According to health expert Dr. James Thompson, one of the most important things to do during a cold is to replenish fluids lost from sweat, urine, and decreased food intake. While there is no definitive evidence showing that soup or juice fluids help get rid of a cold, it is well known that when you have one, you can lose a lot of fluids and are more likely to become dehydrated. But with aisles and aisles of fruit juices and sports drinks that promise hydration, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s best.
Here, according to Dr. Thompson, is a ranking of the best to worst fluids for fighting colds:
Water: There’s no better substitute for fluid loss than replenishing your body with water. Since 70 percent of our body is made from water, a lot of which gets lost during a cold, it’s important to keep water handy. Dr. Thompson notes, however, that people can overdo it. It’s best not to drink copious amounts of water, as you can dilute some of the essential salts and nutrients in your body, causing other problems. Also when we sweat or urinate, proteins and electrolytes like sodium and potassium can get lost as well. Water alone cannot replace those. So it’s best to** make water the top drink of choice, then rotate with others listed below
*** ** Orange juice:** Fluids other than water, such as orange or fruit juices, are beneficial mostly because they help replace fluids that may be lost while you’re sick. Orange juice also provides vitamin C that, while it hasn’t been shown to be a miracle treatment, has been shown to help as an antioxidant. When buying juices, read the labels closely. Many have** added sugars or colorings, which have little or no nutritional value**. Instead, juice your own fruits at home, go to a juicer bar, or look for all natural squeezed juices.
Soups or veggie broths: Soups are rightfully one of the top fluid choices when someone is sick. Not only do they taste good and provide hydration, but they also offer meat or veggie proteins and minerals that you may be in need of as your appetite decreases. It’s true that some canned soups have high sodium levels, but Dr. Thompson points out that sodium tends to follow water. When you lose a lot of water from coughing, sneezing and sweating, a lot of essential sodium can be lost as well. Those who would benefit most from sticking to low-sodium soups are people with conditions such as high blood pressure.
Tea: Naturally decaffeinated or herbal teas are best when you have a cold. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and can further dehydrate you if you drink teas or other sodas that contain it. Teas and fluids like water with honey and lemon, work to open and calm the sinuses, and can act as a decongestant by loosening mucous.
Sports drinks: Sports drinks, like juices, are a mixed bag when it comes to proper hydration and** should be chosen carefully**. Classic sports drinks such as Gatorade contain both water and electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which are lost as fluid leaves our body. But sports drinks usually have less natural sugars and may be less healthy than the fluids mentioned above. Still, if the taste of sports drinks encourage people to drink a lot of liquids when they have a cold, that’s not such a bad thing, Dr. Thompson noted.
Milk: Some people believe that drinking milk increases the amount of mucous or phlegm. But really, milk just may act as a thickening agent to mucous that is already being produced by your cold. Although it’s at the bottom of the list, milk can be is beneficial in three ways: It increases fluid intake, adds caloric value and protein in those that may have a decreased appetite, and frozen dairy products can soothe the throat during respiratory infections.
One other thing to remember about fighting colds: Getting adequate rest is very important. When you’re sick, your immune system needs to be able to work effectively to drive out germs and infections. And getting a lot of rest is key to helping your immune system do its job.
Remember that reducing cold symptoms cannot be accomplished by just one product or step. It takes a lot of healthy choices working together to strengthen your immune system and fight off a cold. Rotating between a few of these fluids can work best to keep you hydrated. Paired with adequate rest, a good diet, and some time, you’ll soon be back to feeling good as new.
Kristina Brooks is a gluten-free digital editor at HealthCentral, with a background in animal biology, ecology, and health science. While studying broadcast journalism, she discovered the great need for health reporters that could translate research to the public. In her work, she hopes to use research to help consumers make smart decisions about their healthcare, and empower patients to stay confident and in charge of their chronic conditions. Kristina works on the HealthySelf newsletter, as well as HealthCentral’s MythWeek.