Cold and Flu

Foods That Help Relieve Flu-Like Symptoms

It’s only January, but many of us have already suffered our share of sneezes, nasal congestion, and influenza this winter.

If you’re prone to catching the flu or have a cough or runny nose that you just can’t seem to shake, here are 10 foods that are reputed to ward off the flu this winter…

1. Chicken Soup

Sure, chicken soup is good for the soul, but a hot and hearty bowl of chicken broth will free up congested airways. Luckily, the veggies also provide vital antioxidants while the chicken provides protein energy needed to kick a nasty sickness.

2. Garlic

Raw or lightly cooked, garlic contains natural antibiotics—especially from an ingredient called allicin—which provides natural decongestant and immune-strengthening prowess when you’re sick. Even though garlic is most potent when eaten raw, you can toss a minced clove into a bowl of soup at the end of cooking and still get many of the benefits.

3. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate lovers will rejoice in the fact that dark cocoa contains theobromine, an active ingredient that suppresses a nagging cough by calming the nerves in the throat. And studies back up the fact that two ounces of dark chocolate deliver the same cough-calming benefits as a regular dose of over-the-counter medication. So put on the kettle and brew some dark cocoa!

4. Chili Peppers

Want to light a fire under that nasty cold’s proverbial bottom? Add a heaping teaspoon of cayenne and red chili peppers to a hot glass of water with lemon. The capsaicin in the chilies frees up nasal passages by acting as an expectorant, or natural decongestant medicine.

5. Orange Juice

There is some wise advice behind your mother’s urging to drink OJ when you have a cold. Indeed, just one small glass infuses the body with half the daily-required intake of vitamin C, which not only boosts the immune system by fighting germs, but also reduces the length of a stubborn flu.

6. Bananas

If you have the stomach flu, you’ll likely suffer a troublesome tummy along with a slew of other symptoms. However, eating a banana each day encourages mucus production, which lines the tummy and protects the digestive system from stomach acids.  This is why we’re often encouraged to the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet following a lengthy sickness.

Although there is no clinical proof of the BRAT diet being useful, it does provide people comfort because the foods are easily digestible.

7. Elderberries

High in vitamin C and antioxidants to shorten the life of viral infections and strengthen immunity, these dark berries can be eaten raw (consume only the berries, the roots, leaves, and stem are toxic). You can also find elderberries in dried teas or supplement form.

8. Salmon

The omega-3 prowess in salmon and other fatty fish gives the immunes system a much-needed kick-start in the face of the flu. Salmon is also high in zinc and selenium, antioxidants that eliminate viral infections and reduce inflammation.

9. Yogurt

Did you know that when your digestive tract isn’t healthy, fighting off illness is more difficult? However, eating yogurt containing healthy bacteria will promote healthy bacterial growth so you can fight off the stomach flu and ease tummy and digestive upsets.

10. Tea

Green tea gets its share of kudos, but black and white teas are equally beneficial flu fighters. Brewing a cup will infuse your system with polyphenols, a plant antioxidant that reduces inflammation, lubricates mucus membranes, and frees up congested airways.

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

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