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Fight a Cold with Healthy Eating

October 15, 2015

Sadly, theres no cure for the common cold. Once you catch this type of virus, you can expect your congestion, cough, headaches and fatigue to last anywhere from five days to two weeks.

Yet just because theres no cure doesnt mean you should have to take a head cold lying down. In fact, actively focusing on great nutrition can be your first line of defense for keeping the virus at bay. And if you do catch the sniffles, eating right can help alleviate common symptoms and even shorten the colds duration. The trick isnt only to eat a well-rounded, healthy diet. Some nutrients have been shown to have a greater impact on preventing and shortening the common cold. Here are seven oh-so-easy foods to work into your diet this winter to keep you healthy:

Mushrooms These foraged funghi arent only a delight to your palate. Theyre also an immunity powerhouse and should be a mainstay of your diet during the cold and flu season. Mushrooms such as Portobellos, buttons and cremini, have been shown to increase the effectiveness of white blood cells, which help your body fight off invading pathogens. Mushrooms are also a good source of the essential mineral zinc. Recent research shows that eating zinc within the first 24 hours that you experience common symptoms can shorten the duration of a cold and the severity of those symptoms.

Chicken soup Yes, your mom was on to something. This cold-fighting classic is a great pick when you have a stuffy nose and hacking cough—and not just because its a nostalgic bowl of comfort. Chicken soup has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect that may ease cold symptoms and shorten the duration of upper respiratory tract infections, according to a study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The steam from a piping hot bowl may also help open up your airways, ease a sore throat and bring you a bit of instant relief when it comes to congestion and stuffiness. Oh, and did we mention its yummy?

Pickles are a great source of probiotics.

Probiotics The beneficial bacteria in probiotics have been shown to shorten the duration of a cold by up to two days and make symptoms less severe. While you probably already know that yogurt can be a good source of probiotics, thats not your only option in the grocery store. If youre not into dairy or yogurt just seems unappetizing when you have the sniffles, you can still load up on probiotics by reaching for sauerkraut, naturally fermented pickles (look for labels that dont contain vinegar), the Korean condiment kimchi or sourdough bread. You may also consider talking to your doctor about whether a probiotic supplement is the right choice for you.

Water Whether its seltzer, spring or plain old tap, drinking water is key to keeping hydrated and helping you get through a cold with less congestion.

"Drinking water helps thin mucus secretions in the lungs," Christopher Czaja, M.D., an infection control officer for the National Jewish Health Hospital in Denver, told Prevention magazine.

Many people grew up sipping orange juice when they caught a cold, but while orange juice might do the trick to keep you hydrated, the healing effects of vitamin C havent yet been proven. Particularly if youre keeping an eye on your blood glucose or weight, consider sticking with water instead.

Honey Its not your imagination playing tricks on you; honey actually does soothe a sore throat. Heres more reason to reach for the sweet stuff: Honey has been shown to be more effective at suppressing a cough than traditional cough syrup, according to a Penn State study. For maximum effect, try stirring a spoonful into a hot mug of tea. The vapors will open your airways and ease your congestion, while the liquid will keep you hydrated. If youre unsure of what type of tea to reach for, opt for a caffeine-free variety, such as jasmine or chamomile.

Blueberries help keep your immune system humming.

Blueberries Summer might be when blueberries are in peak season, but now is the time to grab a bag of frozen blueberries and start eating. This fruit has the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants of any other type of produce, and consuming them regularly can help keep your immune system in prime condition. Think of them as potent little immunity boosts that just happen to taste scrumptious. Not sure how to work frozen berries into your diet? Try stirring them into hot oatmeal or blending them with yogurt for a smoothie.

Sweet potatoes The A vitamins, including beta-carotene, are most often linked to eye health—and with good reason. These vitamins are crucial for maintaining good vision. Yet theyre also vital for keeping your immune system humming, and eating adequate amounts of vitamin A on a daily basis is a great way to help your body fight off germs and viruses before they take over. Sweet potatoes have the highest concentration of vitamin A of any food—just one medium-sized orange spud contains more than 500 percent of your recommended daily value. But if sweet potatoes dont please your palate, you can also reach for fish, milk, eggs or carrots.