Fixing What Ails You ... With Food (cont.)
A Taste of the Grape ...
Juice, that is. Drinking a cup a day of 100% purple grape juice contributes to a healthy heart, says Jane E. Freedman, MD, assistant professor of medicine and pharmacology at Georgetown University, and lead researcher in a study published last year in Circulation. The study showed that drinking grape juice not only has a direct effect on important functions like blood clotting, but also appears to increase the levels of valuable antioxidants while decreasing free radicals. Purple grape juice has three times the antioxidant power of grapefruit, orange, tomato, and apple juices. (An added bonus: preliminary studies have shown that compounds in purple grape juice were as effective as those found in cranberry juice for preventing urinary tract infections.)
And speaking of those UTIs ...
One glass of cranberry juice or one ounce of dried cranberries a day will help stave off infection, says Amy Howell, PhD, research scientist at the Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research at Rutgers University. The compounds found in cranberries prevent certain bacteria from making the foot-like processes that they use to attach to the walls of the urinary tract.
Blue on Blue
Blueberries for those blue veins, says Luis Navarro, MD, founder and director of The Vein Treatment Center in New York. According to Navarro, blueberries are good for circulation. Foods that contain flavonoids -- such as blueberries -- help increase the tone and strength of veins and reduce the fragility of capillaries. And the proanthocynanidins and anthocyanidins -- big words that give berries their blue-red color -- help improve the strength of the vascular system overall. "The best time to start taking care of your legs is before they become a problem," says Navarro. "Eating the right foods gives legs the energy and strength they need to ward off varicose veins."
See Your Way Clear
If you want to lessen the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration -- a disease that causes irreversible blindness in people over the age of 65 -- eat your veggies, says ophthalmologist Robert Abel, MD. Lutein, a nutrient found predominantly in dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, promotes eye health by acting as a light filter, protecting the eyes from some of the damaging effects of the sun, and as an antioxidant, protecting the eyes from the damaging effects of aging, says Abel, a member of the Lutein Information Bureau Advisory Board. Because the body is unable to naturally manufacture lutein, you have to rely on your consumption of lutein-rich foods (or lutein supplements) to maintain optimal levels of lutein in the eye. There isn't an official Daily Reference Intake for lutein, but a 1994 Harvard University study showed that 6 milligrams -- equal to about one-third cup of cooked spinach -- is likely to have beneficial effects. If you're not going to get that amount daily, it won't hurt to add a multivitamin that includes lutein, says Abel.
You've Got a Terrible Headache
If you suffer from migraines, you may have trigger foods that you can't eat. Common migraine triggers are dairy products, chocolate, eggs, citrus fruits, meat, wheat, nuts and peanuts, tomatoes, onion, corn, apples, and bananas, says Neal Barnard, MD, author of Foods That Fight Pain. Ironically, if a migraine does hit, some of those triggering foods may just provide relief as well. Caffeine, for example, may cause migraines in some people, but ease them in others, says Barnard. If caffeine is not a problem for you, drink one to two cups of strong coffee at the first sign of a migraine. You may also find relief from starchy foods such as toast, crackers, and potatoes, which can reduce the headache or nausea and may even shorten the attack.