Kitchen Cures for Colds & Flu

Keep your pantry stocked with these powerful healers to protect against illness.
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Q: Are there any foods you recommend having on hand to prevent or treat colds and flu?
-Marianne K., Colorado Springs, CO.

There sure are! Check out just a few here:

Coconut Oil

This versatile, tasty oil, which is solid at temperatures below 76 degrees, is good for strengthening the immune system because it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid, which have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. The combination of these different fatty acids works synergistically to enhance their infection-fighting abilities.

Try incorporating organic, unrefined coconut oil into your diet on a daily basis-or at least at the first signs of illness-to help boost your body's defenses. One of the easiest ways to use coconut oil is to substitute it for butter in cooking and baking. If you have a chronic virus or get sick often, consider starting your day with a tablespoon of liquefied coconut oil. If you develop a sore throat or cough, try adding coconut oil to warm tea or broth.

Garlic

The cloves of this pungent vegetable contain allicin, a potent antimicrobial that can fend off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. While garlic kills germs outright, it also appears to stimulate the release of natural killer cells, which are part of the immune system's arsenal of germ-fighters.
Chop garlic and let it stand for 5 minutes or so before adding to chicken or vegetable soup, or sauté with greens and chicken in coconut oil. For more therapeutic punch, mix crushed and minced garlic into a spoonful of nut butter or coconut oil and eat the garlic mixture raw. Many of my clients have found this to be an especially helpful remedy for sore throats.

Organic Chicken Soup & Broth

Chicken soup's prowess as a cold fighter is more than just an old wives' tale. A study published more than a decade ago found that it significantly mitigates infection. Chicken soup stops certain white blood cells (neutrophils) from congregating and causing inflammation, preventing large amounts of mucus from being produced. When you're sick, sipping warm broth or soup can make a sore throat feel better and can thin mucus.

The most therapeutic soups are homemade, preferably from organic bone broth, which is made from simmering chicken bones over low heat for many hours. Ideal for sipping on its own when you don't have an appetite, bone broth helps speed healing and recuperation from illness because it's easily digestible, helps heal the lining of the gut, and contains easily absorbable nutrients and protein. Try to plan ahead by making your own bone broth from organic chicken bones in a slow cooker and freezing it in batches so it's ready to use when you need it. Or stock up on store-bought organic broth (Pacific Foods makes an excellent one) to have on hand when you get sick. Add fresh chopped garlic, or garlic and ginger root, for more healing power and flavor.

Lemons

Rich in immune-boosting vitamin C and bioflavonoids, lemons are something I always keep in my fridge. Squirting lemon juice into chicken broth or soup right before serving not only ups its nutritional value, but also adds a tart bit of flavor. You can also add lemon juice to black tea or to ginger tea, with or without non-GMO, organic honey, or drink warm lemon water-a folk remedy that helps the liver make more enzymes to flush out toxins.

Zinc-Rich Foods

Zinc is crucial for promoting a strong immune system that can fight off foreign invaders. The body has no way to store this mineral, so it depends on a daily supply through diet. Zinc supplements are a good idea, but the zinc found in food is always more absorbable.

To give the body as much of this crucial nutrient as it needs, I recommend eating more zinc-rich foods, especially during the winter months. This is particularly important for anyone at risk of zinc deficiency. Sometimes, just having a piece of high-zinc meat at the first sign of cold symptoms can help the body stave off the illness.

The best food sources of zinc are oysters, which virtually no one eats, and land-based animal protein sources, especially eggs, lamb, and beef. The best vegan sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

Mild zinc deficiency is relatively common, especially in infants, children, the elderly, people with poor gastrointestinal absorption or conditions such as Crohn's disease, and those who eat vegetarian, vegan, or high-grain diets. These diets are low in bioavailable zinc and high in phytic acid, which impairs zinc absorption.

Rules to Live by for Super Immunity

We may be exposed to more illness-causing germs during the winter, but our everyday habits can determine whether we're susceptible to getting sick from those germs. To keep your immune system in tip-top shape to fend off the many nasty bugs that circulate in the winter season, try these tips:

  • Eat nutrient-dense whole foods instead of processed foods.
  • Avoid sugar, which is an immunosuppressant.
  • Consider supplementing with vitamin D if you "catch" colds and flu often.
  • Find healthy ways to effectively manage emotional stress.
  • Get enough sleep.

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