Proven scientific ways to prevent the common cold

Since the common cold and the flu both have similar symptoms, it’s important to know which is which so you can use the most effective remedies when you’re feeling under the weather. Listed below are several science-backed natural remedies that can protect you from the common cold.

Follow a rainbow-colored diet

A diet full of different fruits and vegetables can help you get plenty of beneficial antioxidants. Immune-boosting antioxidants, like bioflavonoids; selenium; vitamins A, C, and D; and zinc can be found in brightly colored and green vegetables, such as:

  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Leafy greens (e.g., collard greens, kale, and spinach)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash

Selenium and zinc can also make your white blood cells more effective at fighting off bacteria and viruses. Ellie Isom, a nutritional therapist, advises that protecting yourself from these invaders can support the normal functioning of your immune system.

In a 2018 review of 83 clinical studies, which was published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, researchers determined that “high intakes of fruits and vegetables lead to both a reduction in pro-inflammatory biomarkers [which can promote illness] and an enhanced immune cell profile.”

Get enough sleep

A good night’s sleep helps your body rest and repair itself.

For a study on sleep patterns, which was published the journal Sleep, scientists studied blood samples from 11 pairs of identical twins with different sleep patterns. The results showed that the twin with shorter sleep duration had a depressed immune system, compared to their sibling.

Isom noted that poor sleep can significantly weaken your immune system. If you have trouble falling asleep, set a regular sleep-wake cycle. Increase your intake of calming nutrients like magnesium and theanine to sleep better every night.

Natural sources of magnesium include beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts, pulses, and seeds. But for therapeutic levels, consider taking supplements. Green tea is the best source of theanine. But if the drink keeps you up at night, take theanine supplements instead.

Take vitamin C

According to a 2017 a report published in the journal Nutrients, vitamin C can prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections by boosting various immune cell functions at levels of 100 to 200 milligrams (mg) per day.


To shorten the duration of colds and the flu, health experts advise supplementing with high doses of vitamin C (such as 8,000 mg daily) the moment you experience symptoms.

Vitamin C-rich foods include:

  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Citrus fruits
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries

Take vitamin D

In 2017 major global study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that boosting your vitamin D intake can help lower healthcare costs by minimizing the risk of colds, the flu, and other dangerous respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.

The study findings showed that taking vitamin D supplements daily or weekly strengthened the immunity of all the participants, especially those who: cover themselves to protect against sun damage or for religious reasons; don’t go outside much; have dark skins that absorb less sunlight; or have vitamin D deficiency.

Isom explained that since immune cell function is closely tied to vitamin D metabolism, vitamin D deficiency could be responsible for increased susceptibility to infection. The vitamin boosts the immune system’s ability to recognize pathogens and trigger a response against them, especially viruses that cause the flu and respiratory tract infections. (Related: Protect yourself from flu season with these natural cold remedies.)

About 4000 IU (International Unit) of vitamin D is the safe upper limit, advised the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Do not take more than that without consulting a medical professional.

Fat-soluble vitamin D can be found in foods like dairy, eggs, and oily fish. Vitamin D-rich foods also include zinc, which you can also get from sources like as beans, nuts, pulses, and seeds.

Wash your hands properly

The Global Handwashing Partnership reports that hand washing can help prevent at least 21 percent of colds and upper respiratory tract infections.

Your hands are full of germs. According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals touch their face, nose, mouth, and eyes without even realizing it. This is bad because this allows germs to enter your body through these areas and make you sick.

Always wash your hands, especially before and after preparing food; before eating; or after going to the toilet.

Avoid the common cold by always washing your hands, exercising regularly, and following a healthy diet.

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