Who doesn’t know it: In the cold season, it’s easy to get a visit from a cold. The nose is blocked, the throat is scratchy, you feel weak, cough or freeze.
According to statistics, the number of employees who take sick leave because of a cold is increasing every year.
Unfortunately, you can’t completely prevent a cold, but you can strengthen your immune system. Anyone who moves a lot and is also out in the fresh air is already doing a lot for their health.
But diet is also crucial for physical well-being and a strong immune system.
A problem with a cold is often the loss of appetite, which comes from not being able to taste. But why is that?
“The aroma of the food is perceived from behind via the nasopharynx as a scent by the olfactory epithelium of the nose. When you have a cold, the nasal mucosa usually swells, including in the area of the roof of the nose, where the sensors for smell perception are located. The odorous substances then get into the nose due to a lack of ventilation no longer touching the sensors in this area. The sense of smell can therefore be more or less disturbed. Decongestant nose drops lead to a short-term and temporary improvement in this condition,” says Dr. Norbert Kmoch, ENT specialist.
But which foods can help with a cold, flu, cough, or feeling unwell – or even have a preventive effect?
The hot drink is probably the best known and most frequently used food against colds and illnesses. You need a lot of fluids, especially during a phase of illness, and tea is ideal for this.
Incidentally, the dehydrating effect that some teas have is not the decisive factor – so feel free to reach for the teacup!
Tea contains the bioactive substances polyphenols, which have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, which can protect body cells from harmful influences and against cancer. Tannins, a form of polyphenols found in tea, also act against viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Studies have shown that drinking echinacea tea shortens the duration of a cold or flu. The upper part of the echinacea plant in particular is packed with essential oils, flavonoids, and vitamin C, which can boost the immune system.
Tea also has a decongestant effect on the mucous membranes. However, it has to be drunk really hot. Caution: Of course not so hot that you burn yourself or further strain an irritated throat! Hot water or chicken soup also show similar effects.
Tea is a good cold food to replenish fluids. Certain substances in tea can strengthen the immune system and thus prevent diseases or shorten the duration of the disease.
Honey not only tastes great and can sweeten the tea – this may make it easier for you to drink a lot – but is also a real virus killer.
Honey has an antibacterial effect, can strengthen the immune system, helps with acute dry cough and a nascent cold.
If you add the honey to your tea or hot milk, the drink should cool down a little beforehand. Too much heat destroys the healing enzymes in the honey.
In some studies, honey has been shown to be very effective against sore throats and coughs in children.
However, children under 12 months should not be given honey just yet, as it can contain Clostridium botulinum germs, which can lead to botulism (a type of food poisoning).
Honey has antibacterial, antiviral and can strengthen the immune system. It also relieves sore throat and cough. Children under the age of twelve months should not be given honey.
The healing properties of ginger are also well known. The composition of the gingerols in the tuber is very similar to acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). They have an expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and warming effect. Ginger also has an antioxidant and antimicrobial effect.
If you suffer from motion sickness, you should chew a piece of ginger, as the root can reduce dizziness and nausea.
If ginger is too hot for you, you should use fresh ginger bulbs if possible, because the longer the bulb is stored, the hotter it becomes. This is because the milder pungent gingerols are converted into pungent shogaols.
If you have aching limbs, exhaustion, or fever, you can prepare hot ginger milk. Simply mix 200 milliliters of (low-fat) hot milk with a teaspoon each of freshly grated ginger and honey and drink slowly.
You can also use ginger as a spice in dishes because in addition to the health benefits, it also simply tastes good.
Ginger has an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effect. It is also often used as a home remedy for nausea and travel sickness. The fresher the tuber, the milder it tastes.
4. Chicken Soup
You know them from films and books: the obligatory chicken soup when you have a cold. But is that a myth? No! Chicken soup is a very effective food for a cold. This is due to the healthy components in the bone marrow.
Use lots of fresh, seasonal vegetables in your chicken soup. So you get an extra portion of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients.
Like tea, soup helps to replenish the fluid balance. This is all the more important during the flu or cold, but also with conditions like fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Chicken soup has a decongestant effect on the mucous membranes. This is partly due to the amino acid cysteine, which has expectorant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
In addition, scientists have discovered that chicken soup counteracts neutrophils. These white blood cells are responsible for symptoms like coughing and nasal congestion. The soup relieves these symptoms and the cold subsides.
But even a simple broth is one of the most helpful foods against a cold. On the one hand as a liquid supplier, the other hand, it also has a decongestant effect. The broth is easily digestible and can be eaten easily, even if you have stomach problems.
Chicken soup is good for colds: it provides sufficient liquid, vitamins, and minerals, has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and expectorant effects.
This tuber is also a small home remedy miracle with its antiviral and antibacterial properties. The ingredient allicin in garlic even works against bacteria and fungi that are resistant to common medicines, thus strengthening the immune system.
There are only a few studies that actually show the effect of garlic on the flu or cold. However, a series of research showed that people who ate garlic were 70 percent less likely to get sick.
Another study showed that people recovered from the flu faster when they ate garlic.
Add some garlic to the chicken soup or broth. This tastes good and can support healing.
Garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. The tuber strengthens the immune system and can accelerate healing.
Onions are also a well-known food for colds and coughs. They contain essential oils, including alliin, which have a positive effect on the immune system.
The flavonoid quercetin has an antiviral and antibacterial effect. It is also not destroyed by heat, so onions are great to use, for example in a warming onion soup.
A special miracle cure is onion syrup for coughs. And it’s that easy: Chop six onions and six cloves of garlic, sauté and deglaze with 250 milliliters of water. Then leave for 15 minutes and sweeten with 6 tablespoons of honey. Take two tablespoons of it daily.
Onions are also a proven home remedy for fever. For this purpose, the onion is cut into small pieces and placed in the socks. However, there are no scientific studies that support this effect.
Onions have an antibacterial and antiviral effect, strengthen the immune system, and are good for coughs, hoarseness, and colds.
7. Spicy foods
Spicy foods like chili peppers contain capsaicin. This alkaloid creates a heat or pungency stimulus in the body and releases neuropeptides.
A well-known reaction to eating spicy foods is a runny nose – and this can help when you have a stuffy nose. Of course, instead of a stuffy nose, that can lead to a runny nose.
There are still insufficient research results on the effect of chili against colds. However, some studies have shown positive results using nasal sprays containing capsaicin.
Another study looked at the effect of capsaicin on cough symptoms, and it actually did improve the symptoms in the subjects. However, this would require spicy food to be consumed daily.
Capsaicin is found, for example, in sweet peppers, green chili peppers, cayenne pepper, and, of course, chili peppers. Incidentally, if you have stomach or stomach problems, you should not eat spicy food, as this can often lead to greater pain.
The capsaicin found in spicy foods can help clear the airways. Some studies have shown that it can also relieve cough symptoms.
8. Leafy green vegetables
Vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals – the body needs them more when it is ill. You should eat these green foods more often to fight a cold: spinach, romaine lettuce, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale.
They contain a lot of vitamins A, C, and K as well as a lot of the cell protector vitamin E, which also has a very good effect on the immune system. These types of vegetables can have an antibacterial effect and provide plenty of minerals such as calcium, potassium, and iron
Kale in particular is ideal during the cold season, so try a kale smoothie. Just 100 grams of kale provide 105 milligrams of vitamin C and thus cover the recommended daily vitamin C requirement of 100 milligrams!
So it doesn’t always have to be the obligatory orange juice to strengthen the immune system.
Vegetables with dark green leaves in particular contain many important plant compounds that act as antioxidants and thus protect the cells, bind free radicals, and have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Green vegetables – especially cabbage – are important foods during a cold: They provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and thus strengthen the immune system.
Yogurt is rich in high-quality protein and, depending on the fat content, contains a larger or smaller portion of vitamins A and D, as well as a lot of calcium and magnesium. There are also special probiotic yogurt varieties.
Lactic acid bacteria are good for your health, but it is important that these bacteria reach the intestines alive. And probiotic bacterial cultures also survive the acidic environment in the stomach unscathed.
Probiotics have been shown to help children and adults catch colds less often, heal faster, and use fewer antibiotics.
Dairy products are not recommended for some diseases (e.g. tonsillitis). So far, however, it has not been proven that dairy products have a bad effect on coughing, constipation, or mucus production.
However, if you notice that yogurt is not good for you, you can also use other probiotic foods for a cold, such as sauerkraut.
Milk can also be another source to keep you hydrated, so feel free to enjoy that beloved hot milk with honey. Especially with a sore throat, warm milk can have a soothing effect.
Yogurt contains vitamins and minerals. Probiotic yogurt in particular strengthens the immune system. Warm milk with honey soothes a sore throat and provides hydration.