Cold or flu? What to eat and drink to ease the winter misery

The mainstream media tell us that we are experiencing a heavier-than-normal flu season. Government men with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even tell us that this year’s flu shots are ineffective (they always are); but they want you to get them anyway.

If you’ve kept your immune system supercharged with the right diet, with exercise and with doses of vitamins C and D), you may get through the season with no trouble.  But if a cold or flu strikes you, here’s how you can ease the misery and make it shorter, as well as some tips on what not to do that could make the misery worse.

First, don’t load up on over-the-counter cold remedies.  None of them can cure a cold, and they can have side effects that just add to your misery.  Go natural – better for your body and no side effects.

A general principle to follow when ailing with a cold or flu is drink up — fluids help thin mucus and break up congestion.  They also fight dehydration that causes headaches and fatigue.  Sip a hot beverage like non-caffeinated tea, lemon water, or warm broth.  Not only is it comforting to your spirits, it soothes a sore throat, loosens congestion, and fights fatigue.

However, not all fluids are good for you when you’re sick with a cold or flu. Here are some drinks to avoid:

  • Alcohol – Causes dehydration and worsens symptoms like headache and nausea…also lowers resistance to infection.
  • Coffee or other caffeinated drinks – Coffee, sodas, and caffeinated tea contribute to dehydration.
  • Ginger ale – Natural ginger has some benefits, but the sugary carbonated version doesn’t help…put some ginger in a mug of hot tea instead.
  • Sports/energy drinks – Can help with hydration but loaded with sugar and often heavy doses of caffeine.
  • Packaged fruit juices – Most have lots of sugar. Drink fresh-squeezed orange juice or apple juice instead…packed with needed vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Fresh-fruit smoothies are good, too.

While you may not have much appetite when sick, your body needs fuel for strength to fight off the ailment and recover.  Bland foods that go easy on the stomach and are easy to swallow provide needed nourishment and can help relieve some of the discomfort.  Here are some comfort foods that help:

  • Chicken soup – Grandma was right. Evidence shows that chicken soup actually does work wonders on a cold. It speeds loosening mucus, helps prevent dehydration, and provides protein to restore and strengthen your immune system.  Store-bought chicken broth is not as effective as homemade chicken soup made with free-range chickens.
  • Honey – Add it to your tea to suppress coughing and soothe a sore throat.
  • Ginger – Helps fight inflammation, curb nausea, and relieve stomach aches.
  • Garlic – Loosens congestion.
  • Oatmeal – Easy on the tummy and strengthens your body’s immune system.
  • Bananas – Go down easy even with an upset stomach.
  • Unsweetened applesauce – Bland, easy-to-swallow treat.
  • Oranges – Full of vitamin C and flavonoids (rich in antioxidants)
  • Sweet potatoes – Microwaved or roasted, sweet potatoes are a great source of beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A to strengthen your immune system.

Ideally, you shouldn’t get sick in the first place.  As stated above, maintaining peak immunity dramatically decreases the likelihood of your coming down with a cold or flu.

“You can’t underestimate the importance of good nutrition when it comes to…your immune system,” says Karen Ansel, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants—these are what keeps your body strong, and without them you’re not giving your body the edge it needs to ward off infection.”

There are some foods that are better than others for putting muscle in your immune system and help shield you from colds and flu.  Try these healthy foods to boost immunity:

  • Fish – Rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce harmful inflammation in the body.
  • Oysters – Contain more zinc per serving than any other food. Zinc has a proven record of fighting the common cold.  Zinc in a pill can cause side effects like headaches and nausea.  Get zinc naturally from oysters (but be careful eating them raw…may contain harmful bacteria that cause other sickness).
  • Garlic – Packs the biggest antioxidant punch when eaten raw, but works well when used to flavor foods.
  • Anise seeds – Anti-bacterial properties of these licorice-flavored seeds ease coughing, help clear congestion from the upper respiratory
  • Citrus fruits – Packed with vitamin C to ward off colds.
  • Yogurt – Contain good bacteria your body needs for digestive health and to prevent stomach ailments and upper respiratory inflammation.
  • Red peppers – High in vitamin C. One red pepper has twice the daily vitamin C requirement for women.
  • Mushrooms – Contain immune-boosting antioxidants, along with potassium, B vitamins, and fiber.
  • Leafy greens – The darker the green, the richer the nutrients.
  • Blueberries – Bite-size immunity boosters that are antioxidant powerhouses.
  • Carrots and sweet potatoes – Rich in beta carotene, a source of vitamin A to build strong immunity.
  • Dark chocolate – Not the sugary-sweet candy kind, but 70 percent or higher cocoa content. Pure cocoa contains more disease-fighting polyphenols per ounce than most berries, and it’s loaded with zinc.

There are lots of other foods that will help build your immunity against colds and flu, but this list will give you a solid start to eat healthy and, hopefully, remain sniffle-free all season.

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