What to Eat When You Have a Cold

Each year, there are one billion cases of the common cold in the U.S. alone. Here's what to eat when you have a cold to beat the sniffles.

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Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup
Eating a bowl of steaming chicken noodle soup provides more than just comfort when you have a terrible cold. In 2000, University of Nebraska researcher Dr. Stephen Rennard published findings in Chest, the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, showing chicken soup contains anti-inflammatory agents that can ease a cold's symptoms. Dr. Mehmet Oz agrees. "Start with a bowl of Mom’s chicken soup," he has said. "Research has yet to show how it works (and how the heck Ma knew), but we do know that a nutrient-rich diet builds your immune system and fights inflammation."

Milk and Other Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Milk and Other Vitamin D-Rich FoodsZoonar/Thinkstock
Vitamin D-rich foods like milk or fortified cereal might help combat a cold. A 2009 study by Massachusetts General Hospital found that people with low levels of vitamin D reported more colds than those who weren't vitamin D deficient. As an added bonus, these foods may help boost your mood during cold weather months, according to researchers at Loyola University.

Carrots and Other Vitamin A-Rich Foods

Carrots and Other Vitamin A-Rich Foods
All vitamins are essential to a healthy body, but Harvard Medical School says vitamin A is a key player in maintaining a strong immune system. When you have a cold, try eating sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, spinach, or collard greens.

Cold Green Tea

Cold Green Tea
Green tea is full of antioxidants, which will boost your immune system even when you're already sick. Instead of sipping a hot mugful, Dr. Michael Greger suggests brewing it cold: antioxidant levels are higher that way compared to when it's made with boiling water.

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Garlic has been found to help prevent colds when consumed regularly, owing to its immune-boosting compound allicin, says Donna Cardillo, RN. Eat more of it when you have a cold, or try it raw with an orange-juice chaser.


Researchers from Cornell University found that blueberries contained the most antioxidants than any other fresh fruit tested, which should help beat your sniffles. Eat them alone when you have a cold, or sprinkle on a bowl of cereal or yogurt to add some vitamin D.


Tea is soothing when you're congested, especially a brew with natural expectorants like anise seeds. Health.com recommends the American Pharmaceutical Association's recipe: one cup of crushed anise seeds to one cup of hot water, flavored with sugar, garlic, cinnamon, or honey. Sip up to three times a day. If you don't like licorice flavor, try peppermint. University of Maryland Medical Center reported that peppermint tea acts as an expectorant, loosening mucus and breaking up coughs.


Health.com suggests eating oily fish, like salmon and tuna, when you have a cold, to take advantage of their omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds help reduce inflammation in the body, which can prevent your immune system from working properly.

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