By Michele D. Baker
Adapted from an article in Better Homes and Gardens
According to CDC estimates, the average American adult deals with two to three colds each year. The best ways to prevent a cold are regular hand washing, limiting exposure to those who are sick, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces regularly. But you can also strengthen your body’s natural defenses by way of food. So what should you eat?
A Well-Rounded Diet
Start by eating a well-rounded diet—one rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats—which help keep cells running optimally. These foods also help the growth and maintenance of the microbiome (the diverse array of good bacteria that reside in our digestive tract).
A few key micronutrients have also been identified as critical:
- Iron is found in red meat, beans, nuts, oysters, spinach, tofu, and fortified breakfast cereals.
- Get Vitamin A from sweet potato, spinach, carrots, dairy, cantaloupe, red bell peppers, eggs.
- Vitamin C is abundant in red and green bell peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, and tomatoes.
- Source Vitamin D from sunlight, fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified dairy, and mushrooms grown under UV lights.
- The antioxidant Vitamin E is found in seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, peanut butter, spinach, and broccoli.
- Finally, get zinc from oysters, beef, pork, turkey, shrimp, lentils, dairy, seeds, and nuts.
Chicken Soup for the Soul (and Colds)
Eating chicken soup may sound like an old wives’ tale, but there is some science that suggests that eating it may have healing benefits. Vegetable, bean, and other similar nutrient-rich bowls will also work. Bonus points if the soup contains garlic, since garlic may have antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Like soup, hot tea reduces nasal congestion. Tea also contains polyphenols, natural substances found in plants, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Feel free to add a drizzle of honey to sweeten your tea. Honey can reduce the frequency and severity of nighttime coughing. Boost the power of that honey by purchasing local from farmers markets or small bee farms; eating local honey may have the added benefit of helping relieve seasonal allergies.
Citrus Fruits from Florida
In addition to being one of the most hydrating foods, oranges, grapefruits, pomelos, clementines, and all members of the citrus family are great for cold relief – beyond the H2O, citrus fruits deliver vitamin C. One caveat: grapefruit may interfere with how your body absorbs some medicines, so consult your doctor.
Any fruit or vegetable with a natural blue, purple, black, or red hue likely gets that tint from anthocyanins, strong anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and immune-boosting substances.
The best Rx to feel better fast? Rest, time, and a well-balanced menu to support recovery. Finally, limit added sugars, foods high in saturated fat, and alcohol.