How Spicy and Cold Foods Affect Your Body
Foods to Fight Your Cold
Looking for a cold remedy? Get the facts on 10 cold-fighting foods.
By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically Reviewed by Christine Wilmsen Craig, MD
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Sweeping from September until May, the cold and flu season accounts for more doctor visits and missed days of school and work than any other illness. What makes them so tricky? The viruses that cause the common cold and flu (also called influenza) don't respond to antibiotics, and common over-the-counter cold treatments don't shorten or prevent the symptoms.
While there are no sure-fire cold treatments, there are still things you can do. There's always chicken soup, for instance. Between folklore, family recipes, and science, the menu for treating colds has become quite diverse.
Chicken Soup, Anyone?
Chicken soup has been praised as a cold remedy since the time of the ancient Greeks. Twelfth-century Jewish physician Maimonides recommended chicken soup for treating colds.
A well-known study done at the Nebraska Medical Center researched whether chicken soup works as a remedy to fight colds. The study found that chicken soup contains a number of substances with healing effects — and the researchers concluded that chicken soup actually does work.
What Other Foods Are Good for You?
"Think of foods as more of an insurance policy, as a preemptive strike against winter's cold viruses," says Karen Gibson, RD, a dietitian at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. "Unfortunately, cold viruses are very contagious, and even the healthiest of individuals can contract a cold. Even so, foods can offer some assistance in preventing a cold by helping you develop and maintain a healthy immune system."
She recommends a diet rich in the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. "Look for the most colorful ones: red, orange, yellow, dark green, and purple," says Gibson. "This means tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, spinach, blueberries, and eggplant, to name a few." She recommends five to seven servings a day to keep your immune system healthy.
Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, a dietitian and author, adds that "to help keep the sniffles and sneezes away, shop for nutrient-rich foods and beverages." She recommends foods that are high in vitamins A, B, C, and E and in potassium, zinc, and magnesium. "Live and active cultures in yogurt also pack a punch, as well as folate found in 100 percent orange juice and spinach," she says. "Load your shopping cart with immunity heroes to help maintain good health."
Top 10 Cold Remedy Foods
- 100 percent orange juice
- Bell peppers
- Lean meat
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, an internal medicine specialist and author, notes that you should avoid foods that are high in sugar because they can decrease your immunity. "The sugar in a can of soda suppresses immune function by 30 percent for three hours," Dr. Teitelbaum says. "Avoid excess milk products if you are stuffy. Milk protein thickens mucous and makes it harder to drain." Water, on the other hand, will help keep mucus thin and easier to clear.
Building up your immune system with healthy food is as close as you’ll come to finding a surefire cold-fighting remedy. "Don't forget that eating healthy is not just a winter concern," says Gibson. "Develop good eating habits and stick to them all year.
Video: 5 Foods for Cold & Flu | Boost Your Immune System Naturally
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