5 Foods You Should Always Eat When You Have a Cold

Fight the common cold with these soothing foods.

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When you’re down and out from a bad cold, you’ll probably do just about anything to rid that virus from your body. But before you guzzle your mom’s “magic” cure-all smoothie (bleh!) or load up on questionable supplements, hear this. Research shows there’s a handful of science-backed, non-superstitious remedies to soothe cold symptoms—and many of them may be in your pantry right now.

1. Peppermint. Holy decongesting power, batman! Thanks to methanol, peppermint’s main active agent, this fragrant little plant has the ability to help loosen phlegm, which can help clear those clogged sinuses. It may help break up a cough and soothe a sore throat, too. As an added bonus, if you’re having tummy troubles, peppermint oil may help soothe stomach aches.  

2. Dark buckwheat honey. You need this in your life if you can’t stop coughing. In a Penn State University study of about 100 children, researchers found that buckwheat honey helped relieve the kids’ coughs and helped them sleep just as much as an OTC cough medicine did.

3. Chicken noodle soup. Nope, it’s not an old wives’ tale. Sippin’ on soup (of any kind) hydrates you, which is key to helping your body recover. Getting enough fluids also helps loosen that pesky mucus and break up congestion. As for chicken soup specifically, studies have shown that its broth can help fight inflammation, and inhaling its warm, steamy vapors can help clear your stuffy nose. Plus, the nutrient-rich veggies in your soup may give your immune system a boost, too. Intrigued? Here are more ways chicken soup can stifle your sniffles.

4. Vitamin C-rich foods. Eating vitamin-C superfoods regularly, like citrus fruits, broccoli, and red peppers, won’t prevent a cold, but it may help cut down how long you’re sick once you catch one. According to a 2013 review of studies, folks who took 200 mg of vitamin C per day appeared to shorten the duration of cold symptoms by an average of 8% in adults and 14% in children, which translated to about one less day of illness.

5. Tea. Tea helps fight the common cold, times three. Like soup, it keeps you hydrated, may help break up congestion (especially if it’s peppermint!), and may help soothe a sore throat. Plus, you can enhance tea’s cold-fighting power by mixing in a little buckwheat honey for your cough, and a lemon or orange for a boost of vitamin C. Here are more tips on steeping a super-healthy cup of tea.

The best way to kick a cold? Along with these cold-fighting eats, drink plenty of fluids and sleep. When you’re better, avoid round two: Nix these seemly innocent daily habits that can make you sick.