TIME Exercise/Fitness

6 Ways a TV Binge Affects Your Body

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And how to fight each one

When a major show releases an entire season at once—we’re looking at you, House of Cards—it’s hard to resist devouring it all over a single weekend. And you probably won’t be alone: According to a 2014 poll by research firm Miner & Co Studio, 70% of U.S. television watchers self-identified as binge-viewers.

But before you settle in, let’s talk about what a TV binge can do to your body. You know that a habit of sitting for prolonged periods has been linked to everything from obesity to early death, but you may wonder: What harm can one or two lazy days really do?

Well, let’s just say there are some good reasons to try to split up your TV or movie binge.

“Even one long television session can certainly cause some immediate side effects,” says John P. Higgins, MD, associate professor of cardiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and a certified personal trainer. “And the more you do it, the more you’ll be at risk for longer-term problems.”

Here are all the ways your body is affected while you binge-watch, plus how to fight each one.

Your appetite

Watching television often goes hand in hand with mindless overeating and unhealthy snacking, Dr. Higgins says, and watching episode after episode can make that worse. “You probably don’t want to stop for an hour to cook yourself a healthy meal, so you order pizza or fast food, or you snack on junk food the whole time.” And if you think that one bad-for-you dinner can’t hurt, think again: A 2012 study from the University of Montreal found that a single meal high in saturated fat can can damage arteries and restrict blood flow in the body. Furthermore, watching high-paced, action-oriented programs also triggers more distracted eating than less stimulating news or talk shows, according to a 2014 study by Cornell University.

Simply seeing characters eat on TV may make you consume more calories, Dr. Higgins adds, just as watching them drink alcohol may trigger you to crave a cocktail, or seeing them smoke (ahem, Frank and Claire) may tempt smokers to light up.

Fight it: Prep healthy food in advance
Make a healthy meal before you indulge in one (or more) episodes, and have pre-portioned healthy snacks (think popcorn or almonds) at the ready.

Read more: 20 Snacks That Burn Fat

Your muscles

It’s unlikely that you’ll gain five pounds or sabotage your fitness goals in one sitting, but spending all day on your butt can have more immediate consequences, including stiffness, back pain, and muscle cramps.

Fight it: Watch on the go
Download the Netflix app, so you can watch from your phone or tablet on the treadmill, stationary bike, or—Frank’s personal favorite—the rowing machine. At the very least, you should take a stand and stretch break between each episode.

Read more: 15-Minute Workout: Get Total-Body Toned

Your mood

A recent study by University of Texas at Austin researchers found that binge-watching is linked with feelings of depression and loneliness. People often try to lose themselves in TV to distract themselves from their negative feelings, the authors say, but often they’re unable to stop—even when they know they are neglecting work and relationships. Spending a whole weekend watching TV may also cause feelings regret and guilt, says psychiatrist Grant Brenner, MD, adjunct assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, but those are usually temporary.

For viewers with pre-existing mental health conditions, however, a binge session may have bigger consequences. “Perhaps they’re in a vulnerable state and the material triggers a negative reaction—such as activating trauma or amplifying irrational beliefs of some sort,” Dr. Brenner says.

Speaking of trauma, House of Cards has some dark subject matter. “Being exposed to any sufficiently intense or resonant emotionally-laden experience can potentially affect a person’s disposition and outlook,” Dr. Brenner adds, at least for a few days.

Fight it: Watch with friends
You need to talk to someone about Frank and Claire, and why that thing that was so crazy was just. So. Crazy!

Read more: 12 Worst Habits For Your Mental Health

Your sleep

And not just the sleep you lose by watching straight through the night (you probably already know you shouldn’t do that); it’s possible that your shut-eye schedule in the days after your binge session could be affected as well, Dr. Higgins says. “If you watch in a dark room with a lack of sunlight it can screw up your circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep-wake cycles.” On top of that, research suggests that the blue light emitted from televisions, computers, and smartphones can impair the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps promote sleep. (Not to mention, it can cause headaches and eye strain.)

Fight it: Avoid a binge that’s too close to bedtime
You need at least an hour away from the blue light to appropriately wind down. Also: watching on a screen that’s close to your face may have the biggest impact, so be sure you really “sit back” and relax.

Read more: 10 Sleep Compatibility Problems, Solved

Your circulation

Staying in one position for too long can contribute to deep vein thrombosis and the formation of potentially fatal blood clots, even in otherwise active individuals. “I’ve seen young healthy people who have been lying around all day surfing the web or watching movies get blood clots,” Dr. Higgins says. “When you’re watching TV, you may be moving your hands a bit but usually your feet are just lying there.”

Fight it: Get up at least every 30 minutes
“It’s another important reason to get up every 30 minutes or so, even if it’s just to stand and pump the calves and keep the blood flowing,” Dr. Higgins says.

Read more: How to Prevent a Blood Clot

Your metabolism

Studies show that spending long periods of time in a chair or on a couch do slow metabolism and cause the body to store more fat, which can lead to a slow, steady weight gain. Plus, you’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: prolonged sitting has been linked to certain cancers, diabetes, disability, and heart disease—and the more time people spend watching TV, the more likely they are to die prematurely. In many cases, these associations hold true even if you’re getting the recommended amount of exercise during the day.

Fight it: Don’t make it a habit
Thankfully, it’s not every week that Netflix releases an addicting show.

Read more: 6 Ways to Sit Less Every Day

The bottom line

There are ways to make the occasional marathon TV session healthier. “If you decide you’re going to watch five episodes in one day rather than one episodes every night of the week—and you use that hour each night to work out when wouldn’t otherwise—you can treat a weekend binge as a reward,” Dr. Higgins says.

Brenner agrees. “For a lot of folks, binge-watching might be a form of relaxing ‘stay-cation,’ especially if it is viewed as a valuable recreational experience and not as an excessive indulgence,” he says. “As with most things, moderation is the key to avoiding problems.”

Read more: 5 Ways To Make Your Netflix Binge A Little Healthier

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME medicine

4 Things to Know About Zinc And Your Cold

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Zinc can help treating a cold, but it doesn't prevent

Zinc is often touted as a way to fight the common cold. But while research suggests it does work, there are some caveats. Tod Cooperman, MD, president of the independent testing group ConsumerLab.com, provides the scoop:

Zinc helps treat—not prevent—a cold

Popping zinc within 24 hours of the start of symptoms helps shorten your sniffle, according to a 2013 Cochrane review. The authors say significant effects were seen at doses of at least 75 mg (the equivalent of three or four lozenges) per day, taken as long as your cold lasts. How does it work? The theory, according to the Mayo Clinic, is that zinc may keep cold viruses from multiplying and taking up residence in your nose and throat. But don’t bother taking it just to take it; there’s no evidence it’ll actually prevent a cold.

Read more: Best and Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

Pick a lozenge, not a spray

Back in 2009, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned against using zinc gel sprays and nasal swabs after receiving more than 130 reports of people losing their sense of smell after using these products. (The manufacturer pulled the products from store shelves, though they claim no link has been established.)

Though you can no longer buy zinc nasal spray, it’s still available as a throat spray, which might be problematic, according to Dr. Cooperman. “If you spray it into your throat it can still go up your nose,” Dr. Cooperman says.

The best way to go is still the good old lozenge. Just make sure you suck—not crunch—it: “It needs to dissolve slowly to be effective so it can coat your throat,” explains Dr. Cooperman.

Read more: Best and Worst Exercises to Do When You Have a Cold

Not all lozenges are created equal

In order for a lozenge to provide enough zinc to be effective, it needs to contain between 13 and 23 milligrams, Dr. Cooperman says. Yet only two of the four lozenges Consumer Lab tested—Cold-Eeze Homeopathic Cold Remedy and Nature’s Way Zinc—provided enough. (There are other brands of zinc they didn’t test.)

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

You can’t pop ’em like candy

The safe upper limit for zinc in adults is 40 milligrams per day, as determined by the Institute of Medicine. While it’s okay to exceed that 40mg limit for three to five days (or roughly the length of a cold), you still don’t want to down the lozenges like crazy. At most, only take one every three hours if you’re sick, and limit yourself to one a day if you’re healthy: “Too much zinc can actually depress your immune system,” explains Dr. Cooperman.

Read more: How to Stop a Cold In Its Tracks

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Non-Diet Factors That Can Affect Your Weight

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Weight control is influenced by more than your daily calorie intake

For years I’ve heard experts say, “Weight loss simply comes down to calories in versus calories out.” But throughout my years as a practitioner, that simple philosophy hasn’t rung true. I’ve seen clients break a weight loss plateau after increasing their calorie intake—swapping processed “diet” food for whole, nutrient-rich clean foods and changing up their meal balance and timing.

I’ve also found that stressed-out, sleep-deprived clients have a more difficult time losing weight, which has been backed by numerous studies. And now, research shows that a number of other lifestyle and environmental factors also play roles in influencing metabolism and weight control.

Here are five on my radar, and tips for combating them.

Artificial additives

Just-released animal research from Georgia State University found evidence that artificial preservatives used in many processed foods may be associated with metabolic problems, such as glucose intolerance and obesity. In rodents genetically prone to inflammatory gut diseases, the chemicals led to an increase in the severity and frequency of metabolic problems. Scientists believe the effects are due to changes in gut bacteria. When chemicals break down the mucus that lines and protects the gut, unhealthy bacteria come into contact with gut cells, which triggers inflammation, and as a result, changes in metabolism.

Combat it: This is preliminary research, but even more of a reason to read food labels and eat clean. When buying anything that comes in a box, bag, or jar, read the ingredient list first. My philosophy is that it should read like a recipe you could whip up in your own kitchen. For more info check out my previous post What Is Clean Eating?

Read more: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

Shift work

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that people who work the night shift burn fewer calories during a 24-hour period than those who work a normal schedule. The difference can lead to weight gain, even without an increase in calories. In other words, when you throw off your body’s circadian rhythm, your normal diet can suddenly become excessive due to a metabolic slowdown. This parallels research which found a relationship between body clock regulation, gut bacteria, and metabolism. When mice received gut bacteria from jet-lagged humans, they gained significant amounts of weight and had abnormally high blood sugar levels.

Combat it: If you work when most people are sleeping, or you travel through different time zones, seek out nutrient-rich foods that help boost satiety, increase metabolic rate, and regulate hunger, including fresh veggies and fruit, beans and lentils, nuts, ginger, hot peppers, and good old H2O. For more tips check out my previous post 9 Natural Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work.

Read more: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Weight criticism

University College London researchers found that over a four-year period, people who experienced weight discrimination or “fat shaming” gained weight, while those who did not shed pounds. Another study from Renison University College at the University of Waterloo found that over five months, women with loved ones who were critical of their weight put on even more pounds.

Combat it: You may not be able to control the type or amount of support you receive from others, but there are effective techniques for improving your personal mindset. For example, practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to help reduce stress, lower hunger hormones, and prevent weight gain. In a study published in the Journal of Obesity, this practice led to a greater loss of belly fat, without following a calorie-counting diet. I teach it in my private practice and I devoted an entire chapter to meditation in my upcoming book, Slim Down Now($20, amazon.com). If you’re a newbie, check out UCLA’s online classes.

Read more: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Environmental chemicals

It may seem odd for a nutrition professor to study flame retardants. But one such professional at the University of New Hampshire found that these substances—which are found in everything from furniture to carpet padding and electronics—trigger metabolic and liver problems that can lead to insulin resistance, a major cause of obesity. Compared to a control group, rats exposed to these chemicals experienced dramatic physiological changes. In just one month, levels of a key enzyme responsible for sugar and fat metabolism dropped by nearly 50% in the livers of rats exposed to flame retardants. According to the researcher, the average person has about 300 chemicals in his or her body that are man made, and we’re only beginning to understand the possible effects.

Combat it: You can’t eliminate your exposure to synthetic substances, but you can limit it. You can now find natural products in nearly every shopping category, including cosmetics, cleaning supplies, toys, and household goods. For help, check out resources and guides from organizations like the Environmental Working Group.

Read more: Get a Flat Belly in 4 Weeks

Genetics

It’s no surprise that we take after our parents when it comes to body type, but new research shows that the type of bacteria that live in our digestive systems are also influenced by genetics. That’s an important finding, because more and more research indicates that gut bacteria are strongly connected to weight control. Scientists at King’s College London found that identical twins had a similar abundance of specific types of gut bacteria, compared to non-identical twins. This indicates that genes strongly influence bacteria, since identical twins share 100% of their genes, while non-identical twins share about 50% of their genes. They also found that the presence of a specific type of bacteria was most influenced by genetics, and that type strongly correlated with leanness. In fact, transplanting this bacteria to the digestive systems of mice caused the animals to gain less weight than those that did not receive the bacteria.

Combat it: You can’t change your genetics, but there’s a great deal of research now about how you can transform your good gut bacteria. The top strategy: avoid artificial and processed foods, and load up on a variety of whole, plant-based foods, including vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils, and fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. For more about how to eat more plant-based foods, check out my previous post 5 Delicious Pasta Alternatives.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 7 Reasons Why You’re Working Out and Still Not Losing Weight

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 Superfoods You Might Be Overeating

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You can have too much of a good thing, even when it may be the healthiest food of all

When it comes to diet, you can totally have too much of a good thing. Even the healthiest foods, in big quantities, may have side effects. And today, with our increased zeal for superfoods, the risk of overdosing on certain power eats has multiplied. Here are my top culprits—plus how to stay balanced.

Kale

For nutrients and antioxidants per calorie, few foods compare to kale. But our current obsession with this leafy green may be overkill: Kale’s appearance on U.S. restaurant menus jumped nearly 400 percent from 2009 to 2013. And the number of new kale products introduced globally more than tripled between 2007 and 2012, per Innova Market Insights.

Women I know are whipping up a green juice (many of which contain far more kale than they could eat in one sitting concentrated into 16 ounces) in the morning, having kale salad for lunch and snacking on kale chips at night. The potential side effect? Kidney stones. Kale contains oxalate, which can bind with calcium to form stones. While other foods (like spinach) are higher in oxalate, megadoses of kale could make it a problem for those susceptible to stones.

The best balance: Choose a kale-rich green juice or a big kale salad per day. On days you have whole kale, you can still do green juice; just make one with a low-oxalate ingredient like cucumber and a variety of other vegetables.

Read more: 13 Healthy Kale Recipes

Sushi

One of the simplest (and yummiest) ways to get the recommended twice-weekly servings of ocean fare is to hit the local sushi joint. But plenty of busy women overrely on it.

While sushi does offer lean protein and heart- and brain-protective omega-3s, mercury in fish (from pollution) is a real concern. And it can be easy to OD on it via sushi, per a recent study. Researchers at Rutgers University interviewed 1,289 men and women about their sushi intake and tested fish samples. Among the tuna, eel, salmon and crab, tuna had the highest levels of mercury. Researchers estimated that mercury exposure for people who ate seven sushi meals consisting mostly of tuna per month exceeded the EPA’s recommendations. The scary part: Symptoms of mercury overexposure (vision issues, tingling fingers and muscle weakness) may not show up for months, or even at all.

The best balance: A good sushi option is a brown rice California roll; it’s made with crabmeat, so it’s fine twice a week. It’s best to limit bigger fish like certain types of mackerel and tuna, which tend to have more mercury—particularly if you’re pregnant, planning to get pregnant or nursing.

Read more: 10 Fish You Should Avoid (and Why)

Fortified foods

If you shop for cereals, energy bars, orange juice and bottled water, you’ve probably seen labels bragging about added nutrients. Check those labels carefully, however. Some cereals boast 100 percent of the daily value (DV) for many vitamins and minerals. While fortification helps ensure that you’re not lacking in nutrients like vitamin D, ingesting a total day’s worth of zinc, iron, B vitamins and more from one product ups your likelihood of getting a surplus. This is especially true if you take supplements or have more than one fortified food a day. If you want a boost, buy brands fortified with no more than 50 percent of the DV for any nutrient.

Consistently going far above the daily allowance can push you toward your tolerable upper intake level (UL), the point at which good nutrients can become dangerous. One European study suggested that people who ate large amounts of dairy could exceed the UL for calcium when adding things like calcium-fortified orange juice and oatmeal. Passing the daily 2,500-milligram limit regularly can cause constipation and kidney problems. Too much zinc may reduce immune function and HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

The best balance: Skip products that pack 100 percent of your DV for any one nutrient. Consume plenty of whole foods instead.

Read more: The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

Seaweed

Once only health food staples, chips, spice concoctions and salad mixes made of sea plants like nori and kombu are now in the grocery. You can also find this power green—which has been linked to heart health—in sushi rolls and seaweed salads. The problem? Seaweed is often super rich in iodine. Too much can lead to thyroid problems, which can cause weight fluctuations. In one study, a 39-year-old woman was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism after downing tea that contained kelp for four weeks.

The best balance: I generally recommend that clients get their kelp fix safely by stopping at one fresh seaweed salad (in addition to sushi) once a week. Steer clear of the teas, unless prescribed by a doc, and keep seaweed snacks to one serving a day. If you notice fatigue or weight changes, though, cut them out completely.

Read more: 19 Signs Your Thyroid Isn’t Working Right

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 Ways to Eat More and Still Lose Weight

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No need to go hungry even if you're on a diet

I love to eat. And I’m lucky: As a food editor, it’s my job. So I always wonder about weight-loss advice that says to eat less and move more.

Be more active: Sure, that’s always good. But eat less? Hmm. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea. Consider the times you’ve gone on a “diet” or resolved to cut out a certain food. When I’ve done that, the only thing I could think about was food, particularly the stuff I decided I couldn’t have.

Read more: The 50 Healthiest Foods of All Time

These days, I’m all about abundance—as in, I load up my plate with healthy food so I have barely any room for less healthy fare. This strategy is called crowding out, and nutritionists, health coaches, and athletes are using it as an alternative to traditional diets.

The rules of crowding out

Ease into it: For this tactic to work, you have to genuinely like healthier foods. It can be an adjustment, especially if your diet includes processed foods. Thing is, “when you eat more simply, your cravings change,” says Brendan Brazier, author of the Thrive book series and a former pro Ironman triathlete. “Stuff you used to go for, like potato chips and packaged cookies, begin to seem overflavored, and you want them less.” One European study found it can take as few as 18 days to form a new eating habit, though it varies by person. Start small: Have avocado instead of dressing on a salad, and sauté vegetables with olive oil, garlic and a bit of salt and pepper instead of a rich sauce.

Read more: 13 Veggies You Only Think You Don’t Like

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables: You can eat nonstarchy ones with abandon, just as long as they’re not deep-fried. Begin with breakfast: Scramble an egg or two with a cup of chopped onions, peppers, mushrooms, and/or spinach. (The scramble will look like a lot of vegetables with a little bit of egg holding it all together—that’s what you want.) At lunchtime, take half your regular amount of sandwich fillings and place them on a big bowl of mixed greens instead of bread. Or make substitutions in foods you already love: Replace some of the beef in Mom’s stew recipe with extra chunks of parsnip, carrots or mushrooms.

Read more: The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

Crowd out, don’t pile on: “What you want to avoid is just adding healthy items to your usual intake, which could result in overeating,” notes Brittany Kohn, a registered dietitian in New York City. She suggests having, for example, a baked sweet potato to crowd out a side of French fries, rather than eating both.

Grab something sweet: “Add a sweet-tasting item to your main course to fight urges for sugary desserts,” advises health coach Katrine van Wyk, author of Best Green Eats Ever ($15; amazon.com). “I love a salad with apple or pear. It’s a simple tweak that makes my clients feel more satisfied with fewer cravings.”

I say it all the time: Eating is one of life’s great pleasures. Food is fuel, nourishment, sharing, joy, celebration. Battling your hunger just leads to frustration. Instead, I’ve learned to love—and be creative with—all the amazing whole, largely plant-based foods I can down with gusto. Go ahead: Embrace eating!

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 7 Reasons Why You’re Working Out and Still Not Losing Weight

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TIME Obesity

Your Definitive Guide to Losing Body Fat

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The trick is understanding the difference between the kinds of fat and keeping them in balance with diet and exercise

We curse the dimpled cellulite that has settled on our thighs and survey the pudge around our belly with a quick poke and a disapproving eye. But here’s the thing: Fat isn’t just a place where your body dumps extra calories. It’s an organ that can help—or harm—your health. (One type, brown fat, can actually turn your body into a calorie-burning machine!) “Everyone has fat—even Olympic marathon runners,” says Osama Hamdy, MD, medical director of the Obesity Clinical Program at Harvard University’s Joslin Diabetes Center. “Simply put, we need it to survive.” The trick is understanding the difference between the kinds of fat and keeping them in balance with diet, exercise and some plain old common sense. Get ready to go deep.

Fat type No. 1: Subcutaneous fat

Where it is: Directly underneath your skin. Subcutaneous fat can be anywhere: not just in your belly and tush but your arms, legs—even your face.

What it does: In addition to storing energy and providing essential padding for your body, it has another important job: It generates the hormone adiponectin, which helps regulate insulin production. “Paradoxically, the fatter you are, the less adiponectin you produce, which means that your body has trouble regulating insulin, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” Dr. Hamdy says.

How to blast it off: Cutting calories is crucial for overall weight loss, but getting moving counts, too: Women who walked, cycled or took public transportation to work had about 1.5 percent less body fat than those who drove, according to a U.K. study published this past August. “It’s proof that those little bursts of activity count when it comes to burning fat,” notes Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women. “Even just walking from the train station or bus to your office can burn on average an extra hundred calories.”

Read more: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Already active? Ramp it up. “When you take your workout up a notch, you reach VO2 max—that’s the level of exertion where you have the optimal breakdown of body fat,” Dr. Peeke explains. “It also fools your body into thinking that you’re working out minutes after you’ve stopped, so you’re still burning calories.”

Fat type No. 2: Visceral fat

Where it is: Nestled deep within your belly, where it pads the spaces around your abdominal organs. You can’t feel or grab it.

What it does: Visceral fat has been dubbed “toxic” fat, and for good reason: “It secretes inflammatory proteins called cytokines that affect insulin production and increase inflammation throughout the body, which raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” Dr. Hamdy says. You can’t directly measure visceral fat unless you undergo an MRI or a CT scan. The next best thing? Grab a tape measure and wind it around your waist; if your midsection is more than 35 inches, you most likely have too much visceral fat, Dr. Hamdy says. A Mayo Clinic study published last March found that Caucasian women with waist sizes above 37 inches were more likely to die from heart or respiratory disease. Another sign of trouble: Your numbers are off, meaning you’ve got low HDL (good) cholesterol and elevated blood glucose and triglyceride levels. “When a woman who has been lean most of her life gains 10 to 20 pounds at age 40 or so, she may not even be technically overweight, but it’s usually visceral fat that’s adding the extra weight,” explains Caroline Cederquist, MD, a bariatric physician based in Naples, Fla., and author of The MD Factor Diet.

Read more: Fat-Burning Recipe: Blueberry Oat Pancakes With Maple Yogurt

How to blast it off: “To mobilize visceral fat, a balanced diet is essential,” Dr. Cederquist says. “Eat lean protein throughout the day, while controlling your carb and fat intake.” For keeping visceral fat off, cardio is the way to go: A 2011 Duke University study found that regular aerobic exercise—the equivalent of jogging about 12 miles a week at 80 percent max heart rate—was the best workout for losing visceral fat in particular.

Fat type No. 3: Brown fat

Where it is: Mainly around your neck, collarbone and chest. For years, researchers assumed that it was present primarily in infants, helping to keep them warm, and that it gradually disappeared during childhood. But in 2009, studies revealed that some adults still have brown cells.

What it does: This buzzed-about “good” fat becomes metabolically active when we’re exposed to cold temperatures, burning up energy. “Since brown fat is used to generate heat, it burns more calories at rest,” says Ruth Loos, MD, professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Fifty grams (about 4 tablespoons) of brown fat, if maximally stimulated, could torch about 300 calories a day.

How to beef it up: Since brown fat is activated by cold, prepare to shiver. According to a study in Cell Metabolism, folks who spent 10 to 15 minutes in temperatures below 60 degrees produced a hormone called irisin, which appears to make white fat cells act like brown fat; they got a similar boost from an hour of moderate exercise at warmer temps. And keep your thermostat low: An Australian study showed that men who lived in homes set to 66 degrees generated 40 percent more brown fat than when they lived in higher temps.

Read more: 20 Snacks That Burn Fat

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Heart Disease

9 Subtle Signs You Could Have a Heart Problem

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These signs can also be caused by a bunch of other things

Thanks to more education about healthy eating and advancements in treatment, fewer people die of heart disease than in the past. That said, clogged heart arteries are still the number-one cause of death in the United States. Although heart attack symptoms can be a scary first sign of trouble (and keep in mind women have different symptoms than men), sometimes the body offers up more subtle clues that something is amiss with your ticker. The following is a list of symptoms that might be worth a chat with your doctor. But they may also be caused by a bunch of other things, so don’t freak out. (Many of these are also symptoms of anemia, so check out 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency.) Only your real doctor—not Dr. Google—can really tell you if these symptoms mean anything at all.

You’re extremely tired

This isn’t just lack of sleep tired; it is extreme fatigue. Think of how you feel when you get the flu, except this doesn’t go away. “A lot of women kind of blow this off assuming it’s nothing and that they will feel better, but in reality it could be a sign of your heart,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, Director of Women’s Heart Health at the Heart and Vascular Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. The reason why you feel that way: It comes down to a lack of oxygen. “The heart is struggling and straining to deliver the oxygen to your body.” That said, plenty of people feel tired for lots of reasons. If this is your only symptom, you can talk to your doctor, but don’t conclude you have heart trouble based on this alone.

Read more: 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency

Your feet swell

Feet swelling can occur for a bunch of garden-variety reasons, such as pregnancy, varicose veins (which are unsightly but not dangerous), or when you travel and have limited ability to move around. It can also be a sign of heart failure, a chronic condition in which the heart pumps blood inefficiently. “Swelling can also occur when the heart valve doesn’t close normally,” says Michael Miller, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Some medications for blood pressure and diabetes could also cause swelling, says Dr. Miller. “Heart-related foot swelling is usually accompanied by other symptoms that include shortness of breath and/or fatigue,” he says. If you recently developed foot swelling, see your doctor to determine the cause and how best to treat it.

You have extreme pain when you walk

If your hip and leg muscles cramp when you climb, walk, or move, then feel better when you rest, don’t shrug it off as due to old age or a lack of exercise (though those things certainly could be the culprits). It could be a sign of peripheral arterial disease, also known as PAD. PAD is a buildup of fatty plaque in leg arteries that is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. If you have PAD there’s a 50% chance you also have a blockage in one of the heart arteries, says Dr. Miller. The good news? PAD (and heart disease for that matter) is a very treatable condition.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time

You get dizzy or light-headed

Again, this is one of those symptoms that can have many non-heart related causes. If you have ever been to a gym, you may have seen warning signs to stop walking, running, cycling or elliptical stepping if you feel dizzy or light-headed. This symptom could be caused by dehydration or because you “got up too quick,” but if it occurs on a regular basis then talk to your doctor to see if medication side effects, inner ear problems, anemia, or, less commonly, heart issues are to blame. This spinning state could be caused by blockages in arteries that lessen blood pressure or by faulty valves that cannot maintain blood pressure, says Dr. Miller.

You get short of breath, even though you’re fit

Despite your thrice-weekly cycling classes, you get winded walking up a flight of stairs or you’re coughing a lot. What gives? It could be asthma, anemia, an infection, or rarely a problem with the heart’s valves or its ability to pump blood. “Fluid buildup affecting the left side of the heart can produce wheezing that simulates bronchial asthma,” Dr. Miller says. “Once the valve is fixed, fluid no longer builds up in the lungs and the patient breathes easier.” Since exercise can strengthen the heart, get this symptom checked out so it doesn’t interfere with your ability to get a good workout.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

You’re depressed

Depression is one of the most common problems in the world, and it affects 19 million Americans each year. Depression is probably not a sign that you have heart trouble (as if you need something else to worry about.) But mental wellbeing is linked to physical wellbeing; many studies suggest that people who are depressed are at greater risk of heart trouble. “People who have multiple risk factors for heart disease or who do have heart disease have a tendency to be depressed,” says Dr. Steinbaum. Either way you look at it, it’s another reason to seek help if you are depressed.

You get migraines

Sometimes a headache is just a headache. But in some cases, regular migraines suggest that something is amiss with your ticker. Migraines occur in 12% of the general population, but that stat rises to around 40% in patients with cardiovascular disease. And while there isn’t a clear-cut connection, the occurrence of migraines with auras has been related to some heart abnormalities, so it is possible that these attacks might have a connection to dysfunction of the heart. One theory is that they could both are the result of autonomic nervous system imbalances.

Read more: 10 Signs You Should See a Doctor for Depression

You can hear your heart beat when you fall asleep at night

“Some patients with a loud faulty valve can even hear the sound of their valve at night when they are trying to fall asleep,” Dr. Miller says. And while some patients adjust to the sound and often just change their sleeping position so as not to hear it, doesn’t mean you should ignore it. If you’re being lulled to sleep by the thump-thump of your heart, tell your doctor so he or she can find out why. A pounding heartbeat can also be a sign of low blood pressure, low blood sugar, anemia, medication, dehydration, and other causes.

Anxiety, sweating, and nausea attack you all at once

You’re suddenly anxious, sweating, and nauseous. These are classic symptoms of a panic attack, but they are also heart attack symptoms. If these early heart symptoms are followed up with shortness of breath (though you haven’t moved a muscle), extreme fatigue, or accompanied by pain, fullness, or aching in the your chest that may (or may not) radiate to the back, shoulders, arm, neck, or throat, then get to an emergency room immediately. Waiting more than five minutes to take action could change your chances of survival. In fact, those who arrive at the hospital within an hour of heart attack symptoms starting have better survival rate than those who wait.

Read more: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

13 Ways to Stop Drinking Soda for Good

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Try giving up the sweet taste for two weeks

You know soda’s not exactly good for you—but at the same time, it can be hard to resist. Its sweet taste, pleasant fizz, and energizing jolt often seems like just what you need to wash down your dinner, get you through an afternoon slump, or quench your thirst at the movies.

But the more soda you consume (regular or diet), the more hazardous your habit can become. And whether you’re a six-pack-a-day drinker or an occasional soft-drink sipper, cutting back can likely have benefits for your weight and your overall health. Here’s why you should be drinking less, plus tips on how to make the transition easier.

Why you should quit

The biggest risk for regular soda drinkers is the excess calories, says Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “The calories in regular soda are coming entirely from added sugar, and you’re not getting any value in terms of vitamins or minerals, or even good quality carbohydrates,” she says.

But soda may also be causing other types of harm. Studies have shown that its consumption is linked with tooth decay and diabetes, and it also seems to be bad for your bones. “It may have something to do with the phosphorus in soda, or it could be that people are drinking soda instead of other beverages—like milk—that have nutrients necessary for healthy bones,” Sandon says.

But what about diet soda?

Sugar-free sodas may not have any calories, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good for you. In fact, they may not even help you lose weight. (Research on this topic has been mixed, at best, but several studies have shown that diet soda drinkers are more likely to be overweight or obese than regular soda drinkers.)

Plus, diet drinks have many of the same health risks as regular soft drinks, including tooth decay and bone thinning, and they’ve also been linked to heart disease and depression in women. Switching to diet sodas may be a smart first step if you’re trying to eliminate excess calories, says Sandon, but your best bet is to eventually give them up, too.

Wean yourself off slowly

That news may be enough to convince you that you should stop drinking soda, but it could still be easier said than done. “People really can become addicted to soda, so you have to be a realist and not an idealist,” says nutritionist Stefanie Sacks, author of the forthcoming book What the Fork Are You Eating?. “I don’t recommend going cold turkey; you need to wean yourself off, just like you would anything you’ve become dependent on.”

If you typically drink multiple servings of soda a day, Sacks suggests first cutting back to one a day. Give that two weeks, then switch to three sodas a week. “It gives you a chance to adjust gradually, which should lead to real, sustainable change,” says Sacks.

Read more: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

Mix it with water

Sandon also recommends weaning yourself slowly off soda, and sometimes suggests that her clients start drinking half-soda, half-water. “You’re automatically drinking less and hydrating and filling up with water, which is a good thing,” she says.

But there’s an added advantage, as well: “It cuts back on the sweetness you get from soda, which is one of the things people get really used to. If you’re drinking less sugar, your taste buds will change and soon you won’t need that sweetness anymore.”

Start tracking your calories

If you’re blindly throwing back colas without stopping to think of their impact on your waistline, you could be in for a rude awakening: Each 12-ounce can of Coke, for example, contains 140 calories, while a 20-ounce bottle has 240. (In comparison, here are some smarter snacks for just 200 calories—with filling protein and fiber, to boot.)

Downloading a calorie-tracking app may help you realize just how much those beverages can affect your daily calorie consumption—as long as you actually log in and record each serving. Instead of pouring yourself refill after refill, start paying attention to how much you’re actually drinking; once you do, you may be more willing to cut back.

Do the exercise math

Another way to quantify the calories you’re drinking is by thinking about how much exercise it would take to burn them off. In a 2014 Johns Hopkins University study, researchers placed signs in corner stores stating that a 20-ounce bottle of soda would take 5 miles of walking or 50 minutes of jogging to burn off.

These “advertisements” worked: When teenager customers saw these signs, they were more likely to buy a smaller soda, a water, or no drink at all. “When you explain calories in an easily understandable way such as how many miles of walking needed to burn them off, you can encourage behavior change,” said the study authors.

Read more: 10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda

Switch to unsweetened tea

Need that jolt of caffeine to wake up in the morning? If you’re not a coffee drinker, Sandon suggests sipping on unsweetened iced tea instead. “It can be just as refreshing, and there are real health benefits to drinking the phytochemicals in tea,” she says.

If you don’t like the taste of plain tea, mix in some lemon, mint, or a small amount of sugar or artificial sweetener—at least during your transition-from-soda phase. The important thing is that you’re aware of, and in charge of, exactly what’s going into your drink and how much is added.

Drink a glass of water first

Whenever the urge to drink a soda hits, fill up a big glass of ice water and finish that first. “A lot of times, people drink soda just because they’re bored, or they’re thirsty, and that’s what’s available or that’s what they’re used to,” says Sacks.

If you’re still craving a soda after you’ve downed your H2O, then you can reconsider whether it’s really worth it—but chances are your thirst will be quenched and you’ll feel satisfied from just the water. (You can make this work while you’re out and about, too, by always carrying a bottle of water with you.)

Treat yourself to natural brands

When Sacks has successfully weaned her clients down to just a few sodas a week, she often recommends they switch to a brand with fewer artificial ingredients. “They’re more expensive, but you’ll be drinking them less often,” she says. Sacks likes Grown Up Soda, Santa Cruz Organics, and Blue Sky because they don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup or artificial ingredients, and generally contain less sugar than the big brands. “They’re an overall healthier choice, especially if you’re only drinking them occasionally.”

Read more: 12 Strange-But-True Health Tricks

Give seltzer a try

If it’s carbonation you crave, try drinking plain or flavored seltzer water, suggests Sacks. You can buy seltzer by the bottle, or make your own at home with a SodaStream machine ($69, amazon.com).

“Toss a little fruit juice in there for flavor, and eventually change that juice to fresh-squeezed citrus,” says Sacks. “That way you still get the bubbles that you love in soda, but you’re in control of how much sweetness and sugar is added.”

Class up your water

Even still water (or non-bubbly) can be made more palatable with the addition of some fruit or natural flavors. “People tell me they don’t like water, but often they just need to experiment with new ways to drink it,” says Sandon.

She recommends adding lemon, orange, or cucumber slices to a pitcher of water in your refrigerator, which can serve as a detour when you go hunting for a cold soda. Frozen berries and fresh mint can also be tasty additions to a cold glass of H2O.

Buy caffeine-free

If you drink a lot of soda and you’re not quite ready to give it up, try buying caffeine-free versions instead. You may start drinking less without even realizing it, suggests a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. In the study, participants were split into two groups and all told to drink as much soda as they’d like for the next 28 days. (One group got regular, one group got caffeine-free.) Even though there was no noticeable taste difference between the two, the caffeinated group drank 53% more over the next month—about 5 ounces a day. When our bodies get used to regular caffeine, we crave more of it, say the study authors, prompting us to drink more.

Read more: 7 Easy Ways to Drink More Water

Steer clear of soda triggers

You may notice that you only drink soda in certain places or situations: In the afternoon at the office, for example, or when you eat at a certain restaurant. You may not be able to completely avoid these scenarios—you’ve still got to go to work and should still enjoy eating out—but you may be able to change those bad habits.

If it’s the office vending machine that tempts you to buy a soda every day, try to stay away from it in the afternoon—and pack your own healthy beverage or a refillable water bottle so you have an alternative. Or if you tend to crave soda with a certain type of food, try restaurants that offer other options instead.

Try it for two weeks

Weaning yourself off something gradually works best for most people, says Sacks, but some may want to try the cold turkey approach. If you plan to go that route, think of it as a temporary change: Giving soda up for two weeks or a month may be easier and more manageable than ditching it forever.

The best part about this trick? Once your time is up, you may not even want to go back to soda—at least not at the frequency you drank it before. “We acquire a taste for sugar depending on how much we have on a daily basis,” says Sandon. “If you cut out soda for a while, you may be surprised at how sweet it tastes ones you go back.” (Want extra help with the cold-turkey method? Enlist friends to take the challenge with you.)

Save it for special occasions

Once you’re able to break your regular soda habit and the drink loses its grip on you, it can be treated just like any other junk food: If you really love the taste, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence, says Sacks. “If it’s your gotta-have-it food, then by all means splurge on a soda now and then,” she says. In fact, knowing that you can have a soda on your cheat day or during a special night out may help you resist them on a more regular basis. “Just do it from a place of education: If you understand that soda is essentially just sugar and artificial flavorings, then you can be more smart about when or if you’re going to drink it.”

Read more: 14 Surprising Causes of Dehydration

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Things You Should Know About Cholesterol

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Recent research shows no substantial relationship between the consumption of dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels

Cholesterol seems to be one of those words that’s in everyone’s vocabulary, but many of my clients are incredibly confused about what cholesterol is, and how it affects their health. It also happens to be buzzing in the media at the moment, thanks to a new report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a group of top nutrition researchers who advise the government about what and how Americans should be eating.

If you’re feeling a little perplexed by all this cholesterol talk, here’s a simple breakdown of what you really need to know.

Cholesterol is only found in animal-based foods

There are two types: dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is the cholesterol found in foods, and only foods of animal origin contain it, because animals’ bodies naturally produce this waxy, fat-like substance. So when you eat an animal-based food (think eggs, dairy, meat, seafood) you’re ingesting cholesterol that an animal’s body produced. Plant-based foods do not contain any cholesterol, so if you see a jar of nut butter marked “cholesterol free” know that they didn’t remove the cholesterol—it just wasn’t there to begin with.

Read more: 16 Most Misleading Food Labels

Cholesterol is essential for your health

Even if you ate zero animal foods, you’d still have cholesterol in your body. That’s because your liver produces cholesterol and it’s needed for several key functions, including the making of hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest food. While cholesterol is vital, it isn’t considered to be an essential nutrient, meaning something you must obtain from foods, like vitamin C or potassium. That’s because your body produces all of the cholesterol it needs.

Read more: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

There are “good” and “bad” types of cholesterol in your blood

The two types of blood cholesterol you hear about most often are HDL (the “good” kind; think happy cholesterol) and LDL (the “bad” kind; think lousy cholesterol). HDL and LDL are actually carriers of cholesterol called lipoproteins. HDL is good because it carries cholesterol away from arteries and back to the liver, where it can be removed from your body. LDL—the bad type—has the opposite effect. Too much LDL can lead to a build-up, which clogs and narrows arteries, and creates inflammation. This chain of events can lead to a sudden rupture, which sends a clot into the bloodstream, causing a heart attack and/or stroke.

Read more: 9 Subtle Signs You Could Have a Heart Problem

Dietary cholesterol may not impact blood cholesterol as much as previously thought

The old thinking was that consuming dietary cholesterol added to the cholesterol that your body naturally produces, thus raising the amount in your blood. This was perceived to be risky, because too much blood cholesterol has been shown to up the risk of heart disease, the top killer of both men and women. One often-cited statistic is that every 1% increase in total blood cholesterol is tied to a 2% increase in the risk of heart disease.

For many years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that dietary cholesterol should be limited to no more than 300 mg per day. To put that in perspective, one egg yolk contains about 185 mg, three ounces of shrimp contains about 130 mg, two ounces of 85% lean ground beef about 60 mg, and one tablespoon of butter about 30 mg. The brand new report eliminated this cap, however, because the committee believes that the research shows no substantial relationship between the consumption of dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels. As such, they concluded, “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Read more: 14 Things Heart Doctors Tell Their Friends

The new guidelines aren’t carte blanche to other kinds of animal fat

Nearly every media outlet covered the release of the report from the Dietary Guidelines committee, zeroing in on the omission of cholesterol limits—but that doesn’t mean it’s now healthy to go out and down cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizzas. The committee is still concerned about the relationship between blood cholesterol and saturated fat from foods like cheese.

You may have heard about another recent report, which concluded that a lower intake of saturated fat wasn’t linked to a lower risk of heart disease. That’s true, but it’s not the whole story, because the risk really lies in what you replace the saturated fat-laden foods with. When people curb saturated fat, but eat more carbohydrates, they lower protective levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, and drive up triglycerides (a type of blood fat), a combo that may actually up the risk of heart disease. But numerous studies have shown that replacing foods like butter and cheese with plant-based fats like almond butter, avocado, and olive oil can help lower heart disease risk.

Bottom line: the number one message from the new Dietary Guidelines report is that we all need to be eating less sugar and processed foods, and more plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils. So if you have cholesterol from something like eggs, pair them with other whole, nutrient-rich plant foods, like veggies and avocado, combined with some fruit, black beans, sweet potato, or quinoa. That’s good nutrition.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Best and Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

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A symptom-by-symptom guide to the eats that will soothe (or strengthen) your symptoms

When you’re under the weather, the last thing you want is to eat something that makes you feel worse. But what if the last thing you want is chicken soup or crackers, and you’re craving ice cream or a glass of wine? It depends on what’s wrong with you, experts say. Here are common symptoms and expert suggestions on foods that help—and hinder—relief.

You’ve got the runs

For diarrhea caused by a stomach virus or a meal that didn’t agree with you, try the BRAT diet, says James Lee, MD, gastroenterologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. “Many different things can cause diarrhea, such as Crohn’s disease or colitis,” he says, so see your doctor if symptoms continue for longer than two weeks or sooner if signs of dehydration appear, or if diarrhea is accompanied by fever, blood, severe pain, or severe nausea and vomiting.

Best foods: The BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Oatmeal, boiled potatoes, saltine crackers, and baked chicken or turkey without skin are also safe bets.

Worst foods: Sugarless candy and gum containing sorbitol or other artificial sweeteners, which aren’t digestible and can trigger diarrhea. Other foods that can cause gas and bloating include onions, apples, broccoli, cabbages, and beans. Dairy may also aggravate diarrhea, as well as alcohol and caffeine.

You’re constipated

Constipation can occur when not eating enough fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and veggies, which stimulate digestion. “Adults need between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day,” says Dr. Lee.

Best foods: High-fiber whole grain breads, nuts, beans, prunes, oatmeal, flaxseed, broccoli, pears, and apples. (Here are the 20 best foods for fiber.) Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day also helps get things moving, says Dr. Lee.

Worst foods: Chocolate, dairy products, iron supplements, narcotics (pain medications) and some blood and anti-depression medications may worsen constipation.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

You’re feeling nauseous

Feeling queasy makes all foods sound unappealing, but the right ones can ease symptoms by calming stomach acids, says Dr. Lee. “In general, keep food portions small and odors to a minimum.”

Best foods: Saltine crackers or pretzels can help, says Dr. Lee, as does small quantities of dry toast or cereal. Ginger or lemon tea, fresh or frozen lemon slices, and peppermint also work.

Worst foods: Greasy, spicy, or oily foods, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks can make nausea worse.

It hurts to swallow

When you have a sore throat, several foods can coat your throat and soothe the pain, says Lauren Slayton, RD, founder of Foodtrainers.com and author of The Little Book of Thin (Perigee 2014).

Best foods: Combine peppermint tea (lukewarm, not hot)—which has analgesic and anesthetic effects—and Manuka honey, which is known for its wound-healing properties. Soft, creamy foods such as cream soups, mashed potatoes, yogurt, scrambled eggs, and custards are also soothing.

Worst foods: Avoid hot liquids and hard, scratchy foods such as potato chips, nuts, and granola. The acidic juices from raw fruits and vegetables, as well as orange juice, grape juice, and lemonade can also irritate a sore throat.

Read more: 12 Strange-But-True Health Tricks

Your entire body aches

Foods that ease muscle aches depend on the specific reason for the body aches, says Kristine Arthur, MD, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. “For general muscle aches, food containing magnesium or calcium may help ease soreness,” she says.

Best foods: Magnesium-containing foods include nuts, bananas, beans, leafy greens, and avocados. Foods high in calcium such as canned salmon, yogurt, dark-green leafy greens, and orange juice fortified with calcium also lessen muscle cramping and pain.

Worst foods: Anything that dehydrates you can worsen muscle aches, says Dr. Arthur, particularly alcohol and caffeine.

Your head hurts

Dehydration is one of the leading causes of headaches, says Dr. Arthur, so it’s best to treat that cause first and see if it relieves your pain.

Best foods: Water and other fluids are your best bet. “Drink a bottle of water and wait 20 minutes to see if you feel better,” says Dr. Arthur. Caffeine is known for drying you out, but ironically, it can help in small doses. “But for each cup of tea or coffee, drink an equal amount of water to avoid dehydration,” Dr. Arthur says.

Worst foods: Headache-triggering foods include artificial sweeteners, MSG (found in sauces and soy sauce), aged cheeses (blue, stilton) that contain tyramine, plus chocolate, red wine, hot dogs, deli meats, and dried fruit. MSG is metabolized to glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, says Dr. Arthur. Tyramine links to increased blood pressure, which can trigger headaches.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

You have an earache

Earaches typically accompany other symptoms, says Dr. Arthur, “so they’re not correlated with any food in general.” Since they occur most often with upper respiratory infections, however, foods that clear up congestion can help earaches as well.

Best foods: Clear fluids and chicken soup ease congestion by loosening up mucous in nasal passages. Omega-3s found in salmon and nuts decrease inflammation, and vitamin C found in dark leafy greens, berries, and citrus boost the immune system, says Dr. Arthur.

Worst foods: Dairy can thicken phlegm and worsen congestion, with the exception of yogurt, which contains probiotics, says Dr. Arthur. “Stay away from processed and packaged foods, too, which increase inflammation and lengthen the recovery process.”

You’re red and itchy

A rash could be a symptom of an allergy, says Dr. Arthur. “Keep a detailed food journal to look for links to foods that seem to trigger a rash.”

Best foods: Omega-3 containing foods such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines) and walnut and flax seed oils, as well as foods high in protein are all important for skin health, says Dr. Arthur. “Skin is made up of proteins, so a diet adequate in protein is necessary for skin protein synthesis.”

Worst foods: The most common foods that cause itching are nuts, chocolate, fish, tomatoes, eggs, berries, soy, wheat, and milk, says Debra Jaliman, MD, dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist ($9, amazon.com).

Read more: 20 Things You Should Throw Away for Better Health

You have a runny nose

When you have a cold, the worst symptom might be a nose that just won’t stop running. Aside from taking a steamy shower, Slayton suggests drinking warm tea—it may not slow down the drip, but a soothing tea will make you feel better.

Best foods: Try Wakaya ginger tea, suggests Slayton. Ginger contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help clear up a cold faster than just waiting it out. “Apple cider and lemon in water works well, too,” she says.

Worst foods: Spicy foods can cause an immediate runny nose (which then turns into congestion), as may alcohol.

You’re stuffed up

A cold, flu or sinus infection can irritate and inflame blood vessels in your nose, making it hard to breathe. Aside from inhaling steam from a hot shower or using a humidifier, if you’re stopped up due to mucous, some foods can help.

Best foods: Slayton recommends “golden milk,” which includes turmeric, a spice known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Place 2 cups of coconut or almond milk in a saucepan with 1 tsp dried turmeric, 1 tsp dried ginger, a dash of black pepper and honey to taste. Bring to a simmer, allow to sit for 10 minutes and serve warm.

Worst foods: Skip dairy, spicy foods, and sugar, all of which can aggravate symptoms, says Slayton.

Read more: 13 Ways Inflammation Messes With Your Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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