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Feeding a Cold

If you're battling the combination of flu, allergies and seasonal changes, it might be time to consider a dietary adjustment to help boost your system.

I recently dodged a beginning of the season cold which for me usually turns into a full blown sinus infection. I had a sore throat, a stuffy nose and a pounding headache that got increasingly worse for several days then suddenly stopped.

I’m not sure why my symptoms went away but I did make a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup.

Can food cure the common cold? Is chicken soup my magic potion? I don’t know so I decided to read up on it.

Kids Health says, “Chicken soup contains a mucus-thinning amino acid called cysteine, and some research shows that chicken soup helps control congestion-causing white cells, called neutrophils.”

Fox News reported the same findings, “Science has confirmed grandma’s wisdom: Chicken soup is undoubtedly good for a cold.” Their research found that chicken stock slows down the production of mucus which helps you to breathe better when you have a cold. Vegetarian soups did not provide the same benefit as chicken soup. Maybe it is a magic potion?

In an Everyday Health article, Karen Gibson, RD, a dietitian at the University of Texas Medical School, suggests thinking of healthy foods as an “insurance policy” or a “preemptive strike” against the cold virus. So, eat the good stuff before you get sick and then maybe you won't get sick. Makes sense to me, eat healthy and be healthy.

Gibson recommends colorful fruits and vegetables like spinach, blueberries and red peppers to help keep your immune system working properly. She says to aim for five to seven servings a day. This same article included a top 10 cold remedy food list. Here’s their top ten: 100 percent orange juice, avocado, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, grapefruit, lean meat and yogurt.

What are some other foods that might help ward off the nasty cold virus? Today’s Parent recommends yogurt, garlic, pumpkin seeds and mushrooms. Livestrong recommends garlic, yogurt and oranges. Fitness magazine spouts the cold fighting benefits of whole grains, garlic, sweet potatoes, cayenne pepper and bananas.

iVillage featured breakfast foods that fight colds. Garlic topped their list as it did many other cold-fighting food lists. They suggest adding it to eggs and omelets. There is a component in freshly crushed garlic called Allicin which blocks enzymes that cause infection. Another food on their list was Kiwis. Who knew this little fruit contains more vitamin C than an orange? Cottage cheese, which I find to be an odd cold-fighting food, found approval on iVillage’s list because it contains selenium, an antioxidant known to strengthen the immune system.

Dr. Oz, our favorite TV doctor, endorses orange vegetables high in beta carotene like carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin for keeping colds and flus away. Luckily, these winter vegetables are readily available at this time of year.

My husband, a computer programmer, not a doctor, swears that lemon juice keeps him healthy during flu season. He squeezes half of a lemon into a hot cup of water every morning and drinks it. It has kept him cold- and flu-free.

I am also not a doctor or any kind of health expert, just a mom who hates getting colds and hates when my children have them. Feeding a cold the right kinds of food appears to make a difference but don’t forget how important it is to wash hands, avoid contact with people who are sick, wash hands again, get the right amount of sleep, exercise, wash hands again and again and again. Also, if you are sick, stay home, no one wants to share a nasty cold.

Lastly, don't forget that chicken soup. It worked for me.

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