25 November 2009

Cold-Fighting Power Foods

As the leaves begin their transformation from vibrant green into the rich, jewel tones of red, yellow and orange, we find ourselves coming upon cold and flu season. The common cold is a communicable virus that is highly contagious and is easily spread from one person to another through touching common surfaces with an infected person, as well as being an airborne virus. For many years, people blamed that extra “snap” in the air and damp weather that the autumn and winter seasons bring for the onset of the cold. Research has shown that it is not the weather to blame, but rather the fact that people tend to congregate together indoors during colder weather. While there is no known “cure” for the common cold, there are plenty of steps that can be taken in order to prevent and shorten the length of the cold should one succumb to it.

Vitamin C

Perhaps the most common supplement used in both prevention and treating the common cold is Vitamin C. This can be taken in a myriad of ways: in pill form, effervescent powders, or in foods such as oranges, tangerines, strawberries and bell peppers. Just how much Vitamin C is sufficient? The FDA recommends a meager 60 milligrams a day, but according to two-time Nobel Prize laureate and author of the book “How to Live Longer and Feel Better,” Dr. Linus Pauling suggests taking 2 grams per day, divvied up in three doses throughout the day. To give you an idea of how much that is, an orange contains 45 milligrams of Vitamin C per 100 grams of weight. Strawberries contain even more Vitamin C than an orange, with one cup exceeding the recommended 60 milligrams. Sweet red peppers contain a whopping 4 times the Vitamin C of an orange.


Garlic has risen significantly in popularity for being a “natural” remedy for treating and preventing the common cold as it boasts “notable antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties”, as reported by the National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine by Steven Foster and Rebecca L. Johnson. Allicin is the compound found in garlic that is responsible for those properties. But be warned: Allicin is highly unstable and breaks down in prolonged exposure to heat. Garlic is best to eat raw if possible, as tossed into a vinaigrette salad dressing or added to food right at the end of cooking just before serving.


Many people can associate folate as the “pregnant woman’s supplement”, but it’s highly effective for helping to prevent and treat the common cold. Folate is a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli. It is also found in abundance in legumes and asparagus. The recommended daily dosage of folate is 400 micrograms for adults. In addition to its immune supporting functions, folate also supports healthy cell reproduction. Vitamin C is necessary for folate to convert into its active form, so enjoy a wonderful dish of lentils with some sweet red peppers and have an orange for desert.

Shiitake Mushrooms

This delicious Asian mushroom may seem like the sleeper in the race to fight off a common cold, but don’t underestimate its amazing immune –stimulating properties. Shiitake mushrooms contain significantly higher levels of protein, B vitamins fiber and minerals, notably calcium, iron and phosphorus according to as the more commonly found grocery store mushroom variety, or “Button” mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms also contain polysaccharides that are crucial for immune stimulation while also increasing the production of interferon, which is an antiviral substance the body produces in response to infection.

These suggestions are at their most effective when taken on the onset of a cold. As an adjunct to the aforementioned remedies, ingesting warm liquids such as hot tea with honey can also be a soothing treat for a scratchy throat. In addition, warm liquids also assist the body in thinning out mucous, which can help relieve sinus pressure. With these suggestions, hopefully cold season will be short-lived for those who find themselves faced with a cold, or better yet, non-existent altogether.

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