During the holiday season, the cold and lack of sufficient sunlight are enough to weaken the body’s natural defenses against cold and flu. Luckily, experts say that consuming specific types of foods might increase our resistance to colds and seasonal pathogens. These cold fighting foods are rich in minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals that help repel invading microorganisms, strengthen our immune response, and reduce inflammation and cold associated symptoms.
Consuming raw, vegan foods (such as sesame and mustard seeds, celery, beans, almonds, cashews, whole grains, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and cocoa powder) may work wonders on human immunity due to their high zinc content. Zinc is an essential trace element for humans and needed in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body.
With powerful antibacterial, anti-fungal and immune-supportive properties, it is a perfect ally against seasonal illnesses. Zinc has been shown to speed up recovery by supporting healing and enabling the production of virus-fighting white blood cells. A recent clinical trial that tested the relation between zinc and common cold viruses showed that zinc has the ability to effectively inhibit virus development and reduce the duration of cold symptoms.
Vitamin D is famed for being vital in maintaining bone health and promoting calcium absorption. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is unique in the human body in that we can produce it naturally when we are exposed to sunlight. Less popular are vitamin D’s potential benefits in the prevention and treatment of colds and flu. A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that there may be a definite link between vitamin D levels and cold resistance.
Scientists looked at data from 18,883 people to discover that those who had the highest vitamin D levels were the least likely to develop cold symptoms. Conversely, study participants with a long history of respiratory infections also had the lowest vitamin D levels. This vital nutrient is rather difficult to obtain from food, but luckily it can be found in mushrooms such as shiitake and portabella.
Herbs used in traditional medicine as immunity-boosters can also work as natural cold remedies. Astragalus is a traditional herbal remedy of Chinese origin that works as a tonic for the body by enhancing metabolism and improving digestion.
A report published in the prestigious Journal of Ethnopharmacology reveals that astragalus has “immunomodulating and immunorestorative effects”. Astragalus promotes the production of a type of immune cells called macrophages, whose role is to engulf and digest pathogens, including cold and flu viruses.
Dried astragalus root can be hydrated in warm water to produce the base for a medicinal soup. Enhance the soup with various vegetables like kale, spring onions and quinoa, and you will obtain an excellent flu remedy that makes chicken soup pale in comparison!
Echinacea is an herb commonly used in infusions that boost immunity and relieve pain. A 2007 study conducted at the University of Connecticut concluded that Echinacea can reduce the chances of catching a cold by over 50%, as well as shorten the duration of cold symptoms to an average of merely 1.4 days.
A review of 13 studies published by the University of Maryland revealed that Echinacea can significantly shorten the duration of colds when taken immediately after the onset of the symptoms. While infusions help, to reap all the benefits of the herb, Echinacea should be consumed either as a tincture made from its leaves or added to green salads and soups.
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