Next time you need a crunchy afternoon snack, reach for the celery, not the carrot sticks. Rich in minerals, vitamin C, and phenolic acids, it wards off cancer, cold and flu, and allergies. Compounds called phthalides make it a good cholesterol-lowering food remedy, too. The more the better, most research suggests. Duke says to eat at least four stalks a day. Because its flavor is relatively mild, you can dress it up with peanut butter or use it in place of chips or crackers for your favorite dip. Celery is also one of the rare veggies that don't lose nutritional value when cooked, so add lots of it to stocks, soups, and casseroles. Use the leaves, as well, because they're rich in calcium and more vitamin C.
Cinnamon's most notable and studied benefit to the immune system has been its ability to lower blood sugar. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that the Christmas-y spice could lower blood sugar by 13 to 23 percent. The author of that study suspected that had to do with cinnamon's antioxidants, which activate insulin receptors in your cells. A German study showed that it could suppress Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, the cause of most urinary tract infections, and Candida albicans, the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections. Duke adds that friends of his have successfully quit smoking by sucking on cinnamon sticks whenever they had the urge to smoke. Add a teaspoon to your morning oatmeal or to a glass of organic apple cider.
The stars of the fall and winter fruit season, citrus fruits contain close to 200 cancer-fighting compounds, cholesterol-lowering fiber, and inflammation-lowering flavonoids. An Australian review of 48 studies on diet and cancer found that consuming a daily serving of citrus fruit may cut your risk of mouth, throat, and stomach cancer by up to one half. Grapefruits are also high in lycopene, a cancer-fighter usually found in tomatoes, which are out of season when grapefruit is at its peak. To get the most benefit, eat your fruit whole, not in the form of juices, so you also get all the valuable fiber. Many of the healthy compounds hide in the rinds, too, so use citrus marmalades, which contain bits of the rinds, and use the zests of oranges, tangerines, and lemons in your cooking.
Though widely used as an effective antidote to queasiness, it can also keep cholesterol levels under control, lower blood pressure, and help ease the inflammation associated with arthritis. Researchers have also found that ginger helps kill the influenza virus, plus it helps the immune system fight infection. A study at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Miami found that ginger extract significantly reduced pain related to osteoarthritis of the knee. About an ounce a day will bring benefits, Duke says. Using it in stir-fry dishes or meat marinades will give you enough to help. You can also grate gingerroot and steep it in hot boiling water to make an herbal tea.
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