Can foods help you kick a cold?

Watch Jennifer present her “Feel Better Foods” on Great Day St. Louis.

blonde haired woman holding a cup of tea on a set of a television station

You know it the minute it hits – the dreaded winter cold. My colds always start with a sore throat. The severity of the soreness provides clues into how bad the cold will be. When I woke 3 days before my December marathon with a sore throat, I cried. I hadn’t been sick the entire 18 weeks of training. Why oh why did it have to show up now?!

Too Good to be True? Yes.

I tried it ALL. Truth be told, while you can shorten the duration of a cold, it’s going to run its course. There was no food or drink that was going to heal me in two days. A steroid shot I took to the arse was my saving grace. However, my diet played a key role. The following foods helped me feel better, and I’m sure recover faster post-marathon.

marathoner wearing her medal in front of a brick building

Lots of Tea Sweetened with Honey

We’ve all heard you need to get plenty of fluids to help your body heal when the winter cold strikes. The warm and soothing liquids from tea can help mend a sore throat & decrease congestion. Certain teas, such as black and green teas contain EGCG –a compound that has been shown to keep viruses from reproducing. Even sweeter, add some honey. Honey is especially effective in children ages two and older with colds, and it also reduces coughing at bedtime to improve sleep. Just remember not to give honey to a child younger than one.

I was pro, probiotics

Every morning I started with a bowl of yogurt and kefir milk (a cultured milk that tastes like yogurt), contains good bacteria called probiotics. Researchers show that individuals who ate probiotics in pill or food form had lower risks of upper respiratory track winter colds compared to those taking placebos. In addition, these good gut bugs are especially important to eat when taking antibiotics to treat your illness. Antibiotics not only kill the bad germs but kill the good ones as well, and probiotic-rich foods can help you restore your immunity.

Lots of vitamin C-rich foods

While the verdict is still out, some research finds that higher doses of vitamin C minimize nagging illness symptoms, especially if caught early in the game. Eating at least 200 mg of vitamin C per day may reduce the duration of a winter cold symptoms by an average of 8% in adults and 14% in children, which translated to about one less day of illness. Examples of vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli and sweet potatoes.

Broth-Based Hot Soups

Mom’s homemade soup might be just what the doctor ordered. Studies have actually been done on chicken noodle soup in comparison to over the counter cold remedies, and the soup, which contains a salty broth, not only hydrates, but the warm liquids help thin mucus secretions allowing you to rid your body of germs more quickly. In addition, the combination of the vegetables and chicken contain immunity-boosting micronutrients such as vitamin C, A, iron and zinc.

I also added a lot of spice. Spicy foods help ease congested nasal passages, help with breathing problems from bronchitis, and relieve flu symptoms, too. Other spicy additions would be to add a dollop of hot sauce, horseradish, or wasabi when you’re under the weather. I find it’s a much tastier alternative to over the counter expectorants for that winter cold. 😉

What about you, friends? What are your go-to, feel-better foods?

 

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.