To say this winter hasn’t been kind to us would be an understatement. If you’re struggling with the common cold, the foods below may help your body recover, but if you have an aggressive viral infection like the bronchitis we battled for 8 weeks, nothing but rest, fluids, good hygiene, and more rest will help. Thankfully we’ve recovered and are back in action! We missed you, and hope you’ve had good health and kept warm in 2017.
Remember, no one food will be the magic cure to your cold. Although certain foods may have research suggesting health benefits, the research isn’t definitive and potential benefits don’t override rest, good hygiene, and hydration. Without adequate sleep and hydration, recovery time can become much longer, so start there.
The foods below can help support your immunity over the cold and flu season. Incorporating them into everyday cooking is an easy way to make sure you’re exposed to them all winter long:
- Garlic: contains organosulfur compounds and potential antioxidant properties which may stimulate macrophages and killer cells of the immune response. Individual research studies utilize different forms of garlic, at different doses, therefore recommended doses aren’t widely available.
If you’re keen to give garlic a try, add it into home-made soups, pastas, and stir-fries. When roasting vegetables, throw in a whole bulb of garlic to roast. Roasted garlic is incredibly delicious as a spread for breads or cooked meat.
- Ginger: used in traditional medicine to help relieve nausea, ginger is a delicious food that adds a serious zing to any smoothie, soup, fish, or curry. It’s been suggested that ginger may down-regulate inflammation in the body.
Home-made ginger honey tea is a great way to soothe a cough or sore throat and get hydrated. Add 2 cups water, 2 tbsp fresh ginger, 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional) and ½ to 1 tsp honey in a pot on the stovetop, bring to a boil, simmer for 5-10 minutes, strain and enjoy!
- Healthy bugs: regular exposure to foods which contain healthy bacteria can support the immune system’s ability to protect us against infections. Foods such as kefir and probiotic yogurts can help build a community of healthy microbes in the gut.
Throw plain kefir into smoothie with berries, banana and mint, try it with granola, or as a decadent vanilla chia pudding.
- Salt water gargle: gargling with salt water may help to flush potential pathogens out of the oral cavity and provide relief from symptoms by loosening thick mucus, making it easier to expel. Mix ½ tsp salt into 1 cup warm water, gargle, spit and repeat 1-2X/day.
- Zinc: although the mechanism is unclear, some studies propose that zinc strengthens the immune system and may help to limit virus replication and decrease the duration of the common cold.
If you’re on the hunt for zinc in your food, you’ll find it in oysters, crab, fish, meats, poultry, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), pumpkin seeds, tempeh (fermented soy), wheat germ, and bran.
- Beta-carotene: Sweet potato, carrots, red bell peppers, spinach and kale all contain beta-carotene which can be converted into Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A supports the immune system by “keeping the skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy” according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Roast sweet potatoes along with chicken or fish at supper or throw them in a festive salad with feta, pecans, and cranberries. Add red bell peppers into greek salad, and experiment with spinach and kale in pastas as pesto or in warm, soothing soups and stews. Other sources of B-carotene include pumpkin, butternut squash, and apricots.