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5 Cold and Flu-Fighting Foods to Boost Your Immune System

The Complete Herbal Guide / Cough, Colds & Flu  / 5 Cold and Flu-Fighting Foods to Boost Your Immune System
cold flu

5 Cold and Flu-Fighting Foods to Boost Your Immune System

In most cases, the common cold and flu are non-threatening, but it can leave you feeling terrible, to say the least. These infections are extremely common, affecting most of us at least twice or thrice a year. This is not surprising, considering that there are hundreds of viruses that can cause them. This doesn’t mean that you’re helpless. When it comes to fighting the cold and flu, there’s nothing more effective than a healthy immune system. A balanced and varied diet is absolutely essential for strong immunity, as your body requires a whole range of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients to function optimally. In addition to maintaining optimal nutrition and hydration, there are a few other foods that can be particularly helpful when it comes to cold or flu prevention and recovery.

5 Foods to Fight the Common Cold and Flu

ginger

Ginger

A rhizome or root, ginger is commonly used as a culinary spice across the world. Its uses extend far beyond the kitchen however, with a long history in traditional and folk medicine. The root is packed with nutrients and bioactive compounds that give it a variety of health benefits. It has long been touted as an effective remedy for the cold and flu, claims that are now supported by a growing body of evidence. Ginger’s health benefits are primarily attributed to unique compounds like gingerols and shaogals.

These compounds exhibit both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which is why they help to strengthen immune function and reduce inflammatory symptoms associated with the cold and flu. Aside from reducing the severity of the infection and speeding recovery, some studies also demonstrate antiviral action against infections of the respiratory tract. Fresh ginger is generally thought to be most helpful when dealing with the cold or flu and can be chewed on raw, used to make an herbal tea, or added as garnishing to other foods.

garlic

Garlic

Garlic may be the last thing you want to chew on if you’re going on a date, but if you’re down with the flu that’s really not something you need to be concerned with. Naturopaths and herbalists often recommend the use of garlic to prevent or treat the common cold and flu, among other conditions. While not all of these claims can be validated, research shows that garlic possesses strong antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.

Researchers believe that most of these health benefits can be traced to garlic’s primary bioactive compound – allicin. Garlic also helps to prevent and treat infections like the flu by supporting and stimulating healthy immune function. It is so effective at fighting the cold and flu that one study showed a 63% reduction in the occurrence of common cold infections among individuals who consumed garlic cloves regularly. It’s worth noting that the researchers also observed a reduced recovery period in the group.

Mushrooms

It’s not unusual for people to have mixed feelings about mushrooms with all of those conflicting stories out there. Just remember that there are so many different types of mushrooms out there and they’re not all the same. Yes, some of them are poisonous and hallucinogenic, but the edible varieties that you find in most grocery stores are highly nutritious.

They are low in sodium and calories and are contain no cholesterol and fat. Aside from their nutritional value, mushrooms are also a good source of antioxidants, beta glucans, and B vitamins such as riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin, all of which support your immune system. Researchers have also found some evidence that mushrooms may help fight viral infections. When you add mushrooms to your diet, try to mix things up, including white button, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms.

Chicken

When it comes to home remedies, we generally turn to herbs and other plant-based foods for relief, so the chicken can sometimes be overlooked. You can’t be blamed for dismissing chicken soup as an old wives’ remedy because we generally associate chicken with more unhealthy forms like fried chicken. If you stick with soups and salads though, there’s plenty of benefits to be found. In the context of flu and cold relief, research suggests that chicken soup may help because of a mild anti-inflammatory effect. With its high content of protein and vitamin B6, chicken also has a fortifying effect on immune function.

Almonds

Because of their content of healthy fats like omega-3s and oleic acid, almonds are a staple in any diet for heart or brain health. They can also help strengthen your immune function to fight off common infections like the cold and flu because of their high nutritional density. In addition to healthy fats, almonds also contain a good amount of protein, fiber, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, and magnesium. These nutrients play an important role in healthy immune function. One study hints at a more direct role for almonds as a cold remedy, as a compound in the skin was found to improve virus detection and suppression by white blood cells.

Although antibiotics can be incredibly effective when dealing with a wide range of infections, they are of no help when it comes to viral infections. This makes it particularly important that you take steps to strengthen your body’s immunity. In addition to nutrition, you should also make it a point to stay physically active and get adequate sleep on a regular basis.

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Meghana Vijaykumar

mvijaykumar@everydayhealthgroup.com

Anita Fernandes is a journalist and a writer by profession. She has been writing extensively on health and wellness related topics for a little over a decade now. She is a professional writer for Everyday Health. Besides her professional interests, she loves a game of basketball or a good hike in her free time to fuel her spirits. “Health is wealth” is one motto of life which she lives by as well as advocates to every reader, who comes across her blogs.