As polar vortexes, nor’easters and monsoons ensue across the country, people are more likely to stay indoors, which also means that germs can circulate more easily.
Cue the sniffling, sore throats, coughs and congestion — classic signs of the common cold.
If you’re feeling under the weather, food might be the last thing on your mind. “Some people may lose their appetite [when they’re feeling sick] due to diminished sense of taste or smell or lack of energy,” says Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com.
But even if you’ve lost your appetite, it’s important to keep consuming nutrient-dense grub. “The longer we go without meeting our nutrient needs, the weaker we can become and the slower our recovery may be,” says Maxine Yeung, MS, RD, CDN, NASM-CPT and founder of The Wellness Whisk.
Zinc isn’t a mineral you want to do away with. “Some studies show that zinc may help reduce the duration of a cold if taken right away,” says Yeung.
“Zinc helps regulate the immune system, build and maintain lean body mass and heal wounds.” Yeung says foods high in zinc include oysters, red meat, eggs, fortified cereal, beans and pumpkin seeds.
This flavorful spice is considered a superfood for a good reason. It’s rich in antioxidants and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests these qualities make turmeric a strong defense against colds, coughs, and congestion. Try it in a turmeric latte, aka golden milk, or use it to season lean meats, grains and other healthy foods.
7. Fruits and Vegetables
It won’t surprise anyone to learn that vitamin-rich foods are key to maintaining a strong immune system. Smithson stresses that vitamins A, C, and E are particularly useful in building immunity. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of these nutrients. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C can be found in high quantities in citrus fruits, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Dark leafy greens, butternut squash and avocado are excellent sources of vitamin E. Pairing these and other fruits and vegetables with adequate protein intake will help supercharge your immunity, says Smithson.
8. Plenty of liquids
In addition to consuming healthy foods, it’s also critical to stay hydrated in order to help keep your throat and airways clear, says Yeung. But not all beverages help fight illness. “Hot tea is a great way to stay hydrated, provide warmth and comfort to an irritated and inflamed throat and help relieve congestion,” says Yeung.
“Try to avoid sweetened beverages, like sports drinks and juice, as too much sugar in your body can cause inflammation… which further weakens your immune system.”
The Ultimate Cold Remedy
When you’re trying to fight off an illness, focus on consuming foods that are packed with nutrients. “It’s not what to avoid, but what to include in your diet that is important for immunity,” says Smithson.
And of course, the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” always applies. “The best way to stave off the cold and flu is try to stay as healthy as possible by maintaining a healthy diet, being physically active and practicing good hygiene,” says Yeung.
“There is no magical food that can help prevent a cold, but lacking in certain nutrients can contribute to a compromised immune system.” So for the best cold prevention, focus on eating balanced healthy meals all year-round.