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Mission: Nutrition

Providing the most up-to-date information on health and nutrition is my mission!

Fighting the Common Cold

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

With the change of seasons, comes that dreaded flu season or for some just the common cold. I've been battling a head cold for the past few days, thus the pertinence of this week's blog. The common cold is considered a virus and in order for the body to fight off the virus the immune system must produce an antibody that matches the virus to prevent it from attacking the body's healthy cells. Because there are so many different variations of viruses, it can take the body longer to fight off the infection thus the importance of maintaining a strong immune system. Common symptoms of the cold virus is fatigue, runny nose, sore throat, watery eyes, chills, fever, muscle weakness, and temporary loss of senses such as smell or taste. So what is the best treatment for a cold? I've included a few healthy tips to fight the common cold and help keep the body strong.

  • The Role of Vitamin C: Despite what is often publicized about the positive effects of vitamin C on a cold, the research is inconclusive. One study finds if a vitamin c supplement is taken regularly prior to getting sick, the severity and the length of the cold might be significantly less.1 While other research has shown increasing consumption of vitamin C in the beginning stages of a cold, can reduce the length of a cold by up to one day. The contradictory research has found the effects of vitamin c on curing the common cold might be just the placebo effect.2 Meaning, that orange juice you think is the cold cure-all may have no effect on that pesky cold.

  • Fluids, Fluids, Fluids!: Broth based soups, hot tea, 100% juices, and water are beneficial to the body especially when sick. An increase of clear liquids can help prevent dehydration that can happen through a fever or evaporation from breathing from the mouth. Tea also contains the antioxidant, catechins, which can inhibit the virus from spreading throughout the body.
  • Fish: Tuna, salmon, mackerel or other oily fish are high in omega-3s that contain anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3s can help keep your immune system strong when sick! 
    Idea: Try a tuna sandwich with a cup of chicken noodle soup to help fight a cold.

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Remember that fruits, such as blueberries, are full of antioxidants that can boost the immune system as well containing other beneficial nutrients that help the body fight the virus. Dark green leafy vegetables contain high amounts of Vitamin E which can help increase the body's resistance to flu-like symptoms and prevent upper respiratory infections. An increase of dark leafy vegetables such as arugula, spinach, and kale also contain selenium, iron, copper and zinc that help the immune system fight infections.

Never underestimate the effects of sleep during a cold. The body needs that extra sleep to help fight the virus, and increasing sleep can help with feeling better faster! If the fever is persistent, the cough won't go away, troubles with swallowing or breathing, see a physician as these could all be signs of a more serious illness. Below is my go-to soup recipe when I'm feeling under the weather. The recipe contains garlic, spinach, carrots, and other immune boosting foods that can help ease the aches and pains that go along with the common cold.

Spinach, Chicken, & Gnocchi Soup

1 small onion-diced or 1 cup

3 (14 oz.) cans low sodium or sodium free chicken broth

3 cloves garlic-minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1 cup spinach-chopped

1 (16 oz.) package Gnocchi

2 cups fresh shredded carrots

1 cup cooked chicken-diced

Instructions: Heat onion, garlic, and olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent (5 minutes), mix in thyme, parsley, carrots and cooked chicken, let cook for about 2-3 minutes, whisk or stir in chicken broth until simmering, add spinach and let cook until wilted (4 minutes), add gnocchi and let cook for 10 minutes uncovered or until the gnocchi rise to the top.

Nutrition Facts (1 serving: 8 oz., servings per container: 6): 210 calories, 3 g. fat, 25 g. Carbohydrates, 21 g. Protein


  1. Duyff, Roberta Larson. The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. Minneapolis, MN: Chronimed Pub., 2012. Print.
  2. Kirschmann, Gayla J., John D. Kirschmann, and Inc Search. Nutrition Almanac. New and Expanded 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.


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