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Guide to Flu Prevention   ( Home | Diet | Foods | Recipes )

10 Best Foods to Fight a Cold or Flu

foods that fight cold and flu

What are the best vegetables, herbs and fruits to eat if you want to prevent and fight the common cold or flu? We compiled a list of the best foods to fight a cold, and hope this list of healing foods will inspire you to incorporate more anti-cold and anti-flu foods into your eating plan.

#1: Onions

This versatile culinary plant can provide a real health boost to anyone and to reduce the odds of catching a cold of flu. Onions are one of the best natural sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has shown promising potential for suppressing the rhinoviruses which are the underlying cause of the common cold. As an additional bonus, the onion tops the list of vegetables that are least likely to contain significant amounts of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

#2: Shiitake Mushrooms

The health benefits of eating mushrooms are legendary in Asia where a variety of edible mushrooms have been used for centuries to treat a wide range of diseases and conditions. In China and Japan, for example, shiitake mushrooms have been used as a natural remedy for colds and flu. Recently, researchers have identified lentinan, a compound found in shiitake mushrooms, which has been shown to stimulate the immune system. Shiitake mushrooms boast a delicious meaty flavor and they are particularly well suited for bringing meatiness to vegetarian dishes.

Ginger is an age-old food remedy for colds and flu.

#3: Ginger

This member of the Zingiberaceae plant family has been used both as a culinary plant and as a medicine for thousands of years. It is particularly famous for its cold and flu treating powers. It stimulates circulation and helps keep the sinuses and lungs clear of mucus. Ginger can be stewed in boiling water to make ginger tea, or it can be used to flavor a wide range of foods, including stir-fries, curries, fish, poultry, and meat.

#4: Natural Yoghurt

Yoghurt containing live cultures of probiotic bacteria has long been used as a folk remedy to treat a wide range of ailments. Now some new research suggests that the probiotic bacteria in yoghurt may also be effective at preventing respiratory infections such as the common cold. Regular intake of certain probiotic bacteria has also been shown to reduce the duration and the severity of common cold symptoms. Futhermore, foods that provide probiotic bacteria are among the best foods you can eat after taking antibiotics as antibiotic medications can destroy the healthy flora in the intestines.

Cinnamon is used to treat colds in China and India.

#5:  Cinnamon

Cinnamon has a long history. Since ancient times, it has been used as a spice as well as a medicine, and at one point it was considered more precious than gold. In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, cinnamon is used to treat colds and flu. To up your consumption of this fragrant anti-cold and anti-flu food, add it to your breakfast cereal, coffee, or tea.

#6: Green Tea

One of the most interesting health benefits of green tea is its potential ability to help prevent flu and the common cold. Catechins, the same compounds that are responsible for green tea's weight loss promoting properties, have been shown to inhibit the activity of the common cold adenovirus as well as certain influenza viruses. To maximize the release of catechins, choose loose tea leaves instead of tea bags and let the tea steep for five minutes. You may also want to add a bit of lemon juice or other vitamin C rich juice to your tea — research indicates that vitamin C can increase the amount of catechins available to the body.

Garlic has proven anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

#7: Garlic

Since ancient times, garlic has been a popular folk remedy for a vast range of ailments, including the common cold and flu. In 1858, Louis Pasteur discovered that bacteria died when they were exposed to garlic. More recent research has shown that garlic's anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity against infections comes from allicin, a compound that is found in garlic when the plant is crushed or chopped. For more information, see Can Eating Garlic Prevent Common Cold & Flu?.

#8: Grapefruit

Prevent and fight colds by including grapefruit in your diet. Like other citrus fruits, grapefruit is loaded with vitamin C. However, unlike oranges and many other citrus fruit, grapefruit is relatively low in sugar. Sugar is known to deteriorate the functioning of the immune system: when white blood cells, the defenders of the immune system, are exposed to high levels of sugar, their ability to fight bacteria decrease significantly, making the body more prone to all infections. In addition, sugar depletes the body of some very important cold-fighting vitamins, including vitamins C, E and B.

#9: Rosehips

Rosehips, the fruit of the rose plant, are a popular folk remedy for the common cold. They are one of the best natural sources of vitamin C, even better than oranges (ounce-for-ounce, rosehips provide about eight times the amount of vitamin C contained in oranges). Rosehips, which have a taste similar to cranberries, can be used in soups, stews, jams, and pies. However, if you want to maximize the amount of vitamin C provided by these pleasantly tart little fruits, you should eat them fresh as heating and processing can reduce their vitamin content significantly. Before consuming rosehips, don't forget to remove the outer fleshy part of each orb — they contain fine hairs that may irritate the throat.

#10: Watercress

Watercress is a real super-food packed with nutrients. It has traditionally been used to treat cold symptoms such as runny nose and coughs. While being low in calories, watercress provides a truckload of vitamin C. Watercress is available in larger supermarkets year round, and its peppery leaves are delicious in soups, salads and sandwiches.

For further information on the nutritional approach to boosting your immune system and warding off colds and flu bouts, check out the following pages: