12 Secret Food Cures By Shandley McMurray A sound diet is your most important tool for warding off - and recovering from - common ailments. Incorporating any of these food cures into your diet will yield benefits only if you're already eating a variety of healthy foods. The advice given here is not meant to replace medical attention. Ease a cough with chocolate Active ingredient Theobromine What it does Theobromine suppresses activity in the vagus nerve, which causes coughing. According to a study published in a recent issue of The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal, it was one-third more effective at stopping a persistent cough than a placebo. Suggested serving size One 50-gram bar of dark chocolate or two cups (500 mL) of hot cocoa (made with real cocoa, not hot chocolate mix) per day. Stave off a cold with garlic Active ingredient Allicin What it does Allicin boosts the immune system and kills off viral and bacterial infections, says Peter Josling, clinical director of the Herbal Research Center in East Sussex, England. Suggested serving size Four cloves, two times a week during cold season. You'll get more allicin from raw garlic, so try mashing it on whole wheat bread, pasta or salad. Curb diarrhea with coconut Active ingredient Potassium What it does Coconut water hydrates better than a sports drink. It's also high in potassium, which helps replenish electrolytes (natural salt substances that maintain cell function) lost through diarrhea. Suggested serving size Up to two cups (500 mL) of coconut water (it's now available in cartons) per day until diarrhea stops. Kill a yeast infection with yogurt Active ingredient Bacteria What it does Eating plain unsweetened yogurt promotes the growth of good bacteria in the vagina. Yogurt is also slightly acidic, which adjusts vaginal pH to kill yeast. Suggested serving size One cup (250 mL) per day until infection clears. After that, eat at least one cup (250 mL) of yogurt two to three times per week to maintain healthy bacteria levels. Fight acne with watermelon Active ingredient Lycopene What it does The juicy fruit contains almost 40 per cent more skin-soothing lycopene than raw tomatoes. According to Massimo Marcone, a food science professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, this antioxidant protects skin from oxygen damage, which weakens the skin's outer layer and makes it easier for acne-causing bacteria to invade. Suggested serving size One cup (250 mL) of fresh mushed watermelon per day. Ward off rosacea with red peppers Active ingredient Vitamin C What they do Vitamin C boosts collagen production, which keeps skin moisturized and helps reduce wrinkles. This powerful antioxidant also stabilizes the skin surrounding blood vessels, which Toronto dermatologist Paul Cohen says may reduce blushing. Suggested serving size 1/4 cup (50 mL) per day of chopped raw peppers (cooking reduces vitamin C content). Tackle PMS with milk Active ingredients Calcium and vitamin D What it does A study published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who had diets high in calcium and vitamin D (1200 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D daily) experienced less severe PMS symptoms. Researchers suggest that decreased levels of estrogen during the latter half of the menstrual cycle may interfere with the absorption of both nutrients, but they're unsure why this might trigger PMS. Suggested serving size Four cups (250 mL each) of skim milk or fortified soy milk per day. Substitute a 1/2-cup (125-mL) serving of a yogurt containing both calcium and vitamin D (such as Source by Yoplait) for one to two milk servings. If you're sensitive to dairy, try a calcium and vitamin D supplement. Heal a wound with pumpkin seeds Active ingredients Zinc, protein What they do Like vitamin C, zinc supports collagen production, which strengthens skin and blood vessels. Suggested serving size 1/4 cup (50 mL) of roasted or raw seeds per day until the cut is healed. Boost fertility with cremini mushrooms Active ingredient Selenium What they do This variety of mushrooms is especially packed with selenium, a mineral that protects your eggs - and uterine cells - from damaging free radicals. Suggested serving size Two to 2 1/2 cups (500 to 625 mL) of cooked mushrooms three times a week until you conceive. Cooking shrinks the mushrooms but doesn't compromise the nutrition, says Marcone. It also packs more selenium into each serving. Reduce bloating with peppermint tea Active ingredient Peppermint What it does Peppermint soothes the digestive tract and relaxes muscles to encourage flatulence, says Brenda Arychuk, an Edmonton-based registered dietitian. The tea also eases indigestion and speeds up the passage of food by improving the flow of bile - necessary for fat digestion. Suggested serving size One cup (250 mL) or more of peppermint tea, whenever you feel bloated or gassy. Steer clear of this remedy if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease. Peppermint can worsen symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion by relaxing the system so much that stomach acid flows back up the esophagus. Relieve bowel trouble with black beans Active ingredient Fibre What they do Black beans are a great source of soluble fibre - a half cup (125 mL) contains 6.4 grams, an amount that Vancouver-based registered dietitian Heather McColl recommends you eat every day. How does this help? Soluble fibre eases constipation by softening stool, making it easier to pass. It also adds bulk to the colon - thickening things up to avoid diarrhea. Suggested serving size One cup (250 mL) of canned black beans per day until you're back to normal. Protect your bones with kale Active ingredients Calcium and vitamin K What it does Kale is a good source of both calcium and vitamin K. Just a half cup (125 mL) of the chopped leafy green covers your daily recommended intake of vitamin K - essential in producing the proteins needed to create strong bones. Calcium further bolsters bone strength to speed healing and prevent future fractures. Suggested serving size A half cup (125 mL) of chopped, cooked kale per day until break heals. Too bitter for you? Try adding kale to other foods such as pasta sauce, salad or soup. And choose a bunch with smaller leaves - they have a milder flavour.