Cold-busting foods

By Ursula Ridens | February 26, 2019
Cold-busting foods

We've all heard the old adage, "Feed a cold, starve a fever." Or is it the other way around: Do you starve a cold and feed a fever? However you look at it, it is never a good idea to starve yourself.

The best defense against a cold is keeping your immune system strong all year. But when sickness hits, there are some healthy practices that can help you feel better. If you're under the weather, try these four tips from Ursula Ridens, a registered dietitian at Sharp HealthCare's Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program:

  1. Probiotics. "Include foods that are a naturally good source of probiotics to boost the level of healthy bacteria in your digestive tract," says Ridens. She suggests including some of these probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, miso, yogurt with live and active cultures, tempeh, kombucha and naturally fermented pickles in moderation.

  2. Herbal tea. "Sip on warm herbal tea to boost antioxidant intake, soothe the throat and loosen phlegm and congestion," recommends Ridens. According to a study published in the Journal of Family Practice, honey may help to decrease nighttime coughing in children. Remember to never give honey to infants under age 1 because of risk for a very serious illness called infant botulism.

  3. Be sensible. "There's no magic-cure food for colds," says Ridens. "Choose foods and liquids that you can tolerate while sick to maintain nutrition and hydration." For example, if citrus fruits burn your throat, then back off for a bit and get your vitamin C from foods that are perhaps easier to tolerate such as potatoes or broccoli.

  4. Consult your doctor. "Talk to your doctor about testing various nutrient levels through bloodwork to help ensure you're maintaining adequate levels for health and immunity - such as iron, vitamin B-12, vitamin D and folate," says Ridens. "If these levels are low, then you may consider supplements - with your doctor or dietitian's guidance on the correct dosage."

According to a review of three different clinical trials, taking zinc lozenges within 24 hours of catching a cold can help shorten the duration of your illness by one day, but won't affect the severity of symptoms.

"Our body's ability to fight off infection is impacted by many things such as immune function, stress level, physical activity level, sleep hygiene and, of course, nutrition status," reminds Ridens. "Keeping your immune system strong throughout the year is your best defense."

Ridens emphasizes the use of whole foods in your diet, rather than supplements, because of their effectiveness over time, safety and taste. Boost your immune system throughout the year by:

  • Eating a varied and balanced diet that includes fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, whole grains, avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and omega-3 food sources such as fish, walnuts, chia seed and ground flaxseed

  • Consuming primarily plant-based foods for a diet rich in antioxidants to help fight inflammation

  • Being mindful and moderate in the amount of added sugar and fat you enjoy

  • Maintaining regular physical activity

  • Managing your stress level

  • Getting adequate sleep

For more information
The Sharp Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program provides one-on-one nutrition counseling with registered dietitians at three convenient locations throughout San Diego County. To get your questions answered and learn more about our offerings, please contact us at 619-740-4632.

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