The long winter months can be brutal on our health. The days are short, the air is cold and windy, and we are generally less active than other times of the year. Even if we do our best to stay healthy, we’ll likely come into contact with someone who isn’t. While it’s wise to take preventive measures to support you your immune system, what else can you do when you feel a cold or flu coming on? The answer may just be in your kitchen cabinets!
Here are 6 simple things that you can eat/drink this winter that may help you to get some relief.
1) Chicken Soup
It seems Grandma knew best all along. Her recipe for good old chicken soup is still a recommended remedy for a cold, and there is some scientific basis for it. An October 2000 study showed that chicken soup really does have medicinal value and can result in the relief of upper respiratory tract infections1. Chicken soup contains the amino acid, cysteine, and a form of it known as N-acetyl-cysteine which breaks apart mucus and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects2.
In addition to chicken soup, bone broths are also an excellent source of hydration and also contain beneficial vitamins and nutrients, such as iron, vitamins A & K, fatty acids, selenium, zinc and manganese3 All things that your body needs when it’s under the weather. So the next time Grandma offers us a bowl of chicken soup, give her an extra smile and a hearty thank you. Even if it’s in between sneezes!
Legend says that garlic keeps vampires away, but it can also deter certain illnesses like the common cold. Garlic contains compounds with wonderfully potent medicinal properties, including manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium and fiber4.
As a bonus, it also has very few calories. You may not be kissed by your loved one immediately after eating some garlic, but hey, if you’re sick they probably won’t want to anyway.
Do you remember ever seeing Winnie the Pooh come down with a cold? Probably not and it could be because he loved honey! It’s not fiction that honey can help suppress coughs in children (over one year of age) and is high in antioxidants, which help defend your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals5. Honey is a delicious, healthier alternative to sugar. So if you’re not feeling well and are craving something sweet, reach for the honeypot instead.
4) Herbal Teas
Herbal teas, also known as tisanes, can be a mix of roots, leaves, flowers, spices and bark. Unlike traditional teas, many herbal teas do not contain caffeine, which is great when you’re sick and need to rest. They are also a great way to hydrate in the winter time. Herbal teas such as elderberry, echinacea, ginger and licorice root can help support your immune system. Tea with the elder tree herb helps with colds and helps clear the nasal passages and can alleviate coughs6. Herbal teas may contain a single ingredient or a combination of ingredients and there are many brands to choose from.
We recommend keeping several blends on hand throughout the winter months. You can even add some honey to your tea for some extra soothing.
5) Coconut Water
Come to think of it, the castaways on Gilligan’s Island were pretty healthy too. Perhaps because they were always drinking coconut water? More than just a trendy drink, coconut water contains electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. Coconut water also contains antioxidants and amino acids, which help your body’s response to stress7. Despite the name, the coconut is actually a fruit, not a nut. Coconut water is found in the center of a young, green coconut and can be a delicious source of hydration.
You can buy bottled coconut water in the grocery store, but read the label to make sure you are buying 100% coconut water with no added ingredients like sugar.
6) Fresh Fruit
Fresh fruit is high in vitamins C and A, as well as a good source of nutrients and minerals to fight off infections. Eating fruits can boost your energy and help with digestion8. Fruits also contain antioxidants and can be served as a snack or in a smoothie. Whenever you feel under the weather, reach for a fruit plate instead of an unhealthy snack filled with starch and artificial sugar. Your body will thank you.
If the cold or flu bug hits you this winter, remember there are alternatives to the high-calorie, processed foods that we sometimes rely on in a pinch. Eating and drinking healthier alternatives may give a boost to your immune system and help you get back on your feet in no time.