Sunday, January 1, 2006

Fighting The Common Cold Through Good Nutrition

It’s that time of year again, dust off the Kleenex and cough medicine. Flu shot or not, cold season is here in full swing. But with our simple tips and sound nutrition you can give your immune system a boost and banish the sniffles, sore-throat, aches and pains.

Eat up, squash your symptoms:

  • A shot of C: Vitamin C increases cold-combative white bloods cells and helps shorten the duration of sickness. Look to brightly-colored, fresh fruits and vegetables such as grapefruits, oranges, kiwi, dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli and red peppers.
  • Up the antioxidants: Reduce your body’s natural inflammatory response that turns on to battle a cold with stocking up on powerful antioxidants. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Beta-carotene (vitamin A) in particular helps heighten immunity and is found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and cantaloupes as well as dark leafy greens. Some research shows that drinking 2-3 cups of green tea per day also aids in sparking our natural defenses with its high level of polyphenols, a type of antioxidants. Salmon is another excellent choice which boasts anti-inflammatory properties and packs another bonus punch of ‘heart-healthy fats’ with omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Beneficial bacteria: Consuming a serving of plain low-fat yogurt on a daily basis can help maintain a strong immune system by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria.
  • In the zone with zinc: Touted as one of the best minerals to ward off a cold, zinc is best absorbed from sources of red meat as well as chicken, legumes, oysters and fortified whole grain cereals. Zinc aids in the development of white blood cells, immunity-boosters. Be careful of overloading with supplements however, too much zinc may actually decrease immune-function. Aim to stay in the range of 8mg per day for women and 11mg per day for men.
  • Clear the decks!: Help clear your sinuses with hot liquids – mom was right all those year, a steaming bowl of chicken soup does have its benefits. You can also help break up congestion with ‘mucilaginous agents’; try sipping a cup of ginger tea, or add garlic, chili, or even a bit of zesty horseradish to warm, hearty dishes.
  • Sweat out the germs: Daily exercise and physical activity helps to stimulate the production of white blood cells, our “immunity-superstars” and thereby, helps prevent the occurrence of a cold or the flu. Sweating also helps release bacteria and toxins that build up in our bodies and contribute to sickness.
  • Preventative measures: Leading a healthy lifestyle will do much to help prevent the onset of pesky colds. Be sure to get adequate sleep each night and limit items that weaken our body’s defenses such as alcohol, excess sugar and refined carbohydrates, excess fat, and fried and processed foods.

A Day’s Menu of Cold-Fighting Food:

  • Breakfast: ½ grapefruit + 1 cup high fiber cereal like Kashi Go Lean w. ½ cup skim milk & ½ cup blueberries
  • Mid-morning snack: 1 cup green tea or ginger tea + 6oz plain low-fat yogurt like Stonyfield Farms Plain Organic Low-fat Yogurt or Fage Total Greek Yogurt 0%
  • Lunch: 3 cups (1 small bowl) Asian-Inspired Chicken & Vegetable Soup (see recipe below) + 2 Fiber Rich crackers
  • Afternoon Snack: 1 cup green tea or ginger tea + 1 Lara Bar or 12 almonds
  • Dinner: 3-6oz (1-2 decks of cards) poached salmon + 1 cup (2 fists) cooked spinach sautéed with 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, garlic & red pepper flakes + ½ cup brown rice

Asian-Inspired Chicken & Vegetable Soup
4 cups water
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
4 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 lb fresh kale, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, salt to taste
3 tablespoons chopped green onion

Bring water and broth to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Add chicken and simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cover, then let stand until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and cool 10 minutes. Reserve poaching liquid, uncovered.

While chicken is poaching, cook onion in olive oil in a 4-quart heavy pot, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, salt, and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add poaching liquid, kale and ginger and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat.

While vegetables are cooking, shred chicken into 1/4-inch-wide strips (about 1 inch long). When vegetables are done simmering, stir chicken into soup along with green onions.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. Recipe adapted from

Nutrient Analysis:
Calories 275; Fat 9.5g (sat 1.7g); Protein 32g; Cholesterol 77mg; Sodium 251mg; Carbohydrate 17g; Fiber 5g