Do you starve a cold and feed a fever when you're feeling under the weather? Or is it the other way around? Good news -- starving is never the correct answer.
When you eat a nutritional, well-balanced diet, many other factors fall in place that keep your body functioning optimally. Foods that are rich in nutrients help fight infections and may help to prevent illness. Because a wide array of nutrients in foods -- some of which we may not even know about -- are essential for wellness, relying on dietary supplements (vitamins and minerals) for good nutrition may limit your intake to just the known nutritional compounds rather than letting you get the full benefit of all nutrients available in food.
Let's look at some of the top recommendations for staying healthy.
Colds and Foods High in Antioxidants
Eating foods high in antioxidants -- beta-carotene and vitamins C and E -- may be a good way to help build a strong immune system. Antioxidants are essential nutrients. They help protect your body against life's stressors, and are thought to play a role in the body's cell protection system. They may interfere with the disease process by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are special molecules that can disrupt and tear apart vital cell structures such as cell membranes. Antioxidants may take away the destructive power of free radicals, thus helping to reduce your chance of illness. They may also help you recover from an illness more quickly.
Including more raw fruits and vegetables in your diet is the best way to ensure a high intake of antioxidants. And when you cook these super-nutrients, be sure you cook them using as little liquid as possible to prevent nutrient loss.
If you follow the guidelines issued by most health organizations and eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, you can easily get enough antioxidants. For example, one quarter of a cantaloupe gives you nearly half the recommended daily requirement of beta-carotene and is a rich source of vitamin C. Spinach is not only full of beta-carotene, but also contains vitamin C, folic acid, and magnesium.
Foods rich in beta-carotene and other carotenoids include: Apricots, asparagus, beef liver, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, guava, kale, mangoes, mustard and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash (yellow and winter), sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Foods rich in vitamin C include: broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, orange juice, papaya, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Colds and Foods High in Bioflavonoids
Foods high in bioflavonoids may also help you stay healthy. Hosts of experiments on bioflavonoids have suggested that these key nutrients help increase immune system activation. These biochemically active substances accompany vitamin C in plants and act as an antioxidant. You can find bioflavonoids in the pulp and white core that runs through the center of citrus fruits, green peppers, lemons, limes, oranges, cherries, and grapes. Quercetin is a highly concentrated form of bioflavonoids found in broccoli, citrus fruits, and red and yellow onions.
Colds and Foods High in Glutathione
Glutathione is another nutrient that has been found to strengthen the immune system so it can fight infections. This powerful antioxidant is most plentiful in the red, pulpy area of the watermelon near the rind. It can also be found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, and other cruciferous vegetables.
Colds and Foods High in Phytochemicals
Foods high in phytochemicals are also important for wellness. Phytochemicals appear in all plants, therefore, a diet that includes a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables will provide these healthy substances.
Foods rich in phytochemicals include: apples, apricots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, legumes, onions, red peppers, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
Colds and Yogurt
Some studies have shown that eating a daily cup of low-fat yogurt can help reduce your susceptibility to colds. Researchers say the beneficial bacteria in yogurt may stimulate production of immune system substances that fight disease.
Colds and Foods High in Zinc
The mineral zinc also has antioxidant effects and is vital to the body's resistance to infection and for tissue repair. Zinc is also thought to stimulate the immune system.
Some studies show that sucking on zinc lozenges at the start of a cold may reduce the duration of cold symptoms. However, study results are conflicting and suggest that zinc may have a minimal benefit at best. Researchers continue to study zinc to determine its true effect on colds. For now, your best bet may be to eat foods packed with the healthy mineral.
Food rich in zinc include: eggs, meats, nuts, seafood, seeds, wheat germ, and whole grains.
Colds and Protein-Packed Foods
Protein is vital to build and repair body tissue and fight viral and bacterial infections. Immune system powerhouses such as antibodies and immune system cells rely on protein. Too little protein in the diet may lead to symptoms of weakness, fatigue, apathy, and poor immunity. Choose lean sources of protein such as skinless chicken, lean beef and turkey, beans, and soy.
Colds and Grandma's Chicken Soup
Chicken soup appears to help fight colds in at least two research studies. It helps clear nasal congestion as well as thin mucus so you can better cough it up. In addition, research shows it may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect than can help ease cold symptoms.
Drinking hot tea is another great old home remedy. Hot tea helps to thin mucus and ensure proper hydration of the body. Green and black tea are filled with flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants.