You are what you eat

Whether you’re fighting fatigue, searching for ways to boost your immune system, or recovering from an illness, doctors often recommend healthy lifestyle changes. The foods you eat can often help with the prevention and management of symptoms.

Iodine is essential to the thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. Low thyroid levels can cause sluggishness, weight gain, and moodiness.

Kelp is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and most importantly for low thyroid levels, iodine. Be aware that overdoing iodine can create problems too. The key is a moderate amount to raise energy levels and brain functioning.

Other power greens include kale, bok choy, spinach, parsley, green beans, and alfalfa.

You may know ginger as a cooking spice, but its centuries-old uses range from aiding digestion and calming upset stomach to treating arthritis. Ginger is now recognized by many healthcare professionals as a tool for reducing nausea, particularly in the prevention and reduction of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV).

Sources of ginger include fresh ginger root, teas, extracts, capsules, oils, and as a dried ground spice.

Mushrooms are hailed for their health-promoting properties. Common types include white button, shiitake, portabella, and crimini. Shiitake mushrooms promote a healthy heart by boosting LDL (“good” cholesterol). Studies continue to examine how shiitake mushrooms may fight cancer by boosting the immune system through the compound lentinan, which is believed to slow tumor growth.

Not all fats are created equal. Calorie counting often leads to the drastic reduction of fat from the diet. However, fat is essential for healthy brain function. Plus, cutting fat entirely may lead to depression and contribute to acne.

Healthy fats — monounsaturated and polyunsaturated — can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Healthy sources of fat include fatty fish, avocado, seeds, olive oil, and certain nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, and pecans.

Carbohydrates give you energy. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to turn to processed carbs that don’t provide other nutrients. However, beets are a natural source of energy packed with carbs, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

Although they tend not to rate high in popularity, beets are equipped to satisfy a midafternoon sugar craving without the guilt. Studies have found that beets may help reduce inflammation and bring down blood pressure.

Probiotics are live microorganisms (“friendly bacteria”) that our bodies need to protect against disease. They can be found in foods like yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods and beverages.

Probiotics can also be obtained in supplement form. Ongoing studies continue to explore the potential of probiotics to treat diseases including irritable bowel syndrome, skin infections, and certain cancers. Research looks promising. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says that probiotics may be able to help treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and might also help prevent diarrhea.

Turning to calcium-rich foods instead of calcium pills is a recommended step toward healing broken bones. The next step is incorporating vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the calcium.

Calcium sources include dairy products such as yogurt and milk, and green vegetables such as kale, nuts, and beans. Vitamin D sources include eggs, dairy, and fatty fish such as sardines and salmon. By far the best source of vitamin D is sunlight.

A relative of the beet, Swiss chard provides an excellent source of vitamins C, E, and K, as well as fiber, zinc, and calcium. With a wide green leaf and a stalk ranging in color from white to red to yellow, Swiss chard combines a bitter taste with a salty flavor.

This nutrition-packed vegetable supports bone health, fights stress-related disease, and holds anti-inflammatory properties. Sautee it, toss it in a salad, or use it as a replacement for spinach in any dish.