What to Eat -- and Avoid -- When You Have a Cold

chicken soup

Chicken Soup

You should have some, and not just because Mom says so. Studies shows it clears nasal passages and congestion better than other hot liquids. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect that may help your cold symptoms.

citrus fruit slices


You’ve heard it before: To avoid colds, get plenty of vitamin C. Truth is, it won’t keep most of us from catching one. (It may help if you’re around people who get sick often, like at a day care.) But if you get a lot of it right before you notice symptoms, it may make you feel better and help you get rid of a cold faster. Oranges, lemons, limes -- they’re all sources of vitamin C and can be tasty, too.

foods with quercetin antioxidant

Germ Fighters

Kale, broccoli, cranberries, green tea, red onions, blueberries: What do these have in common? All have an antioxidant called quercetin that may help you fight the common cold. The research here is pretty new, but they may be on to something.

chinese cuisine spicy chicken

Bring the Heat

They won't help you kick your cold, but chili peppers can clear out your nasal passages, and that can make you feel better. They have something called capsaicin, which studies show may help with your stuffy head.

ginger tea with lemon


A cup of fresh, hot ginger tea may seem just the thing when you’re nursing a cold. But you don't have to wait until you have one to drink it. Some studies show this spicy root may prevent the common cold by blocking the virus.

dairy products


Milk, ice cream, cheese: Dairy gets a bad rap. Common wisdom says to avoid it when you're stuffy or runny because you'll make more mucus. But there’s little evidence to support this. So if you crave ice cream to soothe that sore throat, go ahead and indulge.

garlic cloves


Scientists think garlic has some things in it that may fight the common cold. They’re still figuring out how exactly, but early studies are promising. However it works, it’s a good excuse to toss in a few extra cloves.

citrus fruits

Caffeine and Alcohol

You’re better off avoiding these. You need lots of liquids when you have a cold, but caffeine and alcohol are no-nos because they can dry you out. Of course, if you get a raging withdrawal headache without your morning coffee, by all means, have a small cup of joe. Or try a little caffeinated tea instead.