Seven Foods to Eat to Prevent (or Recover) Cold and Flu

The mercury has dropped and with the cooler weather comes an influx of colds and flu, forcing many of us to take shelter inside with a box of tissues and a warm blanket.

Much has been written in recent years about the best foods to support immune function, but much less has been written about the foods to focus on when you’re feeling far from your best.

With fruit and vegetable prices soaring, we also need to be aware that we’re spending our money wisely, so if you’ve got a dreaded cold, here are the top foods to grab, and they won’t break the budget.

Adam Liaw’s Creamy Yogurt Mousse with Frozen Kiwifruit provides both vitamin C and probiotics.
Photo: William Meppem



kiwis

Move over oranges, we have a new player in the vitamin C stakes. Kiwis are one of the richest natural sources of the nutrient, which plays a key role in immune function. Just one of the furry-skinned fruits provides the recommended daily amount of vitamin C, and then some. It’s cost-effective, too: For less than $1 each, a serving of kiwifruit is a smart addition to your daily diet during the winter. Also enjoy the skin, where possible, for an extra fiber boost.

Vegetable juice

Not only does a nutrient-rich liquid like juice help prevent dehydration — one of the most common reasons our heads pound when we fight the flu — but a vegetable-rich juice is a smart way to consume a concentrated amount of key nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamin C and folate, all of which play important roles in new cell formation and immune function.

A glass of juice can also be a cost-effective way to incorporate a range of nutrient-rich superfoods such as beetroot, kale, sweet potato, and spinach into your diet.

Karen Martini's vegetable soup with chicken and barley.

Karen Martini’s vegetable soup with chicken and barley. Photo: Marcel Aucar



While it’s expensive to buy each vegetable individually, a bottle of vegetable juice retails for as little as $4 or $5, making it a budget-friendly way to stock up on veggies when you’re feeling down.

Soup based on broth

Chicken soup is a predictable addition to a list of foods to look up when you’re feeling down. But specifically, soups are made from bone broth, which contains the molecule carnosine, which has been shown to help slow the migration of infected cells throughout the body when you’re sick.

For this reason, making your own vegetable-rich soup with homemade bone broth or seeking out bone broth is important if you want to soothe yourself with a nutritious bowl of soup.

Whole wheat toast

Zinc is one of the most important nutrients we can focus on when we are feeling unwell. And while seafood and meat are two of the richest natural resources, eating a big steak is often the last thing we feel like when we’re feeling unwell.

Whole wheat bread is another reasonable source of zinc, and pairing it with a nut-rich spread or even an egg is an easy, light way to tick the box.

Yogurt with living cultures

It’s not yogurt that helps you recover from colds and flu. Rather, it is the live cultures in yogurt or other fermented foods such as kefir that play an important role in the health of the digestive tract. In recent years, we’ve become more aware of the many ways gut health affects immune function, meaning including a daily dose of probiotics is a smart addition to any cold recovery plan.

Live culture yogurt contains a daily dose of probiotics.

Live culture yogurt contains a daily dose of probiotics. Photo: iStock



Garlic

Garlic has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and contains both antiviral and antibacterial properties, making it a must if your immune system needs a boost. A number of small studies have shown that the risk of catching a cold is reduced when garlic supplements are taken, so it makes nutritional sense to add more garlic to your diet or take a supplement at this time of year.

pomegranate juice

Pomegranate juice, which is increasingly available in Australia, is especially high in antioxidants. The flu virus is associated with oxidative stress that affects cells. Studies have examined the relationship between foods rich in antioxidant molecules and the flu infection, finding that concentrated amounts of polyphenol antioxidants, such as those found in pomegranate juice, can reduce the duration of a cold by as much as 40 percent.

Susie Burrell is an accredited dietitian and nutritionist with a master’s degree in coaching psychology.


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