10 Immune-Supporting Drinks to Help Fight Off Sickness
We've all been told to drink plenty of fluids when we're sick, but we need more details: what's the best thng to drink when sick?
Which drinks help to stop a cold right in its tracks? What beverages help you stay hydrated when your nose is constantly running? Which herbal teas are the best for immunity?
To get to the bottom of which cold-busting drinks will get the job done, we've enlisted the help of registered dietitians. They've shared the best drinks to sip on while you're sniffling that contain ingredients and nutrients that are scientifically proven to boost your immune system and fend off a cold. The next time you go grocery shopping armed with a pack of tissues, be sure to pick up these 10 dietitian-approved drinks when sick.
The number one drink that everyone should be chugging, regardless of whether or not you're sick, is good ole' water. Up to 60% of the human body is made up of water, so it makes sense that we need a lot of it. Every bodily function relies on water. It's even used to flush out toxins, which will come in handy when you're sick.
"Staying hydrated is vital to keeping your immune system at its best," says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RDN. "Water helps transport nutrients to our cells for energy, growth, and proper functioning–and it moves the metabolic waste and harmful substances out."
You can aim for 8 cups of water a day, though you may need more or less. Spruce up your water with fruit slices or fresh herbs. Remember that water-rich foods like fruit and vegetables can also help you stay hydrated.
For added comfort, trying heating up your water and adding fresh lemon juice. According to Dana Angelo White, RD, "Warm water helps you stay hydrated while lemon juice adds extra nutrients. An extra boost of vitamin C also acts as a powerful antioxidant to fight inflammation."
Chances are you already down a glass of OJ with your morning breakfast. If not, this is your friendly reminder to pick up a jug of orange juice to strengthen your immune system and ward off sickness this winter.
The rumors are true about orange juice, and there's science to back it up. Orange juice is known for its high vitamin C content. In fact, one glass of orange juice contains 138% of your daily vitamin C needs.
"Vitamin C from dietary sources like orange juice plays an important role in our immune system," explains Bazilian. "While vitamin C won't reduce the likelihood of catching a cold as we used to believe, studies do suggest that adequate vitamin C may reduce the duration and severity of colds and flus once they hit."
Mixed Berry Smoothie
Aside from citrus, berries are also an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C. To pack in the nutrition, try this berry smoothie recipe that contains raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
"Berries are packed with vitamin C and some research shows that vitamin C, when consumed throughout the cold season, may help to reduce symptoms of colds and help us get over colds faster," says Rachel Fine MS, RD, CSSD, CDN.
The antioxidants in berries offer additional protection. They protect against various diseases and can even fight oxidative stress.
Tea is one of those drinks that's recommended when you're sick, but which tea should you go for? If you feel a tickle in your throat or experience nausea, consider ginger tea. It will also help keep you hydrated.
"When you are sick, it's very important to stay hydrated and sometimes a warm beverage can be soothing," explains Lindsey Elizabeth, MS, RD, CSSD. "Ginger tea may help soothe a sore throat or clear up chest congestion. Ginger tea also contains additional immune-fighting agents. If you like tea sweetened, stirring in local honey may even help protect you against local allergens."
In recent years, grape juice has been designated as the trick to preventing stomach flu and other illnesses. While washing your hands and practicing good hygiene are more likely to prevent sickness, drinking grape juice can also help.
"Concord grape juice is an effective drink for warding off winter-time illness," confirms Kristin Koskinen, RDN, LD, CD. "Grapes contain resveratrol, an antioxidant whose properties support immunological processes. The ratio of vitamins to other nutrients may also perform a similar role."
Before there is maple syrup, there is watery sap from a maple tree. The sweet sap from maple trees isn't just good for turning into syrup for pancakes—it's also good for your immune system.
"Maple water is loaded with natural antioxidants and also provides prebiotics," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD. "Prebiotics help support the live probiotics in the gut. Since probiotics can help support a healthy immune system, getting in adequate prebiotics is key to keep you healthy throughout the season."
You can take the beneficial sap and mix it into water to make your own maple water. There a few brands selling cartons of maple water, as well.
Like ginger tea, ginger juice is a tangy source of nutrients and immune-boosting properties. It's also easy to make, though fresh ginger juice shots are available at most juice shops.
"Not only is ginger a natural digestive support, it also helps to bind up viral pathogens before they can attach to the respiratory tract," explains Tracey Grant, RDN, CWHC. "This means that you have a better shot at not catching the common cold. Aim for 2-3 fresh ginger juice shots throughout the day as soon as you have been exposed to something."
Blended tomato juices are refreshing all year-round, but they're especially helpful during cold and flu season. Plus, this is a good way to get in extra fruits and vegetables.
"We know that eating our fruits and vegetables will help keep us well, and veggie drinks made with tomato juice make that even easier in the context of our busy lives," says Grant. "Tomatoes, in particular, have been shown to boost immune function over time due to their lycopene content."
Elderberry drops and elderberry syrup are buzz-worthy supplements this time of year. Did you know they come from a fruit known for its many health benefits? This includes a healthy immune system.
"Elderberry juice is loaded with antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and iron, a combination that turns your immune system into an illness-fighting powerhouse," explains Allie Gregg, RD. "Studies have shown that elderberry not only fights off illness, but it also shortens the duration of any illness along with relieving symptoms much sooner than those not taking the supplement."
Often associated with Indian cuisine, turmeric is a spicy source of anti-inflammatory compounds, which makes it a great ingredient to add to drinks when sick. One of those compounds is curcumin, a polyphenol with powerful properties that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Sneak this spice into your diet when you're fighting a cold in the form of tea, juice, or curry.
According to Amanda Sevilla, RD, "Turmeric is one of the strongest antioxidant herbs in the world and has been shown to be very therapeutic for inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. Adding a pinch of black pepper increases its absorption rate substantially."