10 Foods to Eat When You're Fighting Off a Nasty Cold

woman sick with a coldFeel sneezy? Coughy? Stuffy? Downright miserable? Welcome to Cold Season, where a box of tissues and a bottle of NyQuil are suddenly your BFFs. But here's some good news for you there, hiding under an afghan: Eating certain foods can help you feel better faster.


The reason? Certain nutrients boost your body's immune system, so you fight off an illness more quickly. (Sadly, those nutrients don't come from soda or powdered sugar Donettes.) Here's what your bod DOES crave when it's sick with a cold:

1. Carrots: "Carrots are a top source of beta carotene, an antioxidant involved in immune function, and a precursor to vitamin A," explains Torey Armul, MS, CSSD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Just 10 baby carrots, or one whole, will give you three times the recommended daily amount of vitamin A. 

2. Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes have just as much vitamin A as carrots, "and they're also an excellent source of vitamin C," notes Armul. "Research suggests vitamin C can help reduce the duration of a cold."

3. Navel Oranges: You knew this one was coming, right? "One medium orange exceeds your daily vitamin C intake and contains 86 percent water, another important factor in fighting a cold," Armul says. (A cup of OJ will also give you the same benefits.)

4. Leafy Greens: Don't forget to eat your spinach when you're fighting off a cold. "Leafy greens are loaded with immune-boosting vitamins C and A," Armul says. Next time you're feeling under the weather, try 1/3 cup of cooked greens or 2 cups raw.

5. Cereal: One cup of Wheaties, Chex, or whatever your morning pleasure is is most likely loaded with zinc, "which is critical for healthy immune function," Armul says. Not a fan of Cheerios? Try scrambled eggs with mushrooms, both of which are full-to-bursting with zinc goodness.

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6. Almonds: Vitamin E is key for strong immunity. "Twenty-three almonds (1 ounce) meets 36 percent of our daily vitamin E needs," says Armul. Not a fan of almonds? Other nuts, seeds, and those leafy greens we mentioned above are good sources, too.

7. Chicken Soup: Your mom wasn't kidding. A steaming hot bowl of chicken soup may actually ease cold symptoms, "likely due to its nutrients, electrolytes, fluids, or warm temperature," says Armul. "The 'comfort food factor' probably plays a role, too."

8. Yogurt: One study found that probiotics can lessen a cold and upper respiratory infections by up to TWO days. The reason: "Good" bacteria reduces the inflammation your body has in response to a virus. (Inflammation is what causes symptoms like congestion and a sore throat.)

9. Healthy Fats: There's a reason we all keep hearing about polyunsaturated fats -- especially omega-3s. "Research indicates that they help regulate immune function," Armul says. (It's a long story as to how; let's just say that they boost activity of some very important white blood cells.) To reap the benefits, add some salmon, flaxseed, or olive oil to your diet.

10. Green Tea: A compound found in green tea may inhibit a virus's ability to replicate. Not to mention the warm liquid will feel pretty comforting going down.


Image via Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

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