Five Foods to Help Fight a Cold

Wednesday 18th, March 2009 / 03:00

How’s your week going? Do you have a cold? Even worse, the flu? Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) up to 20% of Americans will likely get a rotten case of the flu this year? I’ve got some good news for you. What you eat can help bolster your immune system and help with your cold symptoms.  Fruits, vegetables and even some spices offer up a medicine cabinet chilipeppersfull of healthy benefits for your body.

You’ve probably heard the term ‘super fruit’ which means a fruit that offers health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Number one on your list of cold fighting foods are super fruits.

    1. Tangerines, oranges, grapefruit along with cherries, pineapple and strawberries (to name a few). These fruits contain immune building vitamin C. I much prefer the whole food over a vitamin C supplement since you get the benefit of the water content as well as other vitamins and minerals in the fruit. Research has not proven that vitamin C prevents colds but it does play a role in a healthy immune system which in turn helps you fight off a cold.
    2. Spicy foods such as hot sauce, wasabi, chili or spicy sauces help to temporarily open sinuses and help with congestion. A bowl of chili or spicy tortilla soup with a dash of hot sauce may cause your nose to run and eyes to tear but right now, that could be a good thing. This relief helps you to breathe easier for a little while. So if you’re up for it, try a little spicy food.
    3. Yogurt. This is probably a food you never would have thought about to fight a cold but here’s the deal. Yogurt with active cultures such as acidophilus can enhance immune function by putting healthy bacteria in the body, especially your gastrointestinal tract where a lot of your immune function happens. Yogurt is especially important if you are taking antibiotics which strip out the bad bacteria and take the good along with it. Yogurt helps replenish those healthy bacteria.
    4. Hot liquids, especially tea: Besides feeling really good on your throat and warming your body when you have the chills, hot liquids temporarily thin out the mucus in the nose and throat. Tea or coffee with a little caffeine gives you a slight energy boost when you feel exhausted. Drink a lot of water to keep your body well hydrated and to continue to thin out mucus buildup.
    5. Chicken Soup. Load it up with garlic, onions and lots of broth. These are the items that benefit your cold so chicken is fine or not, depending on your preference.  The garlic and onion-loaded broth will help ease congestion and thin out mucous. If Mom isn’t around to make that chicken soup for you, there are some really good canned versions on the market.  Be sure and shop for a lower sodium version as canned soups can be over the top when it comes to added salt and sodium.

Now that you’ve given your body food to fight that cold, it’s time for some much needed sleep. Feel better! 

10 Comments on “Five Foods to Help Fight a Cold

  • this is good info, sinc i live on a college campus, we dont always eat rght. but i can definitely grab those mocrowavable chicken noodle soups, and i have yogurt in my fridge. this is my first cold without my mom to help out, so i appreciate the info

  • Hi Cortney,

    Sorry to hear you have a cold but glad the information helped you. Certainly won’t replace Mom’s love and attention which always seems to make things better. Hope you are on the mend soon and thanks for finding the blog.

    Dr. Susan

  • This is a great article!
    Another idea that I find helps me is if I mix a glass of hot water with..
    Juice of half a lemon
    Juice of half a lime
    tablespoon of honey
    add a green tea bag
    Drink but brush teeth after because the juice can weaken tooth enamel.

  • So is it a bad thing for cold recovery to have a little extra salt? Or was that more of a general health tip?

    “Be sure and shop for a lower sodium version as canned soups can be over the top when it comes to added salt and sodium.”

  • Dr. Susan Mitchell Post author

    Hi Jason,

    You are correct. This is more of a general health tip as most canned soups are loaded with sodium in various forms beyond salt or sodium chloride. It’s easy to consume a lot of salt if you’re not a label sleuth. Thanks for asking.

    Dr. Susan

  • Thank you for your article Dr. Susan.
    I read somewhere that taking hot showers, eating garlic, keeping yourself warm, gargling salt water, ginger and light exercise can help. Would you happen to know whether they work or not?
    P.S : What about noodles? Do they work?

  • Dr. Susan Mitchell Post author

    HI Tara,

    A cold or flu typically is not the time to exercise. The body is already stressed and a few days of rest can be very beneficial. Gargling with salt water can temporarily bring relief from post nasal drip as ginger may help settle the stomach. In terms of noodles, they are a carb food which is fine to eat, particularly the whole grain ones…no special medical benefit just a great ingredient to comforting chicken soup.


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