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The Top 25 Cold-Fighting Foods

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Health Food Vegetables

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, U.S. citizens are in the thick of winter. With a little under two months until spring officially begins, many colds and flus are still waiting to strike.

Though you can come down with a cold year-round, the colder temperatures during winter months tend make people more susceptible. The common cold, though not as severe as many other ailments that see a seasonal winter uptick, can still wreak havoc. Between the congestion, sneezing and missed work days, it’s best to avoid it entirely.

As the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” HealthGrove took that to heart and found the top cold-fighting foods. Using data from the ESHA nutrition database, we created a “Cold-Fighting Index” that factors in the amount of vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc in every food in their database. This index attributes a weight of 20 percent, 40 percent, and 40 percent to each micronutrient, respectively. We examined these micronutrients specifically because of their commonly accepted cold-fighting properties.

It is important to note the values listed are based off USDA-defined serving sizes. For some foods, such as broccoli, cabbage and jicama, these can be quite large. To reflect these respective sizes, we included the weight in grams of each.

#25. Yam

Cold-Fighting Index: 65.3
Serving Size: 1.0 can (638g)
Calories per Serving: 568
Good Source of: Vitamin C (111.7% Daily Value)

Yams are a tuber vegetable high in fiber and vitamin C, which helps with immune function as well as wound healing and bone growth. It also contains small amounts of vitamin A, which promotes healthy skin and eyes.

#24. Sea Bass

Cold-Fighting Index: 65.7
Serving Size: 4.0 ounces (113.4g)
Calories per Serving: 110
Good Source of: Vitamin D (64.1% Daily Value)

Low in calories and high in protein, sea bass makes for a great entrée. Its high levels of vitamin D also help boost immunity and promote healthy bones.

#23. Asparagus

Cold-Fighting Index: 65.8
Serving Size: 1.0 package (293g)
Calories per Serving: 53
Good Source of: Vitamin C (119.2% Daily Value)

Asparagus not only makes for a great source of vitamin C, but it is full of fiber and folate, as well as vitamins A, E and K.

#22. Spinach

Cold-Fighting Index: 66.9
Serving Size: 1.0 package (283.5g)
Calories per Serving: 65
Good Source of: Vitamin C (132.8% Daily Value)

Often known as one of the world's healthiest foods, spinach is high in vitamin C in addition to many other nutrients — calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus to name a few. These help promote skin, hair and bone health.

#21. Green Bell Pepper

Cold-Fighting Index: 67.8
Serving Size: 0.5 cup (57.5g)
Calories per Serving: 73
Good Source of: Vitamin C (169.6% Daily Value)

This versatile vegetable not only adds color to salads and other dishes, but it provides a vast array of nutrients. Vitamin C takes a predominant stand, especially in green peppers, but all bell peppers contain vitamin B6 , which is essential for nervous system health.

#20. Portobello Mushrooms

Cold-Fighting Index: 69
Serving Size: 1.0 each (84g)
Calories per Serving: 18
Good Source of: Vitamin D (93.7% Daily Value)

The high vitamin D content in portobello mushrooms makes it a key player in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. However, vitamin D is also suggested to protect against diseases such as cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

#19. Papaya

Cold-Fighting Index: 69.3
Serving Size: 0.25 large (195.25g)
Calories per Serving: 84
Good Source of: Vitamin C (198.2% Daily Value)

In addition to high vitamin C levels, papaya provides many minerals (potassium, copper and magnesium) and antioxidants.

#18. Orange

Cold-Fighting Index: 69.4
Serving Size: 1.0 cup (170g)
Calories per Serving: 107
Good Source of: Vitamin C (201.2% Daily Value)

Though oranges' claim to fame is their high vitamin C content, they are also a great source of folate and vitamin A. Folate is important because it plays a role in DNA synthesis and vitamin A assists bone growth, reproductive health and immune system health.

#17. Mango

Cold-Fighting Index: 69.6
Serving Size: 1.0 each (336g)
Calories per Serving: 202
Good Source of: Vitamin C (203.8% Daily Value)

Mangoes contain over 20 vitamins and minerals, not just vitamin C. The presence of beta-carotene may protect against prostate cancer and potassium can help ward off heart disease.

#16. Guava

Cold-Fighting Index: 69.7
Serving Size: 1.0 whole (55g)
Calories per Serving: 37
Good Source of: Vitamin C (209.3% Daily Value)

These small but mighty fruits contain more than just vitamin C. Guavas are also good sources of vitamin A, which is a known as a booster for vision health. It also has high amounts of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant thought to reduce prostate cancer risk.

#15. Cauliflower

Cold-Fighting Index: 70.8
Serving Size: 1.0 package (283.5g)
Calories per Serving: 68
Good Source of: Vitamin C (230.6% Daily Value)

The vitamin C in cauliflower helps boost your immune system, but the other nutrients such as vitamin K, thiamin, magnesium and phosphorus also contribute to all-around health.

#14. Pink Salmon

Cold-Fighting Index: 71.3
Serving Size: 4.0 ounces (113.4g)
Calories per Serving: 144
Good Source of: Vitamin D (123.3% Daily Value)

Not only a great source of vitamin D, salmon also has high levels of niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorous and vitamin B6. All of these nutrients contribute to a healthy immune system and brain, heart and joint health.

#13. Red Bell Pepper

Cold-Fighting Index: 72.2
Serving Size: 1.0 package (283.5g)
Calories per Serving: 57
Good Source of: Vitamin C (277.4% Daily Value)

Red bell peppers, high in vitamin C like their sibling green variety, are special because of their high beta-carotene levels. Beta-carotene provides great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

#12. Cantaloupe

Cold-Fighting Index: 72.2
Serving Size: 1.0 each (441g)
Calories per Serving: 150
Good Source of: Vitamin C (269.7% Daily Value)

The combination of high vitamin C levels and presence of vitamin A make cantaloupe great for providing structure to skin and hair. Skin is the largest organ in the body and is the first line of defense of the immune system (it blocks out foreign pathogens), so keeping it healthy is integral for general immune system health.

#11. Swordfish

Cold-Fighting Index: 72.6
Serving Size: 3.0 ounces (85.05g)
Calories per Serving: 146
Good Source of: Vitamin D (141.6% Daily Value)

The vitamin D in swordfish helps boost immune system health, but the high protein and omega-3 levels make it an all-around great staple for any diet.

#10. Brussels Sprouts

Cold-Fighting Index: 74.5
Serving Size: 1.0 package (283.5g)
Calories per Serving: 116
Good Source of: Vitamin C (350.1% Daily Value)

In addition to immunity-boosting vitamin C, brussels sprouts contain a powerhouse combination of vitamins and minerals. Many of the published studies in PubMed speak to cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties.

#9. Rainbow Trout

Cold-Fighting Index: 74.8
Serving Size: 4.0 ounces (113.4g)
Calories per Serving: 160
Good Source of: Vitamin D (180% Daily Value)

Not only is rainbow trout good for your immune system due to the amount of vitamin D, but the omega-3 fatty acids make it a very heart-healthy food. According to the World Health Organization, a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is linked to decreased risk of many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

#8. Strawberries

Cold-Fighting Index: 75.4
Serving Size: 1.0 package (567g)
Calories per Serving: 198
Good Source of: Vitamin C (389.3% Daily Value)

Delicious and immune-system boosting, these bright red berries also possess high levels of manganese (in addition to vitamin C), which acts as a co-enzyme to help metabolic activity within the body.

#7. Jicama

Cold-Fighting Index: 76
Serving Size: 1.0 large (1200g)
Calories per Serving: 456
Good Source of: Vitamin C (404% Daily Value)

Because of the high vitamin C content, jicama is great for boosting the immune system. This vegetable is also very low in sodium and fat, making it great for maintaining a healthy heart and stable weight.

#6. Mackerel

Cold-Fighting Index: 76.2
Serving Size: 3.0 ounces (85.05g)
Calories per Serving: 259
Good Source of: Vitamin D (213.9% Daily Value)

As with many other fish, mackerel is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D. These support good health and a strong immune system.

#5. Peaches

Cold-Fighting Index: 76.4
Serving Size: 1.0 package (284g)
Calories per Serving: 267
Good Source of: Vitamin C (445.9% Daily Value)

In addition to vitamin C, peaches are also rich in zinc, creating a prime cold-fighting combo. Vitamin C and zinc have wound-healing and antioxidant properties, which help fight infection and reduce the severity of certain illnesses.

#4. Carp

Cold-Fighting Index: 78.8
Serving Size: 4.0 ounces (113.4g)
Calories per Serving: 144
Good Source of: Vitamin D (280.1% Daily Value)

The large amount of vitamin D present in carp makes it a great choice of fish to add to your diet. Vitamin D regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and is thought to protect against multiple diseases.

#3. Eastern Oysters

Cold-Fighting Index: 80.2
Serving Size: 2.0 ounces (56.7g)
Calories per Serving: 39
Good Source of: Zinc (343.8% Daily Value)

A single serving of oysters provides a large dose of zinc. Known as an "essential trace element," zinc is vital to human health. Though only needed in small amounts, zinc promotes a healthy immune system by regulating immune responses and equipping the body to attack infected or cancerous cells.

#2. Cabbage

Cold-Fighting Index: 81.5
Serving Size: 1.0 each (908g)
Calories per Serving: 218
Good Source of: Vitamin C (771.8% Daily Value)

Though the USDA serving size of cabbage is quite large, it still packs a nutritional punch. With nearly 800 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin C in one head, your immune system is sure to get a boost even if you eat a much smaller amount. Additionally, cabbage has a lot of fiber and low caloric value, making it a great food for more than just your fish tacos.

#1. Broccoli

Cold-Fighting Index: 82.9
Serving Size: 1.0 each (608g)
Calories per Serving: 207
Good Source of: Vitamin C (903.9% Daily Value)

Not only does broccoli have over 900 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, but it is chock full of other nutrients — folate, potassium and vitamin K, to name a few. These all work together to protect the body against free radicals and help cuts and wounds heal. If you're looking for a big immune system boost, broccoli might just be your new best friend.

Research Other Health Foods on HealthGrove


Related Slideshow: New England’s 19 Best Colleges for Food

According the The Daily Meal's 2013 rankings, New England is home to many of the nation's best college dining experiences.  See which schools made the list...

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19. Boston College

Chestnut Hill, MA

National Rank: 59

Home to over 14,400 students, Boston College Boston confers more than 4,000 degrees annually in more than 50 fields of study through eight schools and colleges. Routinely included as one of the best universities in the nation, U.S. News & World Report ranked BC 31st among national universities, and Forbes ranked it 26th in its 2012 America's Best Colleges listing. 

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18. Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

National Rank: 56

Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is a member of the Ivy League and consistently ranks among the world's greatest academic institutions. Home to approximately 4,200 undergraduate and 2,100 graduate students, Dartmouth was named by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton as one of the world’s “most enduring institutions” in 2004.

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17. Roger Williams University

Bristol, RI

National Rank: 53

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16. Saint Anselm College

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National Rank: 47

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15. University of Connecticut

Storrs, CT

National Rank: 46

Home to, over 22,000 students, the University of Connecticut is the state's flagship institution of higher learning. Founded in 1881, the UCONN includes 13 Schools and Colleges at its main campus in Storrs, separate Schools of Law and Social Work in Hartford, five regional campuses throughout the state and Schools of Medicine and Dentistry at the UConn Health Center in Farmington.

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14. Brown University

Providence, RI

National Rank: 44

Founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate  and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership and the IE Brown Executive MBA. In 2010, Brown was named  by the 2010 Princeton Review as the #1 College in America for Happiest Students.

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13. Colby College

Waterville, ME

National Rank: 40

Founded in 1813, Colby is the 12th-oldest independent liberal arts college in the nation, and in 1871 it became the first previously all-male college in New England to admit women. Home to just over 1,800 students, undergraduates can choose from 55 majors and 31 minors, or design their own independent major. 

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12. College of the Atlantic

Bar Harbor, ME

National Rank: 39

Founded in 1969, College of the Atlantic is a small, liberal arts college on Mount Desert Island, off the coast of Maine. At COA each student designs his or her own course of study in human ecology. Whether observing whales from the college's research vessel, pursuing an independent photo-journalism project in the Yucatan, studying international treaties, converting a campus building to solar power, or volunteering on one of COA's organic farms, students at COA learn from experience both inside and outside the classroom.

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11. Connecticut College

New London, CT

National Rank: 38

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10. Boston University

Boston, MA

National Rank: 36

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9. Bates College

Lewiston, ME

National Rank: 32

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8. Wesleyan University

Middletown, CT

National Rank: 29

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7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA

National Rank: 25

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6. Middlebury College

Middlebury, VT

National Rank: 22

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5. Harvard Universtiy

Cambridge, MA

National Rank: 21

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4. Yale University

New Haven, CT

National Rank: 10

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3. Tufts University

Medford, MA

National Rank: 9

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2. University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Amherst, MA

National Rank: 7

The Commonwealth's flagship campus, UMass Amherst is a nationally-ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Home to 28,236 total undergraduate and graduate students, the school offers 108 bachelor's degree programs, six associate's, 76 master’s and 52 doctoral programs in nine schools and colleges.

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1. Bowdoin College

Brunswick, ME

National Rank: 1

Founded in 1794, Bowdoin is home to 1,775 students and 190 full-time faculty members, 99% of which possess a Ph.D. or the highest degree in their field. It was listed as the fourth-best liberal arts college in the U.S. in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report rankings. 


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