19th July 2024

When you’re sick, especially with a cold or the flu, sometimes food can be a real turnoff. But the right foods and beverages can offer relief—either from the symptoms of a cold or to help strengthen your immune system—so you can get better faster. Here are 10 cold-fighting foods to focus on, and simple ways to incorporate them when you’re under the weather. Some may even help your immune system fend off a cold, or reduce its severity or length. So stock up!

  1. Chamomile tea: Chamomile consumption has been tied to an increase in antibacterial activity in the body. But its real impact may be its ability to support sleep, which protects immunity. In one study, postpartum women who drank chamomile tea for a few weeks reported better sleep quality compared to those who didn’t consume chamomile. Sip hot or iced, or use the steeped tea as the liquid for smoothies or oatmeal.


  1. Turmeric: Curcumin, the natural compound in turmeric responsible for its vibrant colour, is a potent anti-inflammatory compound. It has also been shown to boost immune cell activity and enhance antibody responses. Just be sure to combine turmeric with black pepper, which significantly ups curcumin bioavailability. Sprinkle a turmeric black pepper combo onto a smoothie, soup, broth, or cooked veggies.



  1. Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO, possesses antibacterial properties that can reduce your risk of becoming sick. Its antioxidants have also been shown to protect against immune-mediated inflammatory conditions, including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Saute your leafy greens in EVOO, or drizzle over a nutrient rich, easy to digest carb, like skin on potatoes.


  1. Soup or broth: For decades, caretakers have been doling out chicken or other broth-based soups to cold sufferers, and there is some science to support its benefit. The effect is threefold. The steam from soup or broth speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose to relieve congestion. A healthy soup also helps reduce inflammation. That’s important, because catching a cold triggers an inflammatory response in your upper respiratory tract, which contributes to symptoms like a stuffy nose. Also, the salt from soup or broth will cause your body to retain more water, and easing dehydration can help lessen symptoms like headache and dry mouth. If you don’t eat chicken, opt for vegetable broth, flavoured with add-ins like garlic, ginger, cayenne, turmeric, and black pepper.



  1. Cayenne pepper: Spicy peppers, including cayenne powder, help thin mucus to relieve nasal congestion. Capsaicin, the compound that gives spicy peppers their heat, may also help suppress a cough. Add a pinch of ground cayenne to your tea, soup, or broth


  1. Garlic: Historically, garlic has been used to ward off illnesses, fight infections, and treat wounds—and research lends credibility to garlic’s immune-supporting capabilities. In one older study, 146 volunteers were assigned to receive either a placebo or a garlic supplement daily for 12 weeks throughout cold season. The garlic group experienced significantly fewer colds compared to the placebo group, and they recovered faster if they did get infected. Newer research confirms that aged garlic extract may enhance immune cell function.




  1. Raw honey: In addition to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, raw honey has been shown to help ease coughs in children. Manuka honey, a variety native to New Zealand but available in the US, may specifically help bolster immunity. Take it off a spoon to soothe your throat and potentially relieve a cough, or stir it into to your chamomile tea.


  1. Ginger: Ginger eases nausea, and like raw honey, possesses antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. For the best benefits, opt for fresh ginger root. Slice or grate and add to tea, broth, smoothies, juice, or sprinkle over fresh fruit.


  1. Bananas: Bananas are one of the easiest foods on the digestive system and remain one of the few appealing foods when appetite is diminished due to illness. They also raise blood sugar and provide energy while delivering key nutrients that help support the immune system, including vitamins C and B6, copper, and folate. They’re also chock full of potassium, an electrolyte lost in sweat. Eat them as is, mash and drizzle with raw honey and fresh grated ginger, blend into a smoothie, or freeze and eat as an icy pop.


  1. Lemon: A quarter cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice provides 30% of the daily target for vitamin C, and the juice from one whole lemon supplies about 50%. In addition to supporting immunity, this nutrient, which also acts as an antioxidant, is needed for DNA repair and serotonin production. The latter helps promote happiness and sleep. Add fresh-squeezed lemon juice to hot or chilled water or hot tea.


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