Health, Nutrition

Nutrition Tips for Cold and Flu Season

Coldand Flu street signs

It’s cold and flu season, and that can spell bad news for your weight-loss efforts. It’s important to listen to your body and rest, but it can be tough to know what to do when it comes to eating right. Check out this advice from registered dietitian and nutrition expert for TOPS, Dena McDowell. As a friendly reminder, this information is general in nature. Please always check with your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.

Q: Will taking extra Vitamin C help lessen the duration of the common cold?
A: Vitamin C comes in many forms, including food, beverages and supplements. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and the role of antioxidants is to boost the immune system by destroying free radical damage that occurs in the body. Foods and beverages that are rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwi, kale, chili and sweet peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, collard greens, spinach and berries. These fruits and vegetables are good for you and should be a normal part of your diet. Eating large amounts of these fruits and veggies may not lessen the time that you have a cold virus. However, consuming these foods may reduce the symptoms, seemingly making you feel better faster. Taking large amounts of vitamin C through a supplement form of a vitamin or other over-the-counter supplement may also reduce the symptoms slightly. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so there is a minimal risk associated with taking in large amounts. Your kidneys will process any extra vitamin C that is not metabolized and you will excrete any excess in your urine. Bottom line: Eating foods rich in vitamin C or taking extra vitamin C through a vitamin supplement may not hurt you; however, taking large amounts may not help you either. Aim to drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced and wide variety of foods, practice good hand hygiene and get plenty of rest.

Q: Are there certain foods you should limit or avoid when you’re recovering from gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as the “stomach flu”?
A: The “stomach flu” can be quite nasty to your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. If you are dealing with a stomachache, gastroenteritis or other GI malady, it is best to follow a bland diet. A bland diet is limited in spicy and acidic foods, greasy/fried foods and foods high in fiber. Some examples of bland foods include cream of wheat/cream of rice, grits, soda crackers, white rice, pretzels, low-fiber bread (can be wheat), plain pasta (no sauce), canned fruits, bananas, baked white fish, baked chicken, gelatin and broth-based soups.

If you are having diarrhea from gastroenteritis, it may be best to follow a BRAT diet to reduce your symptoms. The BRAT diet includes Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. Once your symptoms improve, you may add foods back into your diet. Some people have difficulty digesting dairy products when GI bugs strike. Limiting milk, yogurt and ice cream during this time may be helpful. Cheese in small portions is usually well-tolerated and can act as a binding type of food to lessen the symptoms of diarrhea. Following a bland diet as tolerated, along with lots of clear liquids (water, diluted juice, gelatin and broth), can help meet your fluid needs. If your symptoms last more than a few days, it’s important to call your doctor’s office to make sure nothing else is going on and causing these symptoms. Also, to prevent dehydration, please remember to call your doctor if you are unable to keep liquids down for more than 24 hours.

Q: Any other tips to help when recovering from a cold or upset stomach?
A: Remember these four things:

  • Hand hygiene. I can’t stress this enough. Wash your hands a lot with hot soapy water. Having clean hands is the best way to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods on a daily basis. As long as you are not suffering from an upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea, you should try to maintain a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
  • Fluids, fluids, fluids! Drink plenty of water (a minimum of 64 oz. a day). Staying hydrated when sick will help your body recover faster and lessen your symptoms.
  • Get extra sleep. Your body needs time to recover. Extra zzz’s will help your body naturally recover.

2 thoughts on “Nutrition Tips for Cold and Flu Season

  1. Thank you for the vitamin c information. I have been wondering if taking vitamin c would be helpful. I am a tops member and love the program. I went from 184.5 to 146 . I am happy again. I used to perceive party invitations as similar to court subpoenas. I am a social worker. Now I welcome invitations thanks to tops.
    Connie wolf I am also new media person for my area chapter.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Connie! I am so happy to hear that you’re finding success with the program.

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