We all know that what we eat affects our health, but we often don’t think about how important our diet becomes when we are ill. Eating too much of the wrong types of foods when we are sick can worsen symptoms and weaken the immune system, making us feel worse and making it harder for our body to fight off infection.
Eating healthy foods is always important and becomes even more so when we are sick, as our body needs all the help it can get to fight infection. The following foods help to lesson the severity of cold and flu symptoms and boost immune function to help our bodies recover from illness more quickly.1 Try incorporating some of these fruits, vegetables, and spices into your diet this cold and flu season to help prevent and treat infection.
Bananas, pears, persimmons, strawberries, and figs help to moisten the lungs, making them useful in the treatment of dry coughs and bronchitis. Pears and persimmons also help to eliminate excess mucus. Strawberries are rich in vitamin C and help treat sore throat and hoarseness as well.
Lemon and lime provide vitamin C and are antiseptic and anti-microbial. They reduce mucus, and help to treat colds, flus, coughs, and sore throats. Dilute the fresh juice in water or make hot lemonade with ginger and honey. Orange juice is not a good substitute for lemon or lime juice and should actually be avoided during illness as it will only increase mucus production and congestion, which will make you feel worse.
Cold tolerant vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, parsley, winter squash, broccoli, and kale, contain minerals and other compounds that allow them to survive harsh weather conditions and store well. Eating these types of vegetables regularly can help you to better resist cold weather and illness. Add cold-hardy vegetables to your meals throughout the winter to help you better cope with frigid temperatures and fight off disease.
There are also many vegetables that have specific healing qualities that are helpful during cold and flu season. Green and purple varieties of cabbage, for example, are great to have on hand during the winter months. Cabbage is rich in vitamin C and can aid in the treatment of the ailments such as whooping cough, frostbite, depression, irritability and the common cold. Add it to soups or other food dishes, or drink cabbage juice or tea.
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a powerful anti-oxidant that helps reduce inflammation in the mucus membranes, making it helpful in the treatment of infections of the ears, lungs, and skin. Drink a cup or two of carrot juice or eat a generous serving of carrots (about 6 ounces) daily to help treat ear infections, earaches, measles, chicken pox, and coughs.
Onions help to reduce chest congestion, phlegm production, and inflammation in the lungs, throat and nose. They also purify the body by promoting sweating, which aids in elimination of toxins, and have antifungal, antimicrobial effects. Chives, scallions, and leeks are also in the onion family and also possess these healing properties.
Parsley is a great source of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Besides being highly nutritional, it is also effective in the treatment of ear infections and earaches. Celery is also helpful in speeding recovery from illness. It helps reduce fevers and eliminate toxins from the body by promoting sweating. Combine celery juice with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to treat the common cold.
Black pepper is a common, but powerful spice when it comes to treating and preventing illness. It helps eliminate toxins and viral infections from the body, and is a great remedy for the cold and flu. This spice is most effective when freshly ground. Use a food mill to grind whole peppercorns into soups, herbal teas, or foods several times a day to treat illness.
Garlic helps to treat the common cold, sore throats, ear infections, and sinus headaches. It is a potent antiseptic, promotes sweating to help eliminate toxins, and helps to boost the immune system. Add garlic to soups, sauces, sautés, and other dishes to prevent and treat illness.
Cayenne is an antiseptic and a great source of vitamin C. It helps to stimulate the body’s natural defense system, reduce fevers, eliminate toxins by promoting sweating, and relieve the muscle and joint aches that are common with colder temperatures and the flu.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid sugar rich foods, orange juice, dairy products, and other foods that will increase mucus production and congestion, as these foods will only worsen the symptoms of a cold2 and make you more miserable. It is also important to eat lightly while ill, so your body can focus its already depleted energy on fighting off infection, not digesting food.
Eating good food is always important, but healthy food choices are a crucial part of staying well in the winter months. Soups, stews, teas, juices, broths, and stir-fries are all good ways to add lots of healing fruits, vegetables, and spices to your diet. Food can (and should) not only feed us, but also be a dose of good medicine. Incorporate a variety of naturally medicinal foods into your diet this cold and flu season to help lesson symptoms, treat illness, boost your immune system, and keep you well.