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Medicine or Malarkey: Should You Feed a Cold and Starve a Fever?

Popular wisdom has taught us that we should “feed a cold and starve a fever, but scientists are now questioning the notion. Starving, in any situation, is never the answer. But experts believe it’s what you eat, not how much you eat, that seems to have the most health benefit—easing symptoms of both the common cold and the flu.

Will eating food when I’m sick make me feel better?

One study reported by WebMD suggests that eating a nutritional, well-balanced diet while ill may positively influence short-term immune function. However, everyone’s immune system responds differently to disease.

In an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, a study showed that there may be a positive correlation between the nutritional content of food and the immune system’s response.

Although further studies are needed, experts suggest listening to your body. If you’re sick and feel hungry, eat something healthy and nutritious. And always remember to stay well hydrated by drinking water.

What should I eat if I’m sick?

Nutrient-rich foods help your body stay healthy and fight infections. Here are the top suggestions for what to eat from WebMD.

Antioxidants

  • What they do: help build a strong immune system. Examples: beta carotene and vitamins C and E
  • What to eat: almonds; apricots; asparagus; beets; broccoli; cantaloupe; carrots; cauliflower; cod liver oil; kale; mangoes; mustard and collard greens; nectarines; peaches; pink grapefruit; pumpkin; red, green or yellow pepper; safflower oil; salmon steak; spinach; squash (yellow and winter); strawberries; sunflower seeds; sweet potato; tangerines; tomatoes; and watermelon

Bioflavonoids

  • What they do: help you stay healthy by activating your immune system.
  • What to eat: the pulp and white core in the center of citrus fruits, green peppers, broccoli, and red and yellow onions

Hot Tea

  • What it does: helps to thin mucus and ensure proper hydration.
  • What to drink: green and black tea (which is filled with strong antioxidants known as flavonoids)

Phytochemicals

  • What they do: increase your overall wellness.
  • What to eat: apples, apricots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, legumes, onions, red peppers, soybeans, sweet potatoes and tomatoes

Protein

  • What it does: builds and repairs body tissue and fights viral and bacterial infections.
  • What to eat: lean sources of protein, such as skinless chicken, lean beef and turkey, beans, and soy

Yogurt

  • What it does: Eating a daily cup of yogurt can help reduce your susceptibility to colds. Researchers say the beneficial bacteria in yogurt may help your immune system fight germs.
  • What to eat: low-fat or natural Greek yogurt

Zinc

  • What it does: Zinc is an antioxidant that assists your body’s resistance to infection, stimulates the immune system and helps repair tissues. Some studies show that taking zinc lozenges within 24 hours of getting a cold may reduce the duration of cold symptoms.
  • What to eat: eggs, meats, nuts, seafood, seeds, wheat germ and whole grains

Is chicken soup really good for the soul?

According to WebMD, studies show that traditional chicken soup may have benefits for your health and well-being. Here’s how:

  • The hot vapors from a bowl of broth help clear a stuffy nose.
  • Research shows it has a mild anti-inflammatory effect that could reduce cold symptoms.
  • Consuming liquid helps keep you hydrated.
  • Chicken soup may improve your mood by reminding you of the love of a parent.

What do I do if I have a cold or a fever?

If you have cold or flu symptoms, CareSpot is here to help.