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Eat Your Way to Better Health
Too often, we talk about the ways food can be a health hindrance, leading to conditions like heart disease and diabetes. However, doctors are learning more and more about its potential as a health helper.

From the time you take a bite, every ingredient you consume sets out on an incredible journey, eventually interacting with cells that make up your organs, tissues, and vessels. As a cardiac surgeon and professor, I’ve seen firsthand how these interactions can influence health and recovery. And research involving patients with an artificial heart suggests that a key predictor of their health outcomes is the quality of their nutrition.

But the health impact of what we eat extends far beyond the operating room. Many conditions or issues that are treated with a pill can probably also be helped by the right food, and a good diet can have a hugely beneficial effect on diabetes and high blood pressure. (And while food alone can’t replace cancer drugs or repair an arthritic knee, a healthy menu might help with recovery.) I’m so passionate about this that I’ve just written a book on the topic, Food Can Fix It, which explains the benefits of specific foods and shows you just how potent your plate can be. Here are my prescriptions for what to eat to treat several common ailments...

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A Blue Mood
A 2016 study of more than 12,000 people in Australia found that eating more fruits and vegetables was linked to increased happiness, satisfaction, and well-being. One explanation is that they are abundant in certain antioxidants that research indicates may be associated with optimism. The Mediterranean diet, characterized by the use of olive oil, has also been shown to decrease depressive symptoms. Again, healthy fats may help lower inflammation, which may protect against changes in the brain that lead to mood disorders.

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Joint Pain
The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other oily fish can dampen the body’s inflammatory response to rheumatoid arthritis, reducing your discomfort and giving you a chance to address the underlying problem with your doctor. Compounds in extra virgin olive oil have also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect, so use it in marinades, salads, and sides.

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Insomnia and Spotty Sleep
Tart cherries are packed with melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps tell your body it’s time to snooze. Some small studies suggest that their juice may help you fight insomnia or sleep longer. Try a half cup of highly concentrated tart cherry juice with dinner.

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The Common Cold
Heat up some hearty chicken soup. Yes, this old-fashioned remedy really can make it all better. Not only does the broth keep you hydrated—and thereby help thin mucus—but the warm salty liquid soothes your throat. One petri-dish study even suggested that chicken soup may act as an anti-inflammatory.

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Cognitive Decline
Healthy dietary fats are essential to protect against memory-related diseases. Plenty of research connects increased fish consumption with brain health, including an Archives of Neurology study of nearly 900 people that found those with the highest levels of DHA (one of the fatty acids in fish) in the blood had a 47 percent reduction in risk of developing dementia. Other brain-healthy foods: nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, and poultry. Bon appétit!

Get With the Program
Mehmet Oz, MD, is the host of The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check local listings). His new book Food Can Fix It includes a 21-day plan to show your body what it feels like to eat foods that heal. You’ll have protein with every meal, as many nonstarchy veggies as you want, and more.