One of the most common infections in the world is the common cold. Colds are respiratory infections that are caused by more than 200 possible viruses. Often, a weak immune system that allows the virus to attack the body causes the common cold. In the US alone, the direct medical costs related to the common cold were a whopping $17 billion a year in 1997.1
The severity and the symptoms differ among individuals and with different infective agents. Children under two years have about six infections a year, adults two to three and older people about one per year.2 Certain foods not only help prevent the cold but also have a curative effect and can help accelerate the recovery. Here are seven such superfoods.
Turmeric belongs to the ginger root family and is native to southwest India. Its effect in treating cold is attributed to one of its components called curcumin.3 Like garlic, curcumin has the power to activate white blood cells whenever an infection threatens the body. Turmeric is popular for its multifunctional properties, including antibacterial activity.4 Even at low doses, curcumin is effective in inhibiting the growth of bacteria. By staving off the infection-causing bacteria, the immune system kicks in and protects you from a cold.
For ages, garlic has been used for its health-related properties. It is an effective cure for the common cold and can help boost the immune system. It has antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral, and antiseptic properties and is widely used in traditional medicine preparation in many countries. Studies from the Journal of Immunology Research shows that garlic can enhance the immune system by helping maintain balance in your body’s cells.5
It plays a crucial role in stimulating the production of two types of white blood cells called macrophages and lymphocytes, which attack the infection-causing germs. Garlic also stimulates the secretion of a protein called cytokine, which sends a signal to the macrophages to attack cellular waste, harmful bacteria, and anything that is detrimental to your health.
3. Yogurt And Probiotics
Probiotics are living microorganisms that provide many health benefits when they are consumed in adequate quantities. Probiotics are essential for the body as they can improve your immune function.6 The primary role of the gut bacteria is to keep your bodies balanced and healthy.7 Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two major types of beneficial bacteria that are responsible for a healthy immune system.
Trillions of gut bacteria, also known as intestinal microflora, reside in the intestinal tract, outnumbering human cells ten to one. Regular intake of yogurt helps in regulating your gut bacteria, which in turn, helps strengthen your immune system. Though yogurt is a fantastic food that can be used in many ways, consuming plain yogurt over the sugary flavored kind is recommended.
4. Wild Salmon
About one-third of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which is critical for preventing colds. Wild salmon is a rich source of vitamin D and many other beneficial nutrients including omega-3s. Studies reveal that people with healthy levels of vitamin D suffered from fewer respiratory tract infections compared to those who were deficient. They also recovered faster from bouts of colds.8 9
Astaxanthin, a bright red molecule found in algae, plankton, and krill has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and also helps in improving blood flow.10 Sockeye salmon contains the most astaxanthin, cholesterol, and vitamin D, as sockeye salmon have an unusual diet of almost exclusively plankton. Besides wild caught salmon, other rich sources of vitamin D are fortified milk, canned tuna, canned sardines and egg yolks.
Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fats that help reduce the risk of inflammation in the body and also boost the immune system by enhancing the functioning of the immune cells. Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3s when compared to other fatty fish. A 3-oz serving of canned sardines contains 1259 milligrams of omega-3s.
Sardines are also packed with other important nutrients that help in strengthening the immune system. A quarter-cup serving of BPA-free canned, sustainably wild-caught BELA sardines in olive oil provides 120 calories, 13 grams of protein, besides vital nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.
Ginger has a long medicinal history and has been commonly used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine to treat various ailments. The health benefits of ginger are associated with its antioxidant properties. Chemical and metabolic analyses have revealed that ginger comprises hundreds of compounds and metabolites.11
Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recommended the consumption of ginger to people who suffer from cold. Ginger tea is an effective way to treat the initial symptoms of a cold. A warm cup of fresh ginger tea blended with honey and lemon juice is a popular and effective method to loosen mucus and ease discomfort and nausea.
7. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C that fights the cell-damaging free radicals and is crucial for a strong immune system. A natural chemical called limonene found in citrus fruit peels could play a potential role in the treatment of bronchitis. Studies have shown that vitamin C can successfully treat and/or prevent the common cold.
The intake of vitamin C may reduce the duration of the common cold and ameliorate symptom severity due to the antihistamine effect of high-dose vitamin C. While regular consumption of vitamin C can keep the common cold at bay, consuming it after the onset of cold symptoms is comparatively less beneficial.12 13
|↑1, ↑2||Allan, G. Michael, and Bruce Arroll. “Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 186, no. 3 (2014): 190-199.|
|↑3||Jagetia, Ganesh Chandra, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. ““Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin.” Journal of clinical immunology 27, no. 1 (2007): 19-35.|
|↑4||Izui, Shusuke, Shinichi Sekine, Kazuhiko Maeda, Masae Kuboniwa, Akihiko Takada, Atsuo Amano, and Hideki Nagata. “Antibacterial activity of curcumin against periodontopathic bacteria.” Journal of periodontology 87, no. 1 (2016): 83-90.|
|↑5||Arreola, Rodrigo, Saray Quintero-Fabián, Rocío Ivette López-Roa, Enrique Octavio Flores-Gutiérrez, Juan Pablo Reyes-Grajeda, Lucrecia Carrera-Quintanar, and Daniel Ortuño-Sahagún. “Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds.” Journal of immunology research 2015 (2015).|
|↑6||Kang, En-Jin, Soo Young Kim, In-Hong Hwang, and Yun-Jeong Ji. “The effect of probiotics on prevention of common cold: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trial studies.” Korean journal of family medicine 34, no. 1 (2013): 2-10.|
|↑7||O’Hara, Ann M., and Fergus Shanahan. “The gut flora as a forgotten organ.” EMBO reports 7, no. 7 (2006): 688-693.|
|↑8||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.|
|↑9||Khaw, Kay-Tee, Robert Luben, and Nicholas Wareham. “Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, mortality, and incident cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancers, and fractures: a 13-y prospective population study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2014): ajcn-086413.|
|↑10||Fassett, Robert G., and Jeff S. Coombes. “Astaxanthin, oxidative stress, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease.” Future Cardiology 5, no. 4 (2009): 333-342.|
|↑11||Bode, Ann M., and Zigang Dong. “The amazing and mighty ginger.” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2011).|
|↑12||Douglas, Robert M., and Harri Hemilä. “Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold.” PLoS medicine 2, no. 6 (2005): e168.|
|↑13||Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health. 2016.|