Plant-based diet for cold

Food for common cold

Importance of food in common cold

Food can play an important role in preventing common cold or improve its symptoms when it occurs. In general we will consider the following tips:

Eat light meals during the first few days

The body needs all the resources to fight the disease. Too copious meals, especially rich in animal fats, would require too much effort to concentrate on digestion.

On the contrary, a “light” diet very abundant in plant foods (specially fruits and vegetables) is far more digestible and also provides much more principles to reduce the duration of the disease.

Suitable food for cold

Antioxidants allow you to eliminate toxins that the infection produces and strengthen the body so in can reject new invasions. Among all types of antioxidant foods we would include the following:

  • Foods rich in vitamin C: Although vitamin C does not cure common cold, it can relieve symptoms and reduce its duration. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons or grapefruits, peppers, dark green leafy vegetables like cabbage or broccoli, are good sources of this vitamin. It becomes very Interesting the use of vitamin C supplements to shorten common cold.

Other plants that contain this vitamin include cauliflowers, radishes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, bananas, apples, melons, watermelons, carrots, pineapples, pears, papayas, barley, garlic, berries, celery, peas, strawberries, grapes, figs, beans, chicory, blueberries, potatoes, avocados, soybeans, cherimoyas, pomegranates, coconuts, etc.


Lemon is rich in vitamin C. It is recommended to squeeze lemon on recipes, salads, infusions,etc.

  • Foods rich in vitamin A: Vitamin A is another good antioxidant. It is obtained directly from animal foods such as liver, mackerel, butter, etc. However, for those who prefer a vegetable diet it can be obtained by eating foods rich in beta carotene which the body converts into vitamin A.

It can be found in big amounts in liver, egg yolk, fish -especially blue fish- and butter.

However, for vegetarian people, there are many plant foods that contain this vitamin in the form of provitamin A or carotenoids, such as beta-carotene which is a flavonoid from the group of carotenoids. Beta-carotene is a plant pigment which, when ingested is transformed in the liver and small intestine in vitamin A.

Plants that contain provitamin A are specially dark green, orange, red or yellow food plants, such carrots, purslane, spinach, watercress and borage. Other plants that contain it are, for example, basil, squash, tomatoes, coriander, asparagus, dandelion, peppers, watermelon, melon, Brussels sprouts, bananas, apples, plums, oranges, raspberries, mangos, beans, etc.

Eat food with immunostimulating properties

These kind of food helps to strengthen the immune system making the body less likely to become infected.

Among these food, garlic or onion are worth mentioning. Both contain allicin with bactericidal, antiviral and immunostimulating properties. Using plenty of garlic, or eating onions abundantly can be a useful way of preventing flu or other diseases to take profit of a weakened immune system. A garlic soup, for example, is an easy way to raise our defenses.

Foods that contain folate or vitamin B also help strengthen the immune system. Good sources of folate are the dark green leafy vegetables such beets or those foods belonging to cabbage group (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli). Whole grains or legumes are also foods rich in vitamin B

Mushrooms are also becoming very interesting as immune stimulant food, specially some types of mushrooms such as shiitake or maitake. You can by them in most supermarkets.

Foods containing folate or vitamin B also helps strengthen the immune system. The dark green leafy vegetables such as cabbage group (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli) or beets are good sources of folate. Foods rich in vitamin B are whole grains and legumes.

ginkgo leaves

Ginger rhizome

Drink plenty of water and take plenty of liquids

Hydration is necessary to maintain our mucous membranes hydrated and avoid body dehydration. Out body, during flu, can produce a high amount of mucus which establishes a barrier in the nose which will prevent other microorganisms from entering the body.

Moreover, many infections generate toxins that must be removed through an abundant urination. We mustn’t forget that flu usually develops high fever that makes us sweat greatly. Perspiration shouldn’t be avoided. On the contrary, it is a useful means of getting rid of body toxins.

In order to favor perspiration it is necessary to drink a lot. Hydration is achieved by drinking plenty of fluids. We should drink from a liter and a half to two liters a day or we should ingest a lot of food liquids. The traditional chicken soup treatment for cold is based on providing plenty of fluids, in addition to the easily digestible protein of this animal along with the need for minerals and heat.

Eating spice food (Tabasco, hot pepper, or curry) that act as decongestants is another way to provide heat and increase perspiration. We mustn’t forget the useful properties of vegetable juice and fruit juice, particularly those with antioxidant properties, such as orange juice, beet juice, carrot juice or tomato juice.

Eat foods rich in Zinc

It has been proved that zinc helps to shorten the duration of flu. Shellfish are a good source of this mineral, especially oysters.

In addition to these, we must mention liver or eggs. The problem is that these foods are all rich in cholesterol, so, if you prefer to use plant foods, you should have to resort, for example, to celery, asparagus, borage, figs, potatoes, or eggplants.

Eat high protein foods

A protein-poor diet may increase the risk of infection. One way to obtain protein, for those not wishing to acquire food animals, is to use nuts, legumes or grains.

Milk and flu

Hot milk provides nutrients (iron, calcium and protein) that can increase the body’s defenses adequately. Skimmed milk is better to avoid cholesterol. Equally interesting are the products derived from milk, preferably nonfat products, such as cheese or yogurt.

A good way to enhance the anti-flu properties of milk is to add a tablespoon of honey or small piece of crushed ginger to our cup of hot milk.

In case of chest pain, mixing milk and figs will have mucolytic properties – it will soften the mucus in the chest and help to remove secretion- Take this preparation: a quarter liter of milk boiled with 12 figs for 1 / 4 hours. Take the liquid resulting after filtered and sweetened.

Alcoholic beverages and cold?

Traditionally, spirits have been used to combat cold symptoms. There is a well known traditional home remedy to treat cold that consists on mixing the juice of a lemon in half a glass of hot water and adding a glass of rum and a tablespoon of honey. People used to slurp this preparation from time to time to combat common cold symptoms.

For those not suffering from hypertension the use of a small amount of alcohol may improve cold symptoms, especially in regard to stuffed or running nose and nighttime insomnia. However one should be cautious with alcoholic drinks.

punto rojo More information about common cold and its natural treatment.

This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

4 December, 2020

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