There are plenty of things that make us look forward to fall and winter, but catching the flu is certainly not one of them. And no amount of sweaters and boots or even timely flu shots can prevent an arbitrary virus from finding its way into your body and ruining the holiday season for you. Over-the-counter flu and cold drugs are also fairly unreliable, which often leads us to wonder – could eating certain foods help counter the problem?
Yes, they most certainly can! Here is a helpful round-up of 6 top foods that will bolster your immunity and help you recover quickly, just in time to enjoy the festivities.
This humble, pungent herb is not just great for adding flavor to your favorite pizza but has also been shown to ward off the viruses that make you fall sick. Garlic contains allicin, a compound that lends this herb its magical antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.1 A study involving 146 volunteers, found that people who consumed an allicin-containing garlic supplement were not only less likely to catch a cold but also recovered faster as compared to those who were given a placebo.2
Additionally, garlic also encourages the growth of healthy gut bacteria, that helps flush out harmful viruses and toxins from the body, thus giving your immunity an extra boost.3
Of course, popping a garlic supplement can help treat a cold or the flu. However, it doesn’t quite beat the benefits of eating real garlic, which increases the bioavailability of the essential components you need to fight off your cold.
2. Dark Leafy Greens
If you really want to beat the flu or the common cold, you’d better load up on those leafy veggies! These will give your body a boost of some good ol’ vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, that fends off inflammation-causing free radicals, the precursor to just about any and every chronic illness.4
Remember to choose the darkest of greens, because these will pack in a higher dose of essential nutrients like zinc, iron, calcium, and folate as compared to their lighter-colored counterparts. And while asking you to munch on spinach, kale, and broccoli may seem counterintuitive when your mood is already low – trust us, you need to get all the nutrients you can to rid yourself of that stubborn cold.
This lumpy root has benefits that go far beyond soothing a scratchy throat and suppressing coughs. Ginger is loaded with compounds called sesquiterpenes.5 6These chemicals specifically target rhinoviruses, a family of viruses that is the leading cause of common cold and flu. Ginger also contains potent anti-inflammatory properties that reduce pain and soreness.7 8 Being a mild sedative, it also helps you rest when you’re under the weather.
If chewing on a piece of raw ginger is too much for you, you can try adding some shredded ginger root to a cup of hot tea – it will work just as fine!
It’s not just the sweet taste that makes honey a favorite amongst people who find themselves under the weather. This sticky, runny syrup-like food is touted as a cure-all for everything – from cuts, burns, and wounds to illnesses like the common cold.
Honey boasts of having powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, both of which protect your body from the onslaught of harmful infection-causing microbes.9 In addition to this, its thick texture helps coat the inner lining of the throat and is, therefore, very helpful in relieving a throat that’s sore from all that coughing.
5. Wild Salmon
As the year draws to an end, the daylight hours decrease, as does your body’s natural storehouse of vitamin D starts. This is a super essential nutrient that is vital for keeping your immunity in tiptop shape and thus, warding off those pesky flu-causing viruses. Research shows that people with healthy vitamin D levels not only suffer from fewer respiratory tract infections but also displayed faster signs of recovery after getting sick as compared to those who were vitamin D-deficient.10
While sun exposure is generally the most reliable source of vitamin D, this can seem close to impossible between the months of October and January. So your next best bet is salmon. Not farmed, but wild. A group of researchers from Boston University found that a serving of wild salmon weighing 3.5 ounces contains 988 IU of vitamin D, which is almost 65 percent more than the US recommended daily allowance of 600 IU set in 2010. In comparison, farmed salmon contained only 25 percent of the vitamin D content of wild salmon.11
6. Chicken Soup
This age-old elixir combines multiple elements that accelerates your recovery after catching a cold. While the warm broth soothes your irritated throat and keeps you well hydrated, the hot liquid soup raises the temperature of your body and the mucus airways which helps release mucus secretions. Cooked chicken also releases an amino acid called cysteine which is very similar to a drug that is often used to treat bronchitis.12 13
Studies have also found that chicken soup is anti-inflammatory in nature which alleviates all those symptoms that make a person so cranky when he’s sick. By slowing down the rate of gathering of white blood cells in the lungs, chicken soup actually does away with some of the unpleasant cold symptoms, thus instantly making you feel better.14
|↑1||Bayan, Leyla, Peir Hossain Koulivand, and Ali Gorji. “Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects.” Avicenna journal of phytomedicine 4, no. 1 (2014): 1.|
|↑2||Josling, Peter. “Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey.” Advances in therapy 18, no. 4 (2001): 189-193.|
|↑3||Filocamo, Angela, Carmen Nueno-Palop, Carlo Bisignano, Giuseppina Mandalari, and Arjan Narbad. “Effect of garlic powder on the growth of commensal bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract.” Phytomedicine 19, no. 8 (2012): 707-711.|
|↑4||Chambial, Shailja, Shailendra Dwivedi, Kamla Kant Shukla, Placheril J. John, and Praveen Sharma. “Vitamin C in disease prevention and cure: an overview.” Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry28, no. 4 (2013): 314-328.|
|↑5||Denyer, Clive V., Peter Jackson, David M. Loakes, Malcolm R. Ellis, and David AB Young. “Isolation of antirhinoviral sesquiterpenes from ginger (Zingiber officinale).” Journal of Natural Products 57, no. 5 (1994): 658-662.|
|↑6||Lee, Chia-Lin, Lien-Chai Chiang, Li-Hung Cheng, Chih-Chuang Liaw, Mohamed H. Abd El-Razek, Fang-Rong Chang, and Yang-Chang Wu. “Influenza A (H1N1) antiviral and cytotoxic agents from Ferula assa-foetida.” Journal of natural products 72, no. 9 (2009): 1568-1572.|
|↑7||Mashhadi, Nafiseh Shokri, Reza Ghiasvand, Gholamreza Askari, Mitra Hariri, Leila Darvishi, and Mohammad Reza Mofid. “Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence.” International journal of preventive medicine 4, no. Suppl 1 (2013): S36.|
|↑8||Raal, Ain, Daisy Volmer, Renata Soukand, Sofia Hratkevitš, and Raivo Kalle. “Complementary treatment of the common cold and flu with medicinal plants–results from two samples of pharmacy customers in Estonia.” PLoS One 8, no. 3 (2013): e58642.|
|↑9||Moyad, Mark A. “Conventional and alternative medical advice for cold and flu prevention: what should be recommended and what should be avoided?.” Urologic nursing 29, no. 6 (2009): 455.|
|↑10||Sabetta, James R., Paolo DePetrillo, Ralph J. Cipriani, Joanne Smardin, Lillian A. Burns, and Marie L. Landry. “Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d and the incidence of acute viral respiratory tract infections in healthy adults.” PloS one 5, no. 6 (2010): e11088.|
|↑11||Lu, Z., T. C. Chen, A. Zhang, K. S. Persons, N. Kohn, R. Berkowitz, S. Martinello, and M. F. Holick. “An evaluation of the vitamin D 3 content in fish: is the vitamin D content adequate to satisfy the dietary requirement for vitamin D?.” The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology 103, no. 3 (2007): 642-644.|
|↑12||Jayasena, Dinesh D., Dong Uk Ahn, Ki Chang Nam, and Cheorun Jo. “Flavour chemistry of chicken meat: a review.” Asian-Australasian journal of animal sciences 26, no. 5 (2013): 732.|
|↑13||Parr, G. D., and A. Huitson. “Oral fabrol (oral N-acetylcysteine) in chronic bronchitis.” British journal of diseases of the chest 81 (1987): 341-348.|
|↑14||Rennard, Barbara O., Ronald F. Ertl, Gail L. Gossman, Richard A. Robbins, and Stephen I. Rennard. “Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro.” Chest Journal 118, no. 4 (2000): 1150-1157.|