Debunking the Myth of Drinking OJ to Kick a Cold

Recently a friend of mine dropped off a big old bag of oranges for my family from a farmer’s market. They are fresh and delicious! I can’t help but think about how it would have been so handy to have all these oranges on hand when we were all sick a couple weeks ago! Which leads me to want to talk about debunking the old myth that a glass of orange juice will help your cold because of “all of the vitamin C”. I know it’s not really the cold and flu season anymore, but I know at least one or more people in my family tend to get a cold in the summertime, and I really just wanted to talk about this anyway because I think it’s really important.

Since I have been married, every time I am sick, my husband is always so sweet and nurses me back to health. First thing he always does is run off to the drugstore to grab a fresh bottle of cold medicine and a big old jug of orange juice. This is what his mom always did for him and it’s what a lot of us do. We’ve always heard that drinking orange juice will make you get better faster because of all the vitamin C. Unfortunately, my dear sweet husband (and mother-in-law) are wrong.

If you reach for your run-of-the-mill orange juice when you get a cold, you’d be better off without. Orange juices are loaded with extra sugar and that sugar can reduce the ability of white blood cells to fight illness. Any benefits you might get from the vitamin c are nullified by the sugar inside.

But here’s why you could grab a whole orange instead. While vitamin C, found in large amounts in citrus, can't necessarily cure the common cold, there are several studies that suggest that it can help reduce the length or severity of colds. Also, fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes contain flavonoids, which can help boost the immune system and are great for speeding recovery.

Here are a few other great things to incorporate into your diet when you are feeling under the weather to kick that cold to the curb faster.

Broth-Based Soup

It’s not just an old wives’ tale — chicken noodle soup can actually help soothe a cold: The chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, which helps thin mucus in the lungs, and the hot broth helps to keep nasal passages moist, prevent dehydration and fight inflammation in the throat.

Hot Tea
Warm liquids can soothe a sore throat and alleviate congestion, so drinks like freshly-brewed green tea — which is rich in infection-fighting antioxidants and supports the immune system — or hot water with lemon are ideal for staying hydrated while helping out that stuffy nose.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can make our noses run and our eyes water, but they’re also effective natural decongestants. Eating chili peppers, wasabi or horseradish can help relieve the symptoms of congestion.


Research has shown that ginger is incredibly effective at preventing and soothing nausea and other gastric ailments (such as constipation, bloating and vomiting). Drinking ginger tea or flat ginger ale (to avoid disrupting the stomach with carbonation) can help keep you hydrated while also soothing tummy troubles.

Foods to Avoid

Since the body’s more vulnerable during illness, it’s best to avoid any foods that put the body under excess stress. Certain foods can make the unpleasant experience of being sick even worse. Here is a big one to definitely steer clear of: anything high in sugar and fat. High sugar intake can suppress the immune system and cause inflammation. Foods high in fat, on the other hand, can be more difficult to digest compared to carbs and protein, and can trigger stomach pains as a result.

This is definitely a lot harder than it sounds. When I’m not feeling well, I might not exactly be up for eating a big old bowl of soup—let alone a bowl of spicy soup, but I’ll tell you what always does sound good: a chocolate chip cookie. I tend to eat more sugar and fatty things when I’m feeling lousy because they sound more appealing to eat, but it is important to try and avoid this trap. That chocolate chip cookie isn’t doing any favors in more ways than one! ;)

I hope that your family won’t get a case of somebody catching a cold in the summer, but if they do I hope you’re able to get rid of it faster by following these tips. Do you have any remedies or ideas for things to try when you get a cold? Please share your wisdom in the comments below!


    Mary Richardson
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
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