As The Today Show show’s nutrition and health expert, author of 12 New York Times bestselling books, and host of NBC’s Health + Happiness With Mayo Clinic, Joy Bauer has a lot on her plate. Her latest book focuses on ways in which food can cure what ails you—be it seasonal allergies, brain fog, or even anxiety.
“When you think about food, you probably think about pleasing your taste buds, celebrating a happy event or maybe losing weight. But food is so much more than that,” says Bauer. “Food can boost energy and brain power. Food can help prevent disease. And in some cases, eating the right food may even reverse certain conditions.”
A self-described foodie, Bauer credits the creation of Joy’s Simple Food Remedies: Tasty Cures for Whatever’s Ailing You to current research as well as her own experiences. “We’re moving in the direction of using food as medicine, so it’s the perfect time for a book like this. Food deserves our respect,” she says. “Now is the time to bring the incredible powers of food into the mainstream.”
So rather than reaching for the medicine cabinet, head straight for the kitchen next time you’re battling the following ailments.
Despite the nickname “senior moment,” there are no age requirements for misplacing your keys or forgetting a colleague’s name, according to Bauer. And while there are countless triggers for brain fog, certain foods have been shown to sharpen focus and memory. Blueberries, for instance, are “loaded with antioxidants that can help prevent or slow cognitive decline,” says the mother of three. Also in Bauer’s arsenal: caffeinated coffee, which can increase alertness, improve mood, boost cognitive function and reverse fatigue; cocoa powder, which has flavanols associated with better brain function and improved blood flow; and iron-rich lentils, which help the brain produce neurotransmitters and are “critical for brain function.”
Cold or Flu
With more than 200 viruses lurking about during “the sneezin’ season,” Bauer knows that it’s “virtually impossible” to fully prevent colds and flu. “But by eating foods rich in vitamin C (think: guava and mushrooms), beta-carotene (such as carrots) or a combo of the two (like pink grapefruit), you can bolster your immune system to help protect against these bugs or dampen the symptoms if you do catch a bug.”
While nothing can beat proper hydration and a good night’s sleep, several common foods can also help boost energy when you’re feeling tired. According to Bauer: “Purple grapes are loaded with water (to help prevent dehydration, a common cause of fatigue) and are also rich in resveratrol (the same good-for-you component in red wine), which has been shown to combat exhaustion. Dark meat poultry is another fatigue fighter because it’s rich in protein, which provides the body with a sustained source of energy and iron, a mineral that enables the body to produce hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Walnuts are another great source of energy because they’re the richest nut in omega-3 fats, and have been shown to boost energy in cancer survivors following a fatigue-reduction diet.”
Stress and Anxiety
When you’re battling anxiety and stress, be sure to consume omega-3s, which can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel or Arctic char. “Study after study shows that omega-3s are helpful in fighting depression, and one study found them to be particularly useful in combating anxiety, too,” says Bauer, who also touts the anxiety-easing powers of chamomile tea and citrus. “Vitamin-C rich orange is another stress-busting bite. In one study, people who took vitamin C for two weeks and had to face a nerve-wracking test felt less frazzled and had a lower blood pressure than those who didn’t get the vitamin.”
“The no-fail cure for a hangover… is to not get one in the first place!” jokes Bauer. “Unfortunately, we’ve all been there, and may go there again. When that happens, there are a few key nutrients to look for the morning after. Potassium, which you can find in ample amounts in bananas, mangoes and white potatoes, helps replace lost electrolytes that typically happens with dehydration. Vitamin B6 is another key nutrient for hangover relief. Studies show people who got a dose of this vitamin experienced a 50 percent reduction in symptoms. Pineapple is another tasty fix—it’s loaded with water for tasty hydration and also contains an enzyme called bromelain that can help with digestion and may also ease inflammation. Whip up a banana-mango-pineapple smoothie for a quick and delicious hangover remedy.”
Joy Bauer’s Stress-Relieving
Makes 16 squares
- One 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup almond butter
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons dried chamomile
(about 5 chamomile tea bags)
- 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons orange zest
(from 1 orange)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- ⅓ cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8-inch square pan with oil spray.
- Place all the ingredients except for the chocolate chips (and pecans, if using) in a food processor or blender, and process until the batter is smooth and creamy.
- Fold in the chocolate chips and optional pecans. (The batter should be thick.)
- Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the edges are a tiny bit brown.
- Let the blondies cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before slicing.