It starts with an achy body and the sniffles and before you know it, your eyes are puffy and red and your nose is all stuffed up. You're coughing, you're sneezing, you're completely miserable. Welcome to the height of cold and flu season, friends.
Who has time to be sick? Sure, playing hooky from class or work is fun, but not when you’re surrounded by a sea of used tissues.
The good news is you don't necessarily have to load up on the sleep-inducing cold and flu medicines, despite the fact that everyone around you has fallen ill or you’re starting to feel under the weather. There are plenty of ways to combat the common cold through your daily routine. Washing hands often, getting enough sleep, and even eating some of your favorite foods can keep the sniffles at bay or lessen the time you have them.
While the research conducted over the past 10 years has not found a specific food to be the end-all cure-all, there seem to be some foods that affect the way your body responds to infections. By integrating vitamin- and antioxidant-rich foods into your diet, you have a better chance of shortening the length of your sickness and giving your immune system a better fighting chance.
Almonds in particular were found to directly combat the cold and flu. A 2010 article in The Telegraph on scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, England, and the Policlinico Universitario in Messina, Italy, discovered that almond skins improve white blood cells’ ability to detect infections and increase defense against infections. The study didn't say how many almonds it takes to fight a cold, but it’s thought that regularly eating almonds can help completely ward off a cold, and eating them while sick shortens the duration.
Stay Well: Throat too sore to even think about those little immunity boosters? Try downing a glass of almond milk for the same effect. It’s a good source of protein, vitamin E, and zinc for a stronger immune system.
Though there is an allure to exotic mushrooms (and a costly price), simple mushrooms, like white button mushrooms, can also provide health benefits. A 2008 study conducted by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that white button mushrooms enhance the immune system through antivirals and other proteins released by their cells. They also contain polysaccharides, which activate natural killer cells to destroy cold- and flu-causing viruses.
Stay Well: If the texture of mushrooms is less than desirable to you, foods high in starch, like corn, contain plenty of polysaccharides to activate those assassin-like cells.
This story was originally published on February 1, 2012.