Diet for Colds

What is the Cold Diet?

The diet for colds is a set of nutritional recommendations aimed at preventing the disease and supporting the body in the event of an ongoing infection.

For disclosure correctness, we remind you that the common cold is a viral disease and that, therefore, the use of antibiotics is totally inappropriate (except for secondary complications).


Cold is an infectious disease commonly attributable to viruses of the Rhinovirus genus.

Cold symptoms are mainly: sneezing, excessive mucus production, nasal and sometimes sinus congestion, sore throat, cough, headache and fatigue. Remember that the cold is a different disease from the flu, even if the nutritional measures may have some characteristics in common (For further information: Diet for the flu).

While having no direct therapeutic function, the diet can exert a protective and supportive effect in the recovery from colds. In fact, an appropriate diet has a positive effect on the immune system and, at times, favors the moderation of symptoms. Conversely, general malnutrition, in particular vitamin deficiency, weakens the organism predisposing it to viral infection.

Immune System and Colds

The possibility of contagion due to colds varies according to many factors, independent of one's own or others' will (environmental, family, hygienic, internal organisms, etc.); however, remember that the immune system can be stimulated or weakened by subjective behaviors, such as: breastfeeding, nutrition, level of physical activity, obesity, stress, etc.
In any case, in an absolute sense, the ideal conditions for a good immune system include:

  • Pre-existing genetic basis
  • Breastfeeding
  • Physiological, trophic and well-functioning bacterial flora
  • Adulthood (while children and the elderly are weaker)
  • Flawless nutritional status, therefore in normal weight and without any lack of energy, saline, vitamins and antioxidants
  • Good level of physical activity, including not too intense motor activity (the latter can be debilitating)
  • Absence of other pathologies
  • Psychological stability, low stress and regular sleep.

Diet and Immune System

It will have happened to all to notice that some people are more predisposed to the onset of colds than others. Likewise, there are people who almost never get sick.

As anticipated, this mainly depends on the state of the immune system's efficiency which, in turn, subordinates to the conditions listed in the previous chapter. Excluding the factors on which it is not possible to intervene, to increase one's defenses all that remains is to eat correctly and practice regular physical exercise.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to scientifically prove that a certain dietary model is able or not to hinder the infection or to significantly reduce the severity of the cold. In fact, while there is clinical certainty that nutrition affects defense systems, there is no evidence that increasing the intake of certain foods or nutrients can reduce the incidence of colds; on the other hand, it has been shown that a state of undernutrition or malnutrition is capable of increasing the dire possibilities.

The essential points of the cold diet are few but very important. First of all, it is essential to clarify which nutrients must absolutely not be lacking and which ones could exert (at higher doses than normal) an additional trophic effect on the immune system.

In the introduction, I would add that the statistics reveal a clear worsening of the immune condition, an increased risk of contagion and adverse reactions to vaccines, especially in obese people. This means that a diet that is too energetic, poorly distributed and associated with a sedentary lifestyle, also has a predisposing effect on colds.

The molecules involved in preventing colds and improving healing are: vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin D (calciferol), zinc, isoflavones, probiotics and prebiotics.


We begin by describing the action of isoflavones.

These are plant antioxidants, typical of soy (but also present in vegetables and fruit), which are able to fight (thanks to various mechanisms) the infectious action of certain viruses; moreover, isoflavones exert antioxidant, antitumor, positive effects on lipemia and glycemia, etc.

Vitamin C:

Many believe that vitamin C is one of the antioxidants needed to support any immune fight, from colds to cancer. A striking example of its therapeutic power is the famous case of Allan Smith who, after contracting a severe form of swine flu, was treated using a combination of oral and venous vitamin C. Obviously, the single case does not provide a certainty, but a starting point to think about.

Research published in the "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews" in 2013 found that regular vitamin C supplementation had a "modest but consistent effect in reducing the duration of common cold symptoms."

Furthermore, when administered to endurance athletes (potentially subject to deficiency, immune stress, etc.), this antioxidant is able to halve the risk of infection.

From a practical point of view, to increase the intake of vitamin C in the diet, it is necessary to eat seasonal raw fruits and vegetables. They are particularly rich in ascorbic acid: kiwifruit (including vitamin E, folic acid, polyphenols and carotenoids), citrus fruits, chilli, peppers, parsley, lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, papaya, tomatoes, etc.

Potatoes also contain vitamin C, but the need for cooking reduces its concentration.

Another research, published in the "British Journal of Nutrition," revealed that a diet rich in kiwifruit reduces the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract symptoms (colds) in the elderly population.

For further information: Vitamin C and Colds

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another nutrient that tends to play an important role in most infectious disease recovery. It is a very potent antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides (against viruses, bacteria and fungi).

Low levels of vitamin D can seriously compromise the immune response and increase susceptibility to colds, flu and other respiratory infections; the correlation has been demonstrated by several studies. Among these, one particularly representative is "Vitamin D and Other Simple, Inexpensive Tricks to Cure a Cold", played in America; it involves about 19.000 people and has shown that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D reported a higher incidence of colds and flu.

The best source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight (UVB rays), as our body is able to synthesize it in the skin. If exposure were not enough, it would be necessary to increase the consumption of fish and eggs and supplement with synthetic vitamin D3.

Taking into account that 1 IU is l 'equivalent biological of 0,025 g of vitamin D more or less "active", let's now specify the recommended intake (PRI) and / or adequate (AI) according to the LARN:

PRI ed AI of cholecalciferol (D3) / ergocalciferol (D2) for the population your country is 15 micrograms (ug) / the - with the sole exception of elderly, which should arrive at 20 μg / die.

However, based on recent "GrassrootsHealth" insights, the average dose of vitamin D3 for adults - needed to reach satisfactory levels of the same in the blood - it should be around 8.000 IU / day (much higher than that suggested by research institutes in the nutritional field).

This is because to optimize the passage of vitamin D3 "from the intestine to the blood" it is necessary that the levels of vitamin K2 (antiemorragica) e magnesium.

K2 also has an effect quote on the tendency to increase endovascular calcification.

Without the intake of 400 mg / day of magnesium, 146% of vit is required. D more to reach the same levels of the same in the blood. The opposite is also true, that is, the vitamin facilitates the uptake of magnesium, but by using a large part of it for its metabolic conversion into the active form, it increases the risk of its deficiency.

Ultimately, integration combined of magnesium and vitamin K2 optimizes blood levels of vitamin D with respect to the baseline condition. Conversely, the need for oral exogenous vitamin D increases of 244%.

Note: For children, many experts agree that they need about 35,00 IU / kg of body weight.

On the other hand, the only way to check if the vitamin D3 intake is optimal is a blood test, which should show a plasma concentration of at least 40 ng / ml (preferably 50-70 ng / ml).


Scientific research on zinc has shown that, when taken within a day of the first signs, this mineral can reduce illness time, up to 24 hours, and the severity of symptoms.

The recommended zinc dosage is up to 50 mg / day; the foods that contain the most are: oysters, liver, milk and meats.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

The lack of balance of the intestinal bacterial flora is responsible for functional alterations and reduction of immune trophism. Most of the time, this imbalance is caused by:

  • Excess of simple refined sugars
  • Lack of healthy fatty acids
  • Deficiency of fiber and prebiotic carbohydrates
  • Scarcity of exogenous lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and eubacteria.

To restore the balance of the intestinal bacterial flora it is therefore necessary to make the right quantities of prebiotics and increase food probiotics. In the first case, it is enough to consume fruit and vegetables in ordinary portions (in all, four per day); in the second instead, various fermented products can be of help such as: yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, miso, gherkins and sauerkraut. Alternatively, it may be a good idea to integrate with dietary yoghurt and supplements.

Other Diet Tips

Some specialists suggest, in the treatment of colds, to consume chicken broth regularly.

This food is easily digested and contains many useful nutrients; among others:

  • Bioavailable mineral salts such as: magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and others
  • Chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine and other compounds extracted from cartilage, with anti-inflammatory action
  • Free amino acids with anti-inflammatory action, such as glycine, proline and arginine
  • Amino acid cysteine, which appears to thin the excess mucus (typical of colds).

The action of cysteine ​​- associated with the high temperature of the drink and the presence of spicy molecules (capsaicin from pepper, pepper piperine, etc.) - is extremely effective in fighting congestion in the upper airways.

To the classic extra virgin olive oil, it might be useful to alternate coconut oil. This food contains lauric acid, which is converted by the body into monolaurin, a monoglyceride capable of destroying lipid-coated viruses and gram-negative bacteria.

It is always useful to prefer foods obtained from animals raised on the ground and fed on grass or with natural products. This measure is aimed at guaranteeing some molecules useful for the immune system, such as: carotenoids, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and zinc.

It is advisable to favor the consumption of garlic, onion, shallot and the like, due to their allicin content; this molecule with a characteristic flavor has antiviral, antibiotic and antifungal functions.

There are also certain herbs, extracts and products useful for stimulating the immune system; among these we mention: curcumin from turmeric, extract of olive leaves, bee propolis, carvacrol of oregano oil, medicinal mushrooms (ganoderma, shiitake, etc.), officinal herbal tea (elder, yarrow, lime, peppermint and ginger) and echinacea .

Obviously, many of these products are part of folk or traditional medicine and do not always have a contemporary scientific confirmation; however, after consulting a doctor (especially essential during pregnancy and breastfeeding), their use can sometimes be advantageous.


Other articles on 'Colds'

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  2. Cold
  3. Colds: natural remedies
  4. Herbal tea for colds
  5. Suffumigi against colds
Audio Video Diet for Colds
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