7 Times Food Really is the Answer

by Cristina Goyanes for SHAPE.com

Stuffing your face can be bad, but here are seven instances in which it actually helps
Stuffing your face can be bad, but here are seven instances in which it actually helps

You know that stuffing your face can often lead to a vicious cycle of overeating, weight gain, and guilt, so in most cases it does more harm than good. But in certain situations, noshing can actually help. When life bites, here's how and when to bite back--in a healthy manner.

1. You're in a funk

Eat: Sweet potatoes

When you're feeling low, resist the urge to reach for chips or candy, and bake an orange tater instead. "Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious sources of carbohydrates, and when you consume carbs, they create an instant surge in serotonin, a feel-good chemical that lifts mood," says Lyssie Lakatos, R.D., co-author of The Secret To Skinny. And thanks to the fiber in the tubers, the carbs will enter your blood stream at a more gradual rate, helping keep your energy level stable. Read: You won't crash later and revert to being a grumpy pants, as can happen after a peanut butter cup binge.

2. You can't sleep
Eat: Hummus

This Middle Eastern dip may help you dive into a deep slumber, says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes. Tryptophan, an amino acid in chickpeas, is a precursor to melatonin, and levels of this hormone rise in the evening, making you sleepy.

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3. Your muscles ache
Drink: Tart cherry juice

If your trainer pushed you today and you want to give it your all tomorrow on the treadmill, swap your protein shake for cherry juice. "Tart cherries have anti-inflammatory antioxidants called anthocyanins, which may help in reducing muscle soreness after exercise," says Sonu Ahluwalia, M.D., clinical chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. Studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice before and after exercising can ease pain and may help speed up recovery time, so have some today and again tomorrow.

4. You feel sluggish

Drink: Coconut water

Having low energy is sometimes a sign that you're not drinking enough water throughout the day. "Without enough water, nutrients and oxygen can't get to your brain and muscles efficiently, and you feel tired," Lakatos says. "As little as 2 percent dehydration may leave you less able to concentrate." She recommends skipping the coffee and turning to coconut water for a pick-me-up since it has electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which help regulate how and where fluids are distributed throughout the body.

5. Your stomach is rebelling
Drink: Peppermint tea

Whether you're battling IBS or indigestion, drinking one to two cups of peppermint tea may help straighten you out when you find yourself doubled over after a heavy, unsettling meal, says Shilpi Agarwal, M.D., a board-certified family medicine and integrative and holistic medicine physician. Studies have shown that peppermint can help relieve abdominal pain and discomfort by suppressing the muscle spasms that make you want to curl up in bed.

6. You have a pounding migraine
Eat: Spinach

Instead of popping a pill, try a salad. "Magnesium is used in the ER to treat acute migraine attacks, and spinach contains magnesium as well as riboflavin, another nutrient that may help alleviate migraines," Dr. Ahluwalia says." While studies and hospitals use supplements, foods certainly can't hurt to try.

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7. You need to raise your blood sugar levels

Eat: Dried Apricots

The best way to increase your blood sugar levels is to consume sugar-but this doesn't mean you should plunge your face into a bowl of jelly beans. "If you feel like your levels have dipped too low, go for a healthy sweet source, such as dried apricots, which immediately increase blood sugar levels because they are rich in glucose and low in fructose," says nutritionist Dana James, founder and director of Food Coach NYC, who recommends the fruit to hypoglycemic clients. Stick to no more than five pieces to avoid raising your blood sugar too much too quickly, though.

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