You will probably catch at least a sniffle during cold and flu season, and the good news is that certain foods can help soothe symptoms.
Cold and flu recovery is more than just garlic and onions. The following is a list of foods and nutrients that reduce symptom-inducing inflammation, and speed up recovery time:
Whole foods rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, such as broccoli and citrus fruit, can decrease the duration of symptoms. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain sulphoraphane, an antioxidant known to decrease airway inflammation. Oranges, lemons and other citrus contain quercetin, a flavanoid that can relieve congestion, runny nose and sneezing.
Dark green vegetables are rich in vitamins A and C. These nutrients work in synergy to support the immune system by helping the body produce virus-fighting white blood cells, and also by keeping mucous membranes healthy.
Warm drinks quell chills, and soothe sore throats. Hot water with lemon and honey can silence a cough, and adds a boost of vitamin C. If you sip green or black tea you will also reap the immune-boosting benefits of the antioxidant L-theanine.
Vitamin D fortifies the immune system and may even decrease the duration of a cold. During the winter months, we cannot make vitamin D from the sun and diet alone does not provide enough. Look for a vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplement that provides 2,000-4,000 IU daily.
Eat huevos rancheros, fried eggs with a side of salsa. Eggs are rich in zinc, a mineral that can speed recovery time, and the spicy salsa will help break up congestion.
Snack on yogurt and Kefir to replenish good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics, found in cultured and fermented foods, have been shown to decrease the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms. Since our gut is intimately connected with the immune system, probiotics – good bacteria – strengthen our defenses against bad bugs.
Have oatmeal and bananas for breakfast. Oats are rich in beta glucan, a prebiotic fiber that creates a healing environment in the gut and supports the growth of good bacteria. Bananas are rich in potassium, a mineral that can be depleted when you are sick.
Have some fatty fish. The omega-3s EPA and DHA in mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna work like antioxidants by reducing the release of histamines, substances produced by immune cells that trigger inflammatory symptoms like sneezing and congestion.