Influenza and colds are two infectious diseases of viral origin that affect the respiratory tract. More or less virulent, the flu results in an obstruction of the respiratory tracts, a fever sometimes very important, and a very intense state of malaise. A cold, on the other hand, causes coughing, hoarseness, and sometimes fever. The immune defenses are then weakened and the diet difficult, it is very important to maintain a diet concentrated in nutrients and vitamins against colds and flu.
The essential points of the special flu and cold diet:
- Focus on good fats
- Consume lots of fruits and vegetables
- Avoid fatty meats and cold meats
- Limit consumption of sugar and sweet products
A diet rich in nutrients and vitamins against colds and flu has many benefits, it can:
- Reduce the duration and severity of symptoms
- Recover quickly from the flu episode
- Provide the body with the nutrients it needs to defend itself against the virus
- Prevent subsequent infections by strengthening the immune system
- Decongest the airways and feel better
- Avoid foods that can damage the immune system
We often wonder what to eat during the flu or a cold. For good reason, unpleasant symptoms and lack of appetite often tend to take over. However, we will see through this sheet that food has a place of choice in the middle of the flu or cold.
Food recommended during the flu
It is recommended to adopt a diet very rich in nutrients and vitamins against colds. All year long for prevention, but also during the flu episode to reduce the duration of symptoms. Vitamins C and D, fruits and vegetables, probiotics, and good fats are essential to help the body defend itself and recover faster. All these recommendations must be accompanied by good hydration and appropriate drug treatment to enhance their effectiveness.
Vitamins C and D for colds
Vitamin C stimulates the immune system to make more T cells that attack and destroy a large number of pathogens. However, consuming them as a supplement does not prevent the flu or colds in general, but can help prevent colds in athletes and people subjected to extreme conditions. It can also help to reduce the duration of a cold very slightly, by one day per year for adults and by 4 days per year for children. Vitamin C supplement does not work miracles in the face of flu or colds.
It is recommended to opt instead for dietary sources of vitamin C:
- Red peppers
The link between vitamin D and influenza comes from the observation that the flu occurs mainly in winter, when the production of vitamin D is almost zero, due to the lack of sunshine. Some researchers, like Reinhold Vieth, a professor at the University of Toronto, even say that one should not wait for the results of the study before starting to take vitamin D as the link is obvious. He believes that all people living in areas with little sun should have their blood vitamin D measured and take supplements accordingly.
To synthesize enough vitamin D without supplements, make sure you take at least 2 glass of milk or soy drink per day, 6 eggs per week in addition to 2 meals of fatty fish per week.
Fruits and vegetables
It is interesting to put fruits and vegetables on the menu in large quantities, if only for their incredible content of antioxidants that oppose free radicals to strengthen the immune system. Among vegetables, mushrooms, especially shiitakes and oyster mushrooms, as well as garlic, onion, and shallots should be added to the menu as they boost immune defenses and help fight infections.
Probiotics are dietary supplements that, thanks to their useful microorganisms, have beneficial effects on the intestinal flora and the immune system. A clinical study has shown that a probiotic supplement does not prevent colds or flu, but can reduce their duration by 2 days. In another study, taking probiotics daily for 6 months significantly reduced fever, runny nose, incidence and duration of cough, antibiotic prescriptions, and missed school days because of the disease in children 3 to 5 years old.
In case of colds or flu, it is also necessary to ensure that you have sufficient, but moderate, consumption of “good fats” which are omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids, because they are associated with better immune functioning.
In this sense, to fight against colds and flu it is recommended to consume the following foods:
- Oily fish: mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, etc.
- Olive and rapeseed oils
- Linseed oil
- Flax, chia or hemp seeds
Also, don’t forget to meet your zinc needs. They are found in oysters, seafood, veal liver, chicken, wheat germ, pumpkin and sesame seeds, legumes, etc.
Hydration and tea
Liquids help dissolve excess mucus that hinders breathing. They also prevent dehydration caused by fever, however, in addition to drinking a lot, it is important to eat a balanced diet to have the energy to continue doing your activities for the 10 days that the cold or flu lasts. However, avoid overeating which can result in excess intake of lipids or added sugars and which can lower resistance to bacteria.
According to a recent study, tea could be an ally against colds and flu. Indeed, an ingredient in green tea, theanine, could strengthen the immune system. In this study, people treated with tea extracts got fewer colds and flu than those who took a placebo and their symptoms were shorter and more intense when they were sick. This study will have to be replicated on a larger number of subjects before confirming that tea can help in the prevention of colds and flu. In the meantime, nothing prevents you from drinking tea, as it is already recognized as a good source of antioxidant.
Homemade chicken broth is first and foremost a comfort food. It has an excellent reputation as a “remedy” for colds. And it may well be that it is justified. Some of its constituents (not yet identified) could provide relief from cold symptoms by acting on cells of the immune system, according to in vitro studies. However, these studies are too preliminary to make an official recommendation. Vegetables and herbs added to chicken broth may also contribute to its beneficial effect. The heat that comes out of the chicken broth and that fills the airways when consumed helps dissolve the mucus. Research has shown that this effect is more noticeable with broth than with Hot water. The broth made from powder, whose composition rather concentrates on salt, sugar, and chemical additives, would not bring these benefits.
Other recommended foods:
- Dietary fiber
- Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium
- Home cooking
- Sweet cooking
Flu and colds: foods to avoid
Certain foods should be avoided in case of flu or colds. This is the case with milk, sugar, and saturated fat contained in meats. For good reason, these foods harm the immune system and its ability to defend itself against attack. It is also recommended to limit the consumption of alcohol, trans fats, industrial dishes, and refined products throughout the year to prevent the occurrence of diseases in general.
We often hear that drinking milk would increase the formation of mucus in the throat, especially in the case of flu or colds. Two studies show, however, that this is not the case. It is suggested, however, to choose to skim milk because the saturated fat in milk does not promote good immunity.
The renowned Dr. Andrew Weil suggests eliminating cow’s milk and its derivatives since casein, a milk protein can alter the immune system. Instead, he recommends goat milk. The controversy continues, but to date, there is no scientific link established between cow’s milk and increased mucus formation.
High consumption of concentrated sugars would decrease immunity. This belief comes from 2 studies published in the 1970s. They have shown that the administration of increasing amounts of glucose progressively reduces the ability of white blood cells to envelop bacteria to destroy them and defend the body. Today, we know that if the sugar intake is very high and it replaces the consumption of nutritious foods, it can interfere with the achievement of daily nutritional needs and compromise immunity. Given this possibility, it is advisable to moderate your consumption of concentrated sugars, especially during infection, to less than 10% of total calories.
Fatty meats and cold meats
Overfeeding, which can result in excess intake of lipids, in particular from fatty meats, can lower bacterial resistance.
Fat source foods to avoid during the flu are
- Fried foods and breadcrumbs
- Puff pastry
- Pastries, pastries, cookies
- Fatty meats and cold meats
- Whole milk and dairy products
On the other hand, the proteins that are found in large quantities in the group of meats and substitutes (meats, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, nuts, and legumes) make it possible to produce antibodies, key molecules of the immune system. They must be part of the menu in adequate quantity, ie 2 to 3 portions of meat and alternatives per day. However, make sure you choose lean cuts of meat.
Other foods not recommended:
- Refined products
- Fast food
- Industrial dishes
- Trans fats
- In case of colds or flu, promote quality over quantity by eating vegetable soups and homemade broths concentrated in vitamins and minerals
- As prevention, consume enough colored fruits and vegetables throughout the year
- Incorporate a source of lean animal or vegetable protein with each meal to boost the immune system
- Get into the habit of adding a dash of linseed or rapeseed oil to salads, soups, and dishes after cooking
- Eat fish at least twice a week, and once fatty fish
- To replace sugar, think of honey which is full of micronutrients and has a higher sucking power
- From time to time, replace cow’s milk products with cheeses and dairy products made from goat’s milk or soy
- Cook as much as possible and avoid fast food, prepared meals and other frozen meals
Protein-energy malnutrition is the most common cause of immune deficiency in the world. However, it is very rare in developed countries. Deficiencies in certain nutrients (zinc, selenium, iron, copper, vitamin A, C, E, and folic acid), even low, have an important influence on the immune response. However, when there is no deficiency, vitamin and mineral supplements are of no use. A complete blood test can detect some, but not all, deficiencies. If you have repeated infections, it would be a good idea to get a blood test and nutritional assessment before taking any supplements.