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10 Surprising Health Boosters

by
author image Cristina Goyanes
Cristina Goyanes is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor, specializing in wellness, fitness, sports and travel. She is a contributor to national men's and women's lifestyle publications and websites.

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10 Surprising Health Boosters
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Whether they’re foods that fight pain, odd practices that combat disease, or just unexpected dietary tricks that can deliver results, here are 10 health hacks that are just crazy enough to work.

Eat Salmon for Achy Joints
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EAT SALMON FOR ACHY JOINTS

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, like salmon, are natural anti-inflammatories that may be just as effective – and possibly safer – at treating nonsurgical neck and back pain as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like aspirin and ibuprofen, which have been linked to side effects including gastric ulcers, bleeding and heart attacks. A study published in Surgical Neurology found that patients who spent an average of 75 days on a fish oil diet (1200 mg per day) experienced such significant improvements in overall pain that the majority discontinued their NSAID prescriptions.

Heal Headaches with Botox
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HEAL HEADACHES WITH BOTOX

One shot may smooth and sooth a throbbing furrowed brow, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which approved the famous wrinkling-fighting treatment Botox for chronic migraine prevention. According to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that analyzed 27 studies, an injection of botulinum toxin A (a.k.a., brand name Botox) in the head and neck may reduce the pounding pain by as much as two days in patients who reported having 17 to 20 headaches per month, on average.

Sing to Stop Snoring
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SING TO STOP SNORING

If you sound like you’re taking a chainsaw to a rainforest in your sleep, then this trick may be music to your ears (as well as your bedmate's): Chronic snorers who performed prescribed singing exercises for 20 minutes a day for 12 weeks snored less, especially if they weren't overweight and didn't have nasal problems, according to a British study. The act of belting out an Adele song (or three) might help strengthen throat muscles and keep them from collapsing and vibrating (the source of those off-tune nightly noises) while you doze.

Munch on Mushrooms for Super Sperm
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MUNCH ON MUSHROOMS FOR SUPER SPERM

Talk about magic mushrooms: The unique antioxidant ergothioneine found in specialty 'shrooms – including oyster, shiitake and maitake – may improve overall sperm health, says Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, CSSD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Bonus: The fab fungi is also loaded with selenium, an essential mineral that may also gives your swimmers a boost.

Beat Your Best PR with Beets
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BEAT YOUR BEST PR WITH BEETS

Swap neon-colored sports drinks for the natural red stuff: It may be the difference between finishing and medaling at your next race. New research found that cyclists who consumed about a pound of beets (in the form of puréed juice) three hours before a time trial saw an average performance improvement of 2.8 percent thanks to the veggie's nitric oxide, says Nancy Clark, RD, author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. The gaseous signaling molecule relaxes and widens blood vessels, which reduces the amount of oxygen muscles need during activity. Another British study suggests that the winning juice may improve stamina, too: Cyclists were 11 seconds faster on a 2.5-mile course and 45 seconds faster on a 10-mile course after drinking beet juice.

Curb Cravings with Apple Cider Vinegar
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CURB CRAVINGS WITH APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

You know what they say about an apple a day. Well, guess what the fruit's fermented cider (a.k.a., vinegar) can do: “It may decrease appetite, increase regularity and promote weight loss,” says Stephanie Middleberg, a New York City-based register dietitian, who recommends diluting a tablespoon of the sour liquid in water and knocking it back like tequila before or after a meal. A 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry found that obese people who consumed one to two tablespoons of the vinegar daily for three months saw a significant drop in body weight, abdominal fat, waist circumference, and triglycerides. “Acetic acid, a key player in vinegar, may help break down fat and act like a palate cleanser,” Middleberg says. Can't stomach the shot? Try adding the vinegar to marinades or salad dressings instead.

Prevent PMS with Beans
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PREVENT PMS WITH BEANS

There's a good reason women love chocolate during certain times of the month. The sweet treat is made with cacao, which is loaded with magnesium, a muscle relaxant that can aid in minimizing bloating and cramping, Middleberg says. “Low levels of magnesium are common in women who experience menstrual cramps, so craving chocolate may be the body's way of saying it's missing the key mineral,” she adds. Rather than strap a bag of Hershey's Kisses to your mouth, add another magnesium-rich foods – sans the sugar-high side effects– to your diet, like black and pinto beans. A cup of the latter is a great source of two B vitamins (thiamine and riboflavin), which may also help ward off PMS, according to University of Massachusetts–Amherst researchers.

Drink Decaf to Relieve Dry Eyes
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DRINK DECAF TO RELIEVE DRY EYES

You'd never guess that caffeine, a diuretic, would help you stay hydrated – well, maybe just your eyes, suggests University of Tokyo researchers. According to the Japanese study published in Ophthalmology, caffeine intake (five to seven mg which can be found in an average cup of decaf) stimulates tear glands and significantly increases tear production, which may aid in treating dry eye syndrome.

Use Garlic to Save Face – and Your Colon
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USE GARLIC TO SAVE FACE – AND YOUR COLON

Garlic has long been touted as a cure-all, fending off everything from colds to cancer. The all-natural antiseptic contains bacteria and virus-fighting properties that may help clear canker sores (aka, mouth ulcers), too, when applied daily or eaten raw or cooked in food, Middleberg says. The prebiotic fiber found in great white vegetable may also protect your stomach and bowels by keeping unwanted pathogens out, Dubost adds. A Washington State University study recently published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy claims that the diallyl sulfide found in garlic is 100 times more effective at combating one of the most common food-borne intestinal illness – plus its symptoms including diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever –than two popular antibiotics.

Swig Cherry Juice to Squash Soreness
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SWIG CHERRY JUICE TO SQUASH SORENESS

Finish your fitness routine with a cherry on top: Winona State University researchers found that anthocyanins (one of the active components of tart cherries with high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity) may reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness two days after a resistance workout by 24 percent compared to a placebo group. While subjects took a gel supplement equivalent to about 100 cherries every day for four days after the workout, drinking the tart fruit juice may have the same benefits. “Research shows the effects of consuming two 10.5-ounce bottles (containing about 45 cherries each) per day for one to three weeks may be enough to reduce inflammation in healthy men and women,” Clark says.

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