Foods that Fight Colds

J. Carroll
3 min readMar 8, 2021


Whether you’re walking around with a box of tissues or curled up in bed
with aches and the shivers, what you feed your cold or flu can speed
your recovery. Here’s how to maximize your body’s virus-busting

Credit: Kelly Sikkema

If you instinctively sip cup after cup of tea with honey and lemon when
you’re under the weather, your body knows exactly what it’s doing.
While any hot liquid will help loosen clogged nasal passages and sooth
sore throats, hot tea also doses you with virus-fighting, inflammation­
relieving antioxidants. (In fact, people who drank five cups of black tea a
day for two weeks produced 10 times more interferon — proteins that
fight viruses — than those who drank instant coffee. For tea lovers, five
cups is about three mugs full — not that much.)

As for the honey (the darker, the better), it’s also thick with protective
antioxidants. And a big squeeze of lemon in every mugful adds a little
extra vitamin C to your virus-fighting kit, plus the tartness stimulates
saliva, which makes swallowing easier.

Cold researchers keep trying to figure out why chicken soup does a
sick body good. One finding: cysteine, an amino acid that’s released by
cooked chicken. It’s chemically similar to a bronchitis drug,
acetylcysteine, and it works with other soup ingredients to reduce
inflammation. Salty broth also helps thin mucus.

Chicken soup helps even more if you rev it up with spices: garlic,
which has a well-earned reputation for squelching infection, and hot red
, which contains capsaicin, a powerful decongestant that
intensifies the soup’s sinus-clearing effects. Try this tried-and-true

Smooth, healthy, comforting — no wonder lots of sickies crave hot cereal
or cool yogurt. Again, your body knows what it’s doing. Oatmeal (like
other whole-grain cereals) delivers three nutrients known to support
your immune system: selenium, zinc, and beta-glucan. Yogurt with
active cultures (aka probiotics or live healthy bacteria) helps fend off
colds in the first place. One, Lactobacillus reuteri (found in Stonyfield
Farm yogurt), seems to be especially protective.

Top your oatmeal or yogurt with strawberries, nuts, and seeds. You’ll
get a vitamin C boost from the berries and immunity-enhancement from
the vitamin E, zinc, and selenium in the nuts and seeds. Extra selenium
may be extra important if you have the flu since it seems to ward off
lung inflammation.

Alternatively, stir lots of cinnamon into oatmeal or yogurt — it smells and
tastes wonderful, and can help reduce fever, relieve pain, and kill
germs. If nausea is adding to your misery, add a little ginger too, fresh
or powdered. It’s a proven tummy tamer and may take antibacterial
action against any bad bugs in your respiratory tract.

Once your cold or flu is over (whew), try keeping up some of these
habits, especially drinking plenty of antioxidant-packed tea. Not only
could it help prevent another bout but getting the right amount of
antioxidants through diet or supplements can make your RealAge 6
years younger.



J. Carroll

J. Carroll is a published book author, editor, and performer in Southern California.