Kitchen Cures for Colds & Flu

Lemon Garlic Coconut oilAsk the Nutritionist

by Melissa Diane Smith

Keep your kitchen stocked with these powerful healers to protect against illness.

Q: Are there any foods you recommend having on hand to prevent or treat colds and flu?

There sure are! Check out the following foods that can help you fend off – or get relief from – cold or flu symptoms when you start getting sick. Try combining them with the others on the list for extra healing power.

Coconut oil

This versatile, tasty oil, which is solid at temperatures below 76 degrees, is good for strengthening the immune system because it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. The combination of these different fatty acids work synergistically to enhance their infection-fighting abilities.

Try incorporating organic unrefined coconut oil in your diet on a daily basis – or at least at the first signs of illness – to help boost your body’s defenses. One of the easiest ways to use coconut oil is to substitute it in place of butter in cooking and baking. If you have a chronic virus or get sick often, consider starting your day with a tablespoon of liquified coconut oil (heated so that it becomes a liquid).

If you develop a sore throat or cough, try adding coconut oil to warm tea or broth. This can gently sooth a sore throat and ease coughing at the same time it helps the body defend itself.


The cloves of this pungent vegetable contain allicin, a potent antimicrobial that can fend off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. While garlic kills germs outright, it also appears to stimulate the release of natural killer cells, which are part of the immune system’s arsenal of germ-fighters.

Chop garlic and let it stand for 5 minutes or so before adding to chicken or vegetable soup, or sauté with greens and chicken pieces in coconut oil. For more therapeutic punch, mix crushed and minced garlic into a spoonful of nut butter or coconut oil and eat the garlic mixture raw. Many of my clients have found this an especially helpful remedy for sore throats.

Organic Chicken Soup and Broth

Chicken soup’s prowess as a cold fighter is more than just an old wives’ tale. A study published more than a decade ago found that chicken soup indeed has medicinal qualities, significantly mitigating infection. Chicken soup stops certain white blood cells (neutrophils) from congregating and causing inflammation, preventing large amounts of mucus from being produced. When you’re sick, sipping warm broth or soup can make a sore throat feel better and can thin mucus, and the steam it provides can open up stuffed nasal passages.

The most therapeutic soups are homemade, preferably from organic bone broth, which is made from simmering bones over low heat for many hours. Ideal for sipping on its own when you don’t have an appetite, bone broth is excellent for speeding healing and recuperation from illness because it’s easily digestible, helps heal the lining of the gut, and contains valuable, easily absorbable nutrients and protein. Try to plan ahead by making your own bone broth from organic chicken bones in a slow cooker and freezing it in batches so it is ready to use when you need it. Or stock up on store-bought organic chicken bone broth (Pacific Foods makes one) to have on hand if you get sick. Add fresh chopped garlic, or garlic and ginger root, for more healing power and flavor.


Rich in immune-boosting vitamin C and bioflavonoids, lemons are something I always have in my fridge. Squirting lemon juice into chicken broth or soup right before serving not only ups its nutritional value, but to me, it makes the chicken broth much tastier and more therapeutic. You can also add lemon juice to black tea or to ginger tea, with or without non-GMO, organic honey, or drink warm lemon water, a folk remedy that helps the liver make more enzymes to flush out toxins.

Zinc-Rich Foods

When clients come to me saying they get sick often, the first thing I do is evaluate their zinc status. Getting enough zinc in the diet is crucial for promoting a strong immune system that can fight off foreign invaders. The body has no way to store the mineral, so it depends on a daily supply through diet. A supplement can be used, but the zinc in zinc-rich foods is always more absorbable.

To give the body this crucial nutrient it needs to defend itself, I recommend eating more zinc-rich foods, such as organic grass-fed lamb chops, lamb shanks, pot roast, chicken, or egg yolks, especially during the winter months. This is particularly important for anyone at risk of zinc deficiency. Sometimes, just having a piece of high-zinc meat at the first sign of cold symptoms can help the body stave off the illness.

The best food sources of zinc are oysters, which virtually no one eats, and land-based animal protein sources, especially lamb and beef. The best vegan sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

Mild zinc deficiency is relatively common, especially in infants and children, the elderly, people with poor gastrointestinal absorption or bowel disease like Crohn’s disease, and those who eat vegetarian, vegan, or high-grain diets. These diets are low in bioavailable zinc and high in phytic acid, which impairs zinc absorption.


Rules to Live By For Super Immunity

We may be exposed to more illness-causing germs during the winter, but our everyday habits can determine whether we’re susceptible to getting sick from those germs. To keep your immune system in tip-top shape to fend off the many nasty bugs that circulate in the winter season, try these tips:

  • Eat nutrient-dense whole foods instead of processed foods
  • Avoid sugar, which is an immunosuppressant
  • Consider supplementing with Vitamin D if you “catch” colds and flu often
  • Find healthy ways to effectively manage emotional stress
  • Get enough sleep.

Copyright 2015 Melissa Diane Smith


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


See all Monsanto articles

Sign Up for the FREE Nutrition News & Notes e-newsletter

I want to be informed about local Tucson events
* Required Fields
Don't worry! I respect your privacy and will NOT share your personal information with anyone.

Most Recent Posts