How to eat well: cold comfort in a bowl

By Ian Marber, October 25, 2012
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Forget staging a barmitzvah or matchmaking a single 29-year-old, Channel 4 should have got the contenders for Jewish Mum of the Year to come up with a cold remedy. Because every family has their own remedy and they swear by it, but to date there is no proven cure for the common cold.

A cold can last for several days during which time the immune system requires consistent energy, and so eating small amounts is advisable. But of what? We all know of the healing powers of chicken soup — something that has been backed up by research done at the University of Nebraska.

The inflammation of the respiratory tract caused by a cold leads to an increase of white blood cells in the area, which in turn exacerbates the production of mucus. It seems that chicken soup helped reduce that concentration thus alleviating the familiar bunged-up feeling.

However, this can be achieved with any vegetable-based soup, and as part of the relief comes from the hot liquid, herbal teas or hot toddies could be equally effective.

When it comes to supplements, vitamin C is perhaps the vitamin associated most with cold prevention. A review of research into its effectiveness suggests that taking more of it showed no significant reduction in the risk of getting a cold, but could reduce the severity of symptoms.

Vitamin C-rich foods include kiwi and citrus fruits, peppers and sweet potato. Supplementing 500mg three times a day when you feel a cold coming on may have some benefit, but larger doses probably won’t help and can lead to diarrhoea.

Zinc may also be helpful, but in small doses of 15mg twice a day, as more can lead to nausea.

Lastly, there’s echinacea, which a new study from Cardiff University suggests might reduce the risk of getting a cold, as long as you take one third of a teaspoon of echinacea root extract liquid three times a day.
That’s not overly onerous but all too easy to forget. So ultimately, what does one do? Seeing as an untreated cold can last a week, whereas a treated one lasts only seven days, do whatever you want and whatever makes you feel better, but make sure your mother’s chicken soup makes an appearance.

Ian Marber is one of the UK’s most highly regarded nutrition experts and the author of 11 books. www.ianmarber.com

Last updated: 11:15am, November 2 2012