What to Eat When You Have a Cold for a Speedy Recovery

Which foods can help alleviate symptoms and which ones we should avoid

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By Alex

What to Eat When You Have a Cold

The winter season often brings a myriad of challenges, including the dreaded common cold. While cold symptoms can be discomforting, making mindful choices about what to eat can significantly impact your recovery and well-being. This essay explores the foods that can help alleviate cold symptoms and combat the winter blues, as well as those to avoid for a speedier recovery.

Understanding the common cold

Before delving into the specifics of foods that aid in combating the common cold, it’s essential to grasp what a cold is.

A prevalent respiratory ailment, the common cold stems from a viral infection affecting the upper airways, predominantly the nose and throat.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • A runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Occasional mild fever

Typically of viral origin, the cold generally resolves on its own within 1-2 weeks, without the necessity for pharmaceutical interventions.

To combat colds, and even the flu, it becomes imperative to bolster our body with natural remedies. While these remedies might suffice, there are instances where pharmaceutical interventions become necessary, offering more substantial relief.

Diet plays a crucial role in this context, requiring a rich incorporation of seasonal fruits and vegetables, ideally consumed in the form of soups. Maintaining adequate hydration is equally vital, with a recommended daily intake of at least 1.5-2 liters of water.

Understanding loss of appetite during a cold

When afflicted by illness, the body initiates a defense against infection, triggering increased production of various hormones and chemicals, such as cytokines, which can impact appetite.

A common reason for appetite loss during a cold is the alteration or diminishment of the sense of smell and taste. Nasal congestion impedes the perception of smells and tastes, influencing the sensation of hunger.

Furthermore, the body might redirect its energy resources towards combating the infection, resulting in a temporary reduction in appetite as it prioritizes the restoration of overall well-being.

However, despite diminished appetite, it remains imperative to uphold proper hydration and nutrition. The body requires energy to combat the infection and facilitate the healing process. Thus, maintaining a balanced intake becomes crucial for a comprehensive recovery.

What to eat when you have a cold to speed up recovery

Some foods that can speed up the cold recovery process are garlic, citrus fruits, honey, yogurt, broccoli and spinach. Let’s see why they are useful allies.

Garlic to fight colds

These eating bulbs contain antiviral and antibacterial compounds that can help relieve cold symptoms. Eating raw garlic is certainly helpful, but be careful of your breath! In any case, remember it can be added to various dishes during cooking.

Thanks to the various bioactive substances and mineral salts present in garlic, it can contribute to healing colds. In particular:

  • Allicin: A sulfur compound that forms when garlic is crushed or minced. It has antimicrobial properties, can help fight bacteria, viruses and fungi
  • Selenium: It is a mineral present in significant quantities and has antioxidant effects, it can also promote the body’s immune response
  • Sulfur: Contains several sulfur compounds that can help strengthen the immune system and fight infection
  • Vitamin C: Strengthens the immune system and can help reduce the duration and intensity of cold symptoms
  • Flavonoids: Antioxidant compounds that may have antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects

Citrus fruits for colds

Citrus fruits are known for their high content of vitamin C, which is one of the key substances that help fight colds. This powerful antioxidant supports the immune system, helping the body fight infections.

In addition to vitamin C, citrus fruits also contain other beneficial nutrients. For example, they are a good source of flavonoids, which are plant compounds known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Flavonoids can help reduce inflammation and relieve cold symptoms.

Finally, citrus fruits also contain volatile substances such as essential oils, which may have antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. These substances can help fight the bacteria and viruses that cause colds.

Honey for colds

This nectar can help relieve sore throats and reduce coughs. You can consume it alone or mix it in a hot herbal tea.

There are several reasons why honey may be useful in treating colds:

  • Antibacterial action: Honey naturally contains enzymes and compounds that have antibacterial action, including hydrogen peroxide. These help fight the bacterial infection associated with colds.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Honey has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the throat and upper respiratory tract during colds. This can help soothe symptoms such as sore throat and cough.
  • Soothing Effects: Honey has soothing properties and can help relieve irritation and discomfort caused by colds. It can help relieve coughs.
  • Nutrients: Honey contains a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients can help support the immune system during the healing process.
What to Eat When You Have a Cold
Choose nourishing hot broths and soups to provide essential hydration and comfort.

Yogurt to fight colds

This delicious food contains probiotics that support immune system health. Hence, it can be a healthy choice for colds.

Yogurt is not directly responsible for healing colds, but it may play a beneficial role in related symptoms. This is primarily due to the presence of these live microorganisms, which are beneficial to gut health and can support the immune system and reduce the duration and intensity of cold symptoms.

Additionally, yogurt is a source of protein, vitamins (such as vitamin D), minerals and antioxidants, which can help support the immune system and promote an effective response to colds.

Broccoli to fight colds

This vegetable is known for its beneficial properties and is rich in nutrients that can help in healing colds. The main active substances present in broccoli are:

  • Vitamin C: stimulates the immune system and helps fight viral infections, including colds
  • Glucoraphanin: When chewed or digested, it turns into a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can support the immune system during healing
  • Quercetin: Antioxidant that may reduce inflammation and help relieve cold symptoms such as nasal congestion and sore throat
  • Fiber: Helps keep the digestive system healthy. A healthy digestive system is essential for the proper absorption of nutrients needed for optimal healing
  • Vitamin A: plays an important role in the health of the respiratory tract and the development of immune system cells
  • Vitamin K: Is involved in regulating the immune system and can help prevent inflammation

Spinach for colds

They are considered useful for promoting recovery from colds mainly due to the presence of specific substances that can support the immune system and provide essential nutrients.

The main nutrients contained in spinach are:

  • Vitamin C: They are a significant source of vitamin C, which is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. Helps stimulate the production of white blood cells, which fight infections, and may reduce the duration of cold symptoms
  • Vitamin A: plays an important role in the health of the immune system and in the protection of the respiratory tract. It can help prevent infections and reduce inflammation of the upper airways.
  • Iron: This mineral can promote the production of red blood cells, providing oxygen to tissues and immune system cells to fight infection
  • Antioxidants: Beta-carotene, alpha-lipoic acid, and other polyphenolic compounds can help reduce inflammation and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals
  • Fiber: Promotes healthy digestion and can aid in the absorption of essential nutrients that help heal the body

Why spices can help fight colds

Spices have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including cold symptoms. In fact, they can play an important role in the healing process or in providing relief from symptoms thanks to their active ingredients.

Some spices contain compounds with animicotic properties, which can help inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi.

They can reduce inflammation thanks to the anti-inflammatory action of some substances they contain such as gingerol in ginger, and curcumin in turmeric.

Some spices can stimulate the immune system, helping the body fight infection. The capsaicin in chili peppers, for example, has been linked to activating certain immune responses.

Other substances, such as chili pepper, can help reduce airway congestion thanks to their expectorant capacity, i.e. stimulation of fluid production, which can help dissolve mucus.

Some spices also have a thermogenic effect, i.e. they stimulate sweating, such as cayenne pepper, and this in turn leads to the expulsion of toxins from the body. They are also rich in antioxidants, which can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are particularly abundant during inflammatory processes and infections.

Finally, the soothing action of some can provide temporary relief from a sore throat.

Turmeric against colds

Turmeric is considered a cure-all for its anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating properties, which could contribute to healing colds. The active substances present mainly include curcuminoids, such as curcumin, which gives them their typical yellow-orange color.

Turmeric also contains essential oils, including tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberene, which may provide additional immune system benefits. In particular, curcumin is considered the key component responsible for the therapeutic properties of this spice. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial effects, which can help relieve cold symptoms and promote faster healing.

It can be consumed by adding it to various dishes or in tea, and in the form of golden milk, a typical Ayurveda preparation taken in the form of a food supplement.

Ginger to fight colds

This is one of the spices with the greatest anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve sore throats and congestion. You can consume it as a tea, add it to hot drinks, or use fresh ginger root in meals.

Ginger is known for its healing properties in treating colds. There are several active substances present in ginger that contribute to its effectiveness.

  • Gingerols: This is a class of bioactive compounds found in ginger that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. They help reduce inflammation and congestion in the airways, relieving cold symptoms.
  • Shogaols: These are also active compounds in ginger that have anti-inflammatory and anti-congestive properties similar to gingerols. They help clear the sinuses and reduce congestion.
  • Gingerene: This active substance has antimicrobial and antiviral properties that can help fight cold infection.
  • Vitamins and antioxidants: Vitamin C and antioxidants such as gingerol and paradol help strengthen the immune system and fight infections.

Cinnamon to fight colds

Cinnamon can help cure colds thanks to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Its main active substances are cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, linalool and cinnamaldehyde, which have been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects.

Additionally, its antioxidant properties can help strengthen the immune system and reduce oxidative stress in the body.

Cloves to fight colds

Cloves are known for their medical properties, including the ability to help reduce cold symptoms. The main active components present in cloves that contribute to these properties are:

  • Eugenol: is the main constituent of clove essential oil and is known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It can help reduce inflammation in the airways and fight cold-causing bacteria.
  • Gallic acid: is an antioxidant that can help strengthen the immune system and counteract free radical damage, thus contributing to recovery from colds.
  • Tannic acid: Has antiviral and antifungal properties that can help fight respiratory infections, including viruses that cause colds.
  • Flavonoids: These are biological compounds that can help reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system, allowing the body to fight colds more effectively.
What to Eat When You Have a Cold for a Speedy Recovery
When grappling with a cold, selecting the right foods can significantly expedite your recovery process.

Foods to avoid during a cold

When under the weather with a cold, it is prudent to steer clear of certain foods that may exacerbate symptoms or adversely affect the immune system. Here are some examples:

Dairy Products

Dairy products can potentially amplify symptoms by increasing mucus production due to the presence of casein proteins, which trigger histamine release. This protein digestion may result in elevated mucus in the airways, thickening phlegm and making it more challenging to clear. It’s worth noting that sensitivity to dairy products varies among individuals, and not everyone experiences heightened mucus production after consumption.

Hot or Spicy Foods

Hot or spicy foods can further irritate an already inflamed throat, worsening a sore throat.


Alcohol has the potential to dehydrate the body and weaken the immune system, impeding the recovery process.

Sugary Foods

Sugar has the ability to compromise the immune response and provide nourishment to harmful bacteria within the body.

Fried and Fatty Foods

Heavy to digest, fried and fatty foods may impede the healing process, slowing down recovery.


Excessive caffeine intake can lead to heightened anxiety, dehydration, and interfere with sleep, which is crucial for effective recovery.
It is crucial to recognize that individual reactions to these foods during inflammation can vary. While some individuals may tolerate them well, others might notice a deterioration in symptoms.

In general, opting for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and liquids is advisable to foster healing and overall well-being during a cold.

Additional Tips

It’s essential to remember that while nutrition plays a vital role in aiding the recovery from colds, seeking medical advice and considering pharmacological treatments when necessary is advisable.

Rest, proper hydration, and a balanced diet abundant in fruits and vegetables are fundamental elements to support the healing process during a cold. Prioritizing these practices ensures a comprehensive approach to wellness during an episode of illness.

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