Whether you’re a high-strung vegan or a depressed meat-eater, whether you’ve got a cold you can’t shake or are too stoned to sleep, the best medicine might be more delicious than you’d expect. We chatted with Benjamin Craig, L.Ac., an upbeat acupuncturist and down-to-earth Chinese medicine expert who takes patients at Sapere Studio
, a yoga spot in East Williamsburg. Here, he shares 10 edible and drinkable health-boosters that all taste better than NyQuil. (If your health issues aren’t addressed here, Craig takes house calls in Williamsburg and can be reached at 631-897-5158.)
Pesto: Italy's Cure for the Common Cold
If you’ve got a cold, Craig recommends an aromatic bowl of pasta with pesto, packed with the healing properties of garlic, basil and pine nuts: “Garlic is antibacterial, which is great for you if you get colds often, if you always take antibiotics and they’re not working, or if you’re prone to viral infections. Basil is good for your bloodstream and pine nuts have your omega fatty acids, which are great for brain function.” Take home a jar of house-made pesto from Caputo’s Fine Foods (460 Court Street, Carroll Gardens) and keep your germs out of your favorite Italian restaurant.
Sushi: At Bedtime, It's Better Than Weed!
Always tired? Reconsider your bedtime rituals. “A lot of people smoke pot at night, but then you’re stoned in your sleep, and it messes with what your brain is trying to do in your sleep. You’re not getting enough rest,” Craig warns. Getting drunk before bed has similar effects, as does eating heavy, greasy food. For a late-night snack, Craig recommends sushi – and don’t skip the pickled ginger: “Sushi is raw, so it hasn’t been broken down as much as cooked food. You need to speed up the metabolism of your digestive tract, and ginger will do that for you.” If you’re up late, Blue Ribbon Sushi (278 5th Avenue, Park Slope) is open until midnight seven days a week.
Lamb Stew: Have Cold Hands No More
If you’ve always got cold hands, you’ve either got some circulation issues or a landlord who is too cheap to crank up the heat. Get your blood flowing with some traditional lamb stew from Atlantic ChipShop (129 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights). Craig says, “Stew with lamb and vegetables is a phenomenal medicine for everything. It’s well-cooked, so it’s half-digested before you eat it. Your body doesn’t have to do as much work to absorb all the nutrients. It warms you from the inside out.”
Fish: For Those Suffering from Depression
Already battling seasonal-affective disorder? “People suffering from depression benefit from fish, which are loaded with Omega 3’s and 9’s, which build brain cells and help beat lethargy and fatigue,” Craig says. Get your dose at cozy Rucola (190 Dean Street, Boerum Hill), where the ever-changing menu always offers up some enticing seafood – such as skate with maple-roasted pumpkin, radicchio, and pomegranate. The friendly servers there will help lift your spirits, too.
Walnuts: For Vegans Suffering from Depression
If you’re down in the dumps and can’t eat fish, Craig prescribes walnuts: “In Chinese medicine, the walnut builds marrow and brain tissue is considered marrow. The walnut actually looks like your brain, which is pretty amazing. Walnuts help if you’re feeling low on energy, fatigued, lethargic or depressed.” So, go ahead and get high on life with the chicory, fig and walnut salad at Allswell (124 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg).
Leafy Greens: To Ease Anxiety
“People who have anxiety and often feel their hearts speeding up are stuck in their upper chakras – that would be my ailment,” Craig says. “We need yin-nourishing foods – fluid, grounding foods, like dark leafy greens.” We’re losing him a bit with all this chakra-talk, but we can’t say enough about the crisp kale salad at Battersby (255 Smith Street, Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill) – it’s so unexpectedly delicious you’ll forget whatever it was you were worrying about.
Chicken Soup: For
the Soul Irritable Bowels
“People with bad anxiety can get irritable bowel syndrome. They need a really gentle food, like chicken soup, that’s nourishing and easy to digest. They also need to avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and super-rich, savory stuff,” Craig says. But a gentle soup needn’t be dull – don’t wait for a bout of IBS to enjoy the chicken soup with avocado, tomato, cilantro, yuca at Cubana Cafe (272 Smith St, Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill).
Chickpeas: For Cleansing and Calming
“Chickpeas and beans are so good in general. People worry that beans give them gas, and sure, they’ll make you feel gassy and nasty for a while, but once you’re body is cleansed you won’t feel that anymore. They’re loaded with protein and calming for the mind. If you’re a vegetarian with anxiety, you need your falafel,” says Craig, whose favorite neighborhood spot for falafel and chickpea salad is Oasis (161 N 7th Street, Williamsburg).
Kimchee: For Your Cough
If you’ve got a bad cough or other respiratory issues, Craig says you can benefit from all the health-boosting ingredients in kimchee: “Anyone with infections or compromised immune systems needs ginger, because it absorbs nutriments, and garlic, which is antibacterial. Plus, it’s filled with vegetables, and the spicy stuff is really good for your lungs. Kimchee it up.” You can buy kimchee at your local Asian grocery or health food store (look for one with ginger in the ingredients) or enjoy the soul-warming kimchee stew at Dokebi Bar (199 Grand Street, Williamsburg), which can be prepared with or without meat.
Red Wine: To Ease Your (Lady) Pain
For stress relief, Craig suggests a single glass of red wine. This tip goes out to all the ladies: “When you’re so stressed that your shoulders get tight, your uterus is also tight. [Editor’s note: Ew.] Red wine moves your blood, and that will relax you, which can also help with painful periods and cramping.” Craig continues in his buoyant, supportive tone, “I talk to girls about their periods all day long. I’m asking them what they’re doing with their bodies and what’s going on in their heads. I’m like your electrician but what you’re thinking is affecting how your electricity flows through you.” We suggest the inexpensive house red sipped beside the fireplace at Black Mountain Wine House (415 Union Street, Carroll Gardens), with a toast to a healthy flow in 2012.