The slippery, often thick substance that accumulates in your throat and nasal passages during a cold is called phlegm. It is one of your body's natural responses to inflammation associated with upper-respiratory infections, such as colds, bronchitis and sinusitis, allergies and chronic cough. Smoking increases your risk for chronic cough and phlegm, according to the Canadian Lung Association. In addition to reaping sufficient rest and medical treatment, as needed, certain foods may minimize your symptoms.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which support your body's ability to resist and heal from infections and disease. The antioxidant vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, and may keep your airways open. Vitamin C may also reduce wheezing associated with asthma. Fruits and vegetables particularly rich in vitamin C and other protective nutrients include berries, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, kiwi, tomatoes, leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli and squash.
Whole grains contain all nutritious parts of the grain. As a result, they provide more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber than refined grains, such as white flour. While processed and fatty foods, such as nachos and french fries, can increase phlegm production, according to "Chinese Nutrition Therapy: Dietetics in Traditional Chinese Medicine" by Joerg Kastner, whole grains, such as rye, buckwheat, millet and rice, can reduce it. Other nutritious whole-grain foods include quinoa, pearled barley, oatmeal and 100 percent whole-grain breads and pasta.
Warm fluids can loosen phlegm and ease sore throat pain, according to the UMMC. Valuable options include caffeine-free herbal teas, broth-based soups and warm soy or almond milk. Avoid cow's milk, which may thicken phlegm, and caffeinated beverages, which may interfere with rest. For added antioxidant benefits, choose broth-based vegetable soup. For protein, which boosts immune function, choose soups containing beans, lentils or poultry.
Fish, Nuts and Seeds
Fish, nuts and seeds provide valuable nutrients, including zinc, which plays an important role in your immune system, and essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids may reduce inflammation and phlegm associated with colds, according to Kastner. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut and albacore tuna, are top sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have exceptional anti-inflammatory properties. Plant sources of omega-3s include ground flaxseed, walnuts, walnut oil and canola oil. If your throat is tender, nut butters, such as peanut or almond, provide soft-texture alternatives to nuts and seeds.
- Canadian Lung Association: Chronic Cough
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Asthma
- "Chinese Nutrition Therapy: Dietetics in Traditional Chinese Medicine"; Joerg Kastner; 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Common Cold