Colds and the flu are upper respiratory infections that affect the nose, ears and throat. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), the common cold is the most prevalent upper respiratory tract infection. The flu, or influenza, affects millions of people annually. Common symptoms of the flu include aches, fatigue and high fever. Healthy dietary habits may help reduce and prevent symptoms of colds and the flu

Chicken Soup
Warm fluids can help reduce congestion and inflammation. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, chicken soup—a food touted as a folk remedy for colds and flu—does actually help. Broth-based chicken soup provides water, which can help lubricate mucous membrane, and the warmth and steam may help relieve body aches and nasal congestion. Choose a broth-based, white meat chicken soup that incorporates vegetables for best nutritional benefits. Avoid creamy soups, as they provide less hydration and often contain saturated fat. Homemade or naturally-prepared soups are preferred over canned soups, as canned foods often contain additives and/or trans fats, which elevate the risk for heart disease and other conditions.

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin the body must acquire from food. According to natural health expert, Dr. Andrew Weil, vitamin C intake can reduce severity and duration of the common cold. Since vitamin C is an antioxidant, consumption of the nutrient promotes a strong immune system that is better able to combat infections and disease. Incorporate a variety of vitamin C-rich foods into your diet regularly to prevent colds and while cold or flu symptoms are present as a means of reducing them. Valuable sources of vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, bell peppers, kiwi, sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, papaya, broccoli, strawberries and citrus juices.
Spicy Foods
Spicy foods may help reduce congestion associated with the common cold or influenza (UMMC). If you have an appetite for them once cold or flu symptoms have set in, incorporate spicy foods such as hot peppers, hot mustard, miso, horse radish and Indian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or Mexican dishes into your diet. Indian food also contains curcumin, a natural herb that, like ginger, has anti-inflammatory properties, according to Weil. Curcumin is found in mustard, and ginger is a popular ingredient in Asian cooking. If your appetite is dampened by cold or flu, eat smaller, simple meals or snacks that are spicy. Try miso soup or toast topped with spicy mustard as a means of relieving congestion.