Five Surprising Health Remedies Found At The Grocery Store

You know how Hippocrates said a long time to “let medicine be your food, and food be your medicine?”  It turns out, you can go one step further and “let your grocery store be your convenient and inexpensive health remedy supplier and your...” well, you get the point.  In addition to getting the macronutrients you need from your groceries -- like protein, vitamins, carbs and fats -- there are several grocery store items that are specific remedies to common medical conditions.  Here are a few items to add to next week’s grocery list.


For people who are prone to kidney stones, lemon juice is great news!  Studies have shown that kidney stone sufferers who drink half a cup (4 oz.) of lemon juice a day were eight times less likely to develop a kidney stone than their non-lemon-juice-drinking counterparts.  The citric acid in lemon juice both dissolves the crystals that causes kidney stones, and also keeps the crystals from sticking to each other.

As an added benefit, lemon juice contains lots of Vitamin C, which gives your immune system the boost it needs to keep you healthy (especially during cold and flu season!)


The most common over-the counter class of medication given to children under age 12 is cough and cold medicine.  But it turns out that honey is more effective than any of these over-the-counter pharmaceutical cough remedies! In multiple studies, a dose of honey given at bedtime decreased the incidence of cough by more than 50 percent.  Not only did the children sleep better when they took honey at bedtime, but their parents did, too!

Honey also decreases mucus production, which alleviates the congestion that many upper respiratory viruses cause.  

(Note: Honey should not be given to children under age 1).


Yes, it’s true, there are many unproven claims about apple cider vinegar.  But one of the benefits that has been extensively proven is that apple cider vinegar is really good for your blood sugar!   

There are two ways to take it: a large dose in the morning, or a small dose before each meal.

When patients took four teaspoons before a high-carbohydrate meal, the vinegar prevented their blood sugar from spiking, and it also improved their sensitivity to insulin.  Patients who drank vinegar before a meal also felt full faster, and ended up eating fewer calories.

Another study showed that patients who took a single dose of vinegar first thing in the morning ate fewer calories over the course of the day because the acetic acid delayed their stomach emptying, causing them to feel full longer.

While all vinegars contain acetic acid (the compound that’s responsible for the benefits shown in these studies) apple cider vinegar has a slight edge over other vinegars because in addition to acetic acid, it also contains amino acids and antioxidants.

You can drink it straight if you really want to, but it works just as well if it’s mixed into salad dressings, sauces or marinades.


Believe it or not, chicken noodle soup has proven health benefits.   In several studies, patients with viral upper respiratory infections who ate chicken noodle soup reported fewer symptoms as well as a faster recovery.

This delicious, nutritious soup is helpful for a few reasons.  First, the steam from the broth helps to hydrate your airway and improve nasal congestion.  Second, chicken contains high levels of an amino acid called cysteine, which helps break down mucus.  And last but not least, chicken noodle soup is an easy way for patients who are sick, who often have a diminished appetite, to get all the nutrients they need in one bowl: carbohydrates from the noodles, protein from the chicken, and vitamins, fiber and antioxidants from the vegetables. 

Homemade chicken noodle soup is more effective (and healthier for you) than canned soup.  You’ll also get more benefit from this remedy if you add a wide variety of vegetables!


If you’ve ever had an orthopedic injury, you’re probably familiar with the acronym we often suggest to patients: RICE.  

R = Rest.  I= Ice. C= Compression. E = Elevation.

We recommend that patients with acute injuries (like sprains and strains) apply ice to the affected area for 15 minutes several times a day. It turns out that bags of frozen vegetables make great ice packs!   Because they’re sealed, they don’t leak like ice bags do. They’re also reusable -- you can throw it back in the freezer and use it again in a few hours. Also, unlike synthetic ice packs, frozen vegetables won’t cause skin damage if applied for more than the recommended 15-20 minute time period.

Add these five items to your cart the next time you go grocery shopping. 

Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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