1. Protect Your Heart
Green Tea + Lemon
In a study of more than 40,500 Japanese men and women, those who drank five or more cups of green tea every day had the lowest risk of dying of heart disease and stroke. Researchers attribute the protective effect to catechins, powerful antioxidants. Trouble is, less than 20% of these relatively unstable compounds survive digestion. To get more out of every cup, squeeze in some lemon juice. The vitamin C in lemons helps your body absorb 13 times more catechins than it can obtain from plain tea alone, according to a Purdue University study.
Sip to your heart's content: With the catechin boost from vitamin C, you can help your heart by drinking just one or two cups daily. If lemons make you pucker, squeeze in some orange, lime, or grapefruit juice; they increase antioxidant absorption, too, though to a lesser extent. Just skip the milk — it actually interferes with absorption — and stick to freshly brewed tea, hot or iced. The catechins in ready-to-drink bottles are ineffective.
2. Boost Brainpower
Exercise + Music
Twenty-one minutes of exercise is all it took to lift the moods of cardiac rehabilitation patients in an Ohio State University pilot study. But when participants listened to Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons on headphones, they performed significantly better on a verbal fluency test afterward. Researchers believe exercise boosts cognitive performance by stimulating the central nervous system, and the addition of music may help organize thoughts.
Move and groove: Though researchers haven't explored whether these findings can be generalized to apply to healthy adults, it can't hurt to exercise with your MP3 player. Stick to the same routine the study participants followed — gradually increase the slope and speed on your treadmill every 10 minutes until you can speak only in short sentences (walk for a minimum of 21 minutes). And listen to the music of your choice; any genre should work just as effectively as classical.
3. Rev Immunity
Pot roast + Carrots
This popular comfort food makes you feel good for a reason. Carrots are chock-full of vitamin A, a retinol that plays a key role in preventing and fighting off infections. But without the zinc in the beef, your body wouldn't be able to use it. Vitamin A can travel through the blood only when it's bound to a protein. "And zinc is required to make that retinol-binding protein," says Roberta L. Duyff, RD, author of American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. "So if you don't have enough zinc, vitamin A is not going to move from the liver to the tissues, where it does its job."
Germ-fighting combos: Dark orange, yellow, red, and green fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin A. For a little lighter fare, pair them with zinc-rich proteins: Slice fresh mango into low-fat yogurt, eat a small sweet potato with your fish, or stuff your chicken with spinach, Florentine-style.