No one is immune to the common cold — in fact, the average adult gets about two to four colds per year. Before popping pills, try an anti-flu smoothie or one rich in vitamin C and other nutrients that boost immune function. The best smoothies for colds and flu are not just delicious but healthy too.
Why Turn to Smoothies?
A sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and headaches are all common symptoms of a cold. Although these issues go away within a week or so, they are often severe enough to keep you from working. Children are particularly prone to colds, warns to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).
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While it's true that you can take over-the-counter cold medicines, these products may carry side effects. Plus, many are not safe for children or may interact with other drugs.
When it comes to the common cold, prevention is your best defense. Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, smoothies support immune function and strengthen your natural defenses. Depending on the ingredients, they may even help relieve the symptoms of a common cold.
Citrus fruits, for instance, are chock-full of vitamin C. Large doses of this nutrient may shorten the duration of cold symptoms, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Aim for 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day to fully reap the benefits.
Make sure your anti-flu smoothie includes oranges, kiwis, strawberries, guavas and other fruits or veggies rich in vitamin C. Just one cup of guavas provides a whopping 377 milligrams of this nutrient.
Smoothies do a lot more than just boost your immune system. These beverages make it easier to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet and prevent nutrient deficiencies. Some can even replace a meal due to their high nutritional value.
Read more: 7 Surprising Foods to Combat Colds
As Harvard Health Publishing notes, a balanced smoothie should contain 1 cup of water, cow's milk or vegan milk as a base, plus a source of protein such as Greek yogurt or tofu. Fresh fruits, cooked vegetables, oats and leafy greens will further enhance its nutritional content. Add vanilla extract, fresh mint leaves, raw cocoa and spices to your smoothie for extra flavor.
Best Anti-Flu Smoothie Ingredients
Loaded with nutrients, smoothies can give your immune system a boost and help you get back on your feet. The key is to choose the right ingredients. Some vitamins and minerals are more effective against the common cold than others.
Hemp seeds, for example, can be a great addition to smoothies for colds. These tiny seeds are rich in magnesium and zinc, two minerals that keep your immune system strong.
Zinc may reduce the duration of a common cold by about 33 percent when administered within 24 hours of symptom onset, according to a review featured in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in April 2018. This nutrient exhibits antiviral effects and helps maintain the integrity of mucosal membranes, among other health benefits.
Magnesium, on the other hand, is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and contributes to over 300 enzymatic reactions, as reported in a September 2017 review in the journal Scientifica. It appears to be particularly effective for migraine headaches, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Many of these issues are common in those struggling with the flu or common colds.
Read more: 20 Foods That Will Make Your Cold Worse
As mentioned earlier, another key nutrient that may improve immune function is vitamin C. This nutrient won't keep you from catching a cold, but it may help you recover faster, notes the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
According to the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine review, taking 1 to 2 grams of vitamin C per day may shorten the duration of common cold symptoms by 8 percent in adults and 14 percent in children. Furthermore, daily supplementation might reduce the severity of a common cold. To boost your vitamin C intake, add these ingredients to your sick day smoothie:
- Kiwi — 71 percent of the DV (daily value) of vitamin C per fruit (about 2.4 ounces)
- Orange juice — 138 percent of the DV of vitamin C per cup (use it as a base for your anti-flu smoothie)
- Lemons — 49 percent of the DV of vitamin C in a medium-sized fruit
- Strawberries — 108 percent of the DV of vitamin C per cup
Smoothies for common colds may contain vegetables, too. Sweet yellow, green or red bell peppers, mustard spinach, broccoli, kale, cooked tomatoes and bok choy are all excellent sources of vitamin C. For inspiration, check out our Super Green Smoothie recipe or try our Green Superfood Smoothie Jar, which calls for hemp seeds, spinach, fresh lemon juice and other immunity-boosting ingredients.
Read more: Vitamin C Intake for Kids
A common cold shouldn't last longer than seven to 10 days, according to the CDC. If your symptoms persist or worsen, consult a doctor.
Don't forget about vitamin D, which may protect against the common cold due to its immunity-boosting properties. This fat-soluble nutrient protects against microbes, enhances the immune response and may prevent acute respiratory infections, according to the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine review. Fortified orange juice and fortified plant milks and cow's milk are good sources of vitamin D and taste great in smoothies.
- American Lung Association: "Facts About the Common Cold"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Ibuprofen"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Vitamin C and Colds"
- USDA: "Guavas"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Drink Your Fruits and Vegetables?"
- USDA: "Hemp Seeds"
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine "Self-Care for Common Colds: The Pivotal Role of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea in Three Main Immune Interactive Clusters (Physical Barriers, Innate and Adaptive Immunity) Involved During an Episode of Common Colds—Practical Advice on Dosages and on the Time to Take These Nutrients/Botanicals in Order to Prevent or Treat Common Colds"
- Scientifica: "The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "How Vitamin C Supports a Healthy Immune System"
- USDA: "Kiwi"
- USDA: "Orange Juice"
- USDA: "Lemons"
- USDA: "Strawberries"
- USDA: "200 Vegetables Highest in Vitamin C"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 12. Food Sources of Vitamin D"