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JODY HOLTON — Here’s what to eat & what to avoid when you have a cold

Remember those days when you got a cold and it WASN’T COVID-19? It still happens, colds, sinus infections and all the winter maladies are still a part of life.

Jody Holton

“Feed a cold, starve a fever?”

If you’re not quite sure how this saying goes, you can relax: Starving is never the correct answer. With cold and flu season in full swing, let’s look at how we should nourish ourselves while laid up with the sniffles.

Foods that are rich in nutrients help fight infections and may help prevent illness. They’re delicious, too! Get to know the best sources:

Clear broth soups are favored, but cream based soups may increase mucus. That includes potato soup; while comforting, it can increase inflammation. Chicken soup appears to help fight colds in at least two research studies. It helps clear nasal congestion as well as thin mucus so you can better cough it up.

Also, research shows it may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect that can help ease cold symptoms. Replace noodles with shredded carrots or zucchini.

Citrus (think: oranges, lemons, tangerines, limes, and grapefruit) is an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C —which is why so many people reach for these fruits during cold and flu season. Eat the fruit and skip the processed juice as it is often loaded with sugar.

Even more crucial is drinking. Fever dehydrates your system, in part through increased sweating from that elevated temperature. Replacing fluids is therefore critical to helping the body battle the infection.

The same is true for combating colds. You have to make yourself drink fluids, even though all you want to do is collapse.

Drinking hot tea is another great old home remedy. Hot tea helps to thin mucus and ensure proper hydration of the body. Green and black teas are filled with flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants.

Dehydration also makes mucus in the nose, throat and lungs dry up, which can then clog sinuses and respiratory tubes. When mucus hardens it becomes more difficult to cough, which is our way of trying to expel mucus and the germs it contains. Staying hydrated helps keep the mucus running, which, even though it may be disgusting, is one of our natural defenses.

The challenge, of course, is that when you’re sick you may not feel much like drinking and even less like eating. Loss of appetite is common and might be part of the body’s attempt to focus its energy on pounding the pathogens.

Don’t force yourself to eat if you don’t feel like it, but drink. It’s the liquids that are important. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine enhances dehydration. So does alcohol, and it is also a depressant, holding us down.

There are some foods that can actually make the phlegm/mucus worse and should be avoided while ill.

Dairy is notorious for increasing mucus production and thickening the mucus your produce – which is the last thing you need when your nose is already blocked up! It can also trigger inflammation which can worsen the immune response and result in more severe symptoms, so skip the milk.

Sugar competes with vitamin C in the body, so the more sugar you eat, the less vitamin C you’ll have! And we all know how important vitamin C is for the immune system. Thinking of grabbing saltines, buttered toast or a heaping bowl of pasta? Think again.

Refined carbohydrates are broken down quickly into sugar, triggering the same blood sugar rise as sugary drinks and snacks, with the same inflammatory effects. Simple carbohydrates all turn to sugar, i.e. corn, potatoes, rice and pasta.

Fatty foods can be difficult for the body to digest at the best of times, let alone when it’s trying to fight of a cold or flu infection. Foods rich in saturated fats can also worsen inflammation.

So if you get waylaid by a cold or the flu, first and foremost – REST. Don’t try to work through it, take care of yourself. Eat and drink foods that will help heal and make you more comfortable.

Take care, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com.