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Can Certain Foods Cure a Cold?

Flu outbreaks have been severe this year, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting cases in every state and urging residents to take precautions.

Whether it’s the flu or a common cold, many of us are searching for ways to relieve symptoms. Various home remedies have been used for years. Apple cider vinegar, chicken soup, honey and onions are the most common – but do any of these things help?


A persistent report is that onions absorb bacteria and that a sliced onion placed on the countertop will prevent or cure illness. Unfortunately, this is one of those times when if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“Onions do not absorb bacteria. The idea that a vegetable would attract and suck into itself bacteria from the air is not even logical,” says Dr. Ruth MacDonald, a registered dietitian from Iowa State University.

Some Best Food Facts readers, however, report they have used the onion method and it has cured illness. You can follow their comments.

Onions as well as garlic, another popular natural treatment, do have some benefits, Dr. MacDonald said.

“Onions and garlic are slightly acidic, which could have antibacterial effects if you rubbed the juice on things, but these are much less effective than bleach or chemical antibiotics. Eating these vegetables provides antioxidants that can have health benefits, but they are unlikely to prevent or cure disease,” she said.

While not as tasty as an orange or grapefruit, onions are a good source for vitamin C, which boosts the immune system.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Some people claim apple cider vinegar can help fight off colds and sinus infections and detox the body.

Registered dietitian, Connie Diekman says because apple cider vinegar is acidic, the idea that it can neutralize the body’s atmosphere and help prevent bacteria and viruses from thriving isn’t unfounded. But, she points out there is no scientific evidence behind this idea. There is no evidence that it is harmful or helpful.

Using apple cider vinegar as a detox isn’t necessary. Diekman explains that your kidneys and liver remove the toxins from your body and don’t need any additional help.

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is one of the most prescribed home remedies. Dr. Wendy Dahl, from the University of Florida, clarifies that chicken soup does not cure a cold. But you may still want to heat up a cup of this winter-time favorite.

“There is a substance in chicken soup that can aid in alleviating the symptoms of the common cold and influenza. Chicken soup was found to inhibit the movement of neutrophils, a form of white blood cell that initiates the inflammatory response, which reduces upper respiratory cold symptoms,” she says. “This inhibition results in fewer sore throats and lowers the production of phlegm. Also, nasal congestion is eased by the lack of inflammation of the cells in the nasal passageways.”


Trying to use local honey to try and build one’s immunity to allergies also might not be as effective as we would like to think. According to Dr. Steve Taylor, from University of Nebraska, the pollen exposure from honey is not consistent, meaning it would be difficult to verify if local honey did have some immunotherapy capabilities. Honey might have therapeutic potential, but it is not a known preventative.

Grape Juice

It has been suggested that if you’re exposed to the stomach flu virus, drinking grape juice can prevent it from coming on. Drinking 100 percent grape juice does provide phytonutrients, which help keep the body healthy, our experts say. And taking care of the digestive tract with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can is good line of defense in promoting your overall health. Grape juice may be a good choice to keep hydrated, but unfortunately, it cannot ward off the flu virus. You should wash your hands, avoid touching your face and mouth and stay home when you are sick.

While trying these home remedies with onions, apple cider vinegar or chicken soup may not be a quick cure, they will not make a cold worse and may provide some comfort when you’re curled up on the couch fighting a cold or flu.

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