It’s cold and flu season. In my household and at my office, there’s a nasty bug that’s going around and everyone is catching it. So I’m sick – stuffed up, sore throat, fatigue, the whole works. Not to worry though, I am stocking up with lots of vitamins and other healing foods to get better. I am a believer that you can help fight off your cold or flu with natural methods.
Here is my list of top 7 foods to naturally fight the cold and flu and improve your health. Some of the foods aren’t surprising, but there may be a few that you hadn’t thought of before.
1. Chicken Soup
Homemade chicken soup is better than canned soup (and has less sodium to boot), but chicken soup has curative powers that help fight colds and flu naturally. A hot, steaming bowl of soup temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, which helps relieve your congestion and reduces the amount of time the viruses are in contact with your nose lining. In addition, chicken soup acts like an anti-inflammatory; it slows the movement neutrophils – which are white blood cells that play a role in the body’s inflammatory response.
In mom-speak, chicken soup is good for the sick person’s soul. For delicious cold and flu fighting soup, consider using plenty of garlic and onion.
You may have a low-hate relationship with garlic – some people just can’t stand the smell – but this bulb is a natural cold and flu fighter. Garlic is nature’s decongestant. Allicin, the oily substance that gives garlic its pungent odor, helps regulate mucus flow and relieves congestion. Garlic also has antioxidant properties, which help destroy free radicals and prevent cancer. Research has shown that consuming garlic can help prevent colds and shorten their duration.
I absolutely love garlic, and I’ve been sautéing whole bulbs (peeled and halves) and eating them as my side dish. Some say that eating raw garlic gives you the best cold-fighting benefits, but that’s a bit too strong for most people. You can add garlic to almost any meal, and it gives it a lovely touch.
3. Oysters and other Zinc-containing Foods
Order yourself up a big bowl of creamy oyster stew! Oysters are a rich source of zinc – an essential mineral that’s vital to your body’s resistance to infection. Zinc may just boost your immune system and lessen your cold’s severity and duration. You can find zinc naturally in many nuts and seeds, beans, shellfish, beef, milk and cheese. If none of these foods appeal to you, you may want to consider taking a zinc supplement or over-the-counter zinc preparations like Zicam or Cold-Eeze.
This may be surprising, but honey may actually help you when you’re sick. A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, found that buckwheat honey is effective in reducing cough and soothing an irritated throat. (Don’t give honey to babies under 1 year old. It could potentially lead to a rare and fatal illness called infant botulism.)
Honey is delicious and can be easily added to so many foods. I enjoy eating honey and peanut butter on crackers or on bread.
5. Green Tea
Not only does green tea have antioxidant power that may help boost your immune system, but it may also lessen the duration of your cold or flu. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, looked at the effect of green tea extract on the occurrence and severity of the common cold. Researchers found that green tea extract reduces the average length of the cold and reduces the severity of cold symptoms.
Since green tea has caffeine in it, you may consider using drink decaffeinated green tea instead. Steep green tea in boiled water for a few minutes, add a teaspoon of honey, and enjoy this warm and delicious drink.
6. Hot Peppers
If you’re stuffed up, add some spice to your meals. Hot peppers have capsaicin, which give these peppers their heat and spiciness. Capsaicin may thin mucus and relieve your congestion. Add hot peppers to salsa, or a sprinkle to any meal. They will open you up.
7. Elderberry Syrup
Throughout history, people have been using elderberry syrup to cure the common cold and flu, bronchitis, sore throats, fevers, and other ailments. You can find elderberry at your local pharmacy under the brand name, “Sambucol.” Elderberries are full of antioxidants, and it has anti-inflammatory properties.
In an impressive study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that flu sufferers who took elderberry syrup recovered twice as fast as those who use the syrup. In fact, over 90 percent of the study’s participants noticed an improvement in their flu symptoms only after two days.
On a personal note, when the swine flu outbreak hit my hometown of Nashville, a child I knew ended up with the flu. She was given Sambucol and noticed a huge improvement within 24 hours. I love the stuff!
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