabolic rate of people who drank caffeinated coffee increased 16 percent over those who drank decaf. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system by increasing your heart rate and breathing. (Want to know what else coffee is good for? Read 25 Best Nutrition Secrets Ever to find out.)
4. FIRE UP YOUR EVENING METABOLISM
It turns out that capsaicin, the compound that gives chile peppers their mouth-searing quality, can also jumpstart your fat-burning, muscle-building engines. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, eating 1 tablespoon of chopped red or green chiles boosts metabolism by 23 percent.
5. LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
Go ahead, crack under pressure: Eating fried eggs may help reduce high blood pressure. In a test-tube study, scientists in Canada discovered that the breakfast standby produced the highest levels of ACE inhibitory peptides, amino acids that dilate blood vessels and allow blood to flow more easily. (For up-to-the-minute tips like these, be sure to follow me on Twitter here. You can lose weight effortlessly and look, feel and live better than ever!)
6. REDUCE STRESS
When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed at work, reach for the Wrigley’s: Chewing gum can help tame your tension, according to Australian researchers. People who chewed gum while taking multitasking tests experienced a 17 percent drop in self-reported stress. This might have to do with the fact that we associate chewing with positive social interactions, like mealtimes.
7. STAVE OFF DEPRESSION
Omega-3s may calm your neurotic side, according to a study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Researchers found that adults with the lowest blood levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were more likely to have neuroses, which are symptoms for depression. Salmon is loaded with EPA and DHA, as are walnuts, flaxseeds, and even cauliflower.
8. SPEED WEIGHT LOSS
The probiotics in yogurt may help you drop pounds. British scientists found that these active organisms boost the breakdown of fat molecules in mice, preventing the rodents from gaining weight. Try the Horizon brand of yogurt—it contains the probiotic L. casei, the same organism used in the study.
Bonus Tip: Don't let all of your hard work go down the drain: Avoid this shocking list of the 20 Scariest Food Creations of 2010!
9. AMP UP YOUR ENERGY
Grilled Chicken Breast
The protein in lean meat like chicken, fish, or pork loin isn't just good at squashing hunger and boosting metabolism—it's also a top source of energy. University of Illinois researchers found that people who ate higher amounts of protein had higher energy levels and didn't feel as tired as people with proportionally higher amounts of carbs in their diet.
10. BE MORE EFFICIENT
These legumes are an excellent source of thiamin and riboflavin. Both vitamins help your body use energy efficiently, so you won't be nodding off mid-Powerpoint.
11. STABILIZE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
Swedish researchers found that if you eat barley—a key ingredient in whole-grain cereals—for breakfast, the fibrous grain cuts blood sugar response by 44 percent at lunch and 14 percent at dinner.
12. IMPROVE YOUR ENDURANCE
Clams stock your body with magnesium, which is important in metabolism, nerve function, and muscle function. When magnesium levels are low, your body produces more lactic acid—the same fatigue-inducing substance that you feel at the end of a long workout.
13. BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY
Animal research suggests that this South African tea, also known as bush or redbush tea, may provide potent immunity-boosting benefits. In addition, Japanese researchers found that it may help prevent allergies and even cancer. Adagio offers a wide range of great-tasting rooibos teas.
14. STOP COUGHING
Penn State scientists have discovered that honey is a powerful cough suppressant—so next time you¹re hacking up a lung, head for the kitchen. When parents of 105 sick children doled out honey or dextromethorphan (the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicines like Robitussin), the honey was better at lessening cough frequency and severity. Try a drizzle in a cup of rooibos tea.
15.TAME A COLD
The vitamin C in kiwi won¹t prevent the onslaught of a cold, but it might decrease the duration of your symptoms. One kiwifruit provides 117 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C.
16. SOOTHE A MIGRAINE
Foods rich in healthy monounsaturated fats help reduce inflammation, a catalyst for migraines. One study found that the anti-inflammatory compounds in olive oil suppress the enzymes involved in inflammation in the same manner as ibuprofen. Avocados and almonds are also high in monounsaturated fats.
17. LOWER YOUR CHOLESTEROL
Not just any margarine, mind you—those containing plant sterols. In a Tufts University study, people who ate a butter substitute containing plant sterols with three meals each day saw their LDL (bad) cholesterol drop by 6 percent. How? The researchers say that plant sterols prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by the intestine. Promise Active and Smart Balance HeartRight are two great options.
18. REPAIR MUSCLE
Popeye was onto something, it seems. Rutgers researchers discovered that treating human muscle cells with a compound found in spinach increased protein synthesis by 20 percent. The compound allows muscle tissue to repair itself faster, the researchers say. One thing to keep in mind, however: Spinach doesn't automatically make any salad a healthy option. Check out 20 Salads Worse Than a Whopper to see what I mean. You'll be absolutely shocked!
19. RECOVER FROM A WORKOUT
Brazilian scientists found that participants who consumed three cups of the beverage every day for a week had fewer markers of the cell damage caused by resistance to exercise. That means that green tea can help you recover faster after an intense workout.
20. REPLENISH YOUR BODY POST-WORKOUT
Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
Nothing like a little dessert after a long workout. British researchers found that low-fat chocolate milk does a better job than sports drinks at replenishing the body after a workout. Why? Because it has more electrolytes and higher fat content. And scientists at James Madison University found that the balance of fat, protein, and carbs in chocolate milk makes it nearly one-third more effective at replenishing muscles than other recovery beverages.
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21. IMPROVE FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION
According to research published in Nutrition Journal, fish oil can help increase your ability to concentrate. Credit EPA and DHA, fatty acids that bolster communication among brain cells and help regulate neurotransmitters responsible for mental focus. Salmon, trout, halibut, and tuna are also great sources of EPA and DHA.
22. AVOID ALZHEIMER¹S DISEASE
The antioxidants in bananas, apples, and oranges may help protect you from Alzheimer's, report Korean scientists. The researchers discovered that plant chemicals known as polyphenols helped shield brain cells from oxidative stress, a key cause of the disease.
23. PROTECT YOUR BRAIN
Vitamin B12, an essential nutrient found in meat, milk, and fish, may help protect you against brain loss, say British scientists. The researchers found that older people with the highest blood levels of the vitamin were six times less likely to have brain shrinkage than those with the lowest levels.
24. BUILD LONG-LASTING BRAINPOWER
Researchers from Harvard found that men who consumed more beta-carotene over 18 years had significantly delayed cognitive aging. Carrots are a tremendous source of the antioxidant, as are other orange foods like butternut squash, pumpkin, and bell peppers.
25. SHARPEN YOUR SENSES
Flax is the best source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—a healthy fat that improves the workings of the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that processes sensory information, including that of pleasure. To meet your quota, sprinkle 1 tablespoon flaxseed on salads or oatmeal once a day, or mix it into a smoothie or shake.
Bonus Tip: Football season doesn't have to mean burgers and BBQ wings all weekend. Cook up the ultimate party spread with The 35 Best Tailgate Foods!