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Starve a cold, feed a fever?

Should you starve a cold and feed a fever? This appears to be a cold and flu myth and the NHS says there's no conclusive evidence to support starving a person with a cold or giving extra food to a person with flu.

Fasting or eating more can affect the balance of chemicals in the body's immune system, but so far no one has proved that either approach lessens the severity or duration of cold or flu symptoms.

However, a healthy diet including 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg makes sense for health in general whether you have a cold or flu, or would like to help prevent getting ill.

When under the weather, the British Dietetic Association recommends small regular meals and snacks.

Good choices include soup, cereals softened with milk, milky puddings, stewed or tinned fruit and slow cooked meat with mashed potatoes or rice.

Chicken soup

This could include a warm bowl of chicken soup. There is some evidence this comforting food may help with cold and flu symptoms through some anti-inflammatory ingredients in chicken.

Vitamin C

Foods high in vitamin C are sometimes suggested for colds and flu. Studies suggest that regular consumption of vitamin C can reduce the length of colds and the symptoms. However, high doses of vitamin C once a cold has begun don't seem to help.

Probiotics

Probiotics in fermented milk drinks and some yoghurts may help stimulate the immune system to help fight infections and shortening the length of colds.

Garlic

You may not be able to taste garlic in food with a cold or flu, but there's some evidence it may help prevent colds. However, once infected there's not enough evidence to show garlic helps treat a cold.

Foods high in antioxidants

Eating foods high in antioxidants may be helpful. Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that studies suggest protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. However, research is inconclusive and it’s not clear yet if antioxidants have a health benefit in people.

Including more raw fruit and vegetables in your diet is the best way to ensure a high intake of antioxidants. And when you cook these nutrients, be sure you cook them using as little liquid as possible to prevent nutrient loss.

If you follow the guidelines issued by most health organisations and eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, you can easily get enough antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. For example, one quarter of a cantaloupe melon gives you nearly half the recommended daily requirement of beta-carotene and is a rich source of vitamin C. Spinach is not only full of beta-carotene, but also contains vitamin C,  folic acid, and magnesium.

Foods rich in beta-carotene and other carotenoids include: Apricots, asparagus, beef liver, beetroot, broccoli, cantaloupe melon, carrots, sweetcorn, guava, kale, mangoes, spring greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash (yellow and butternut), sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Foods rich in vitamin C include: Broccoli, cantaloupe melon, cauliflower, kale, kiwi fruit, orange juice, papaya, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Foods rich in vitamin E include: Almonds, corn oil, cod-liver oil, hazelnuts, lobster, peanut butter, safflower oil, salmon steak, and sunflower seeds.

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