The Best Foods To Eat When You’re Sick

One of the best ways to combat a cold is by eating healthy. While food may not replace antibiotics, eating the right foods can assist your body in fighting off infections. By getting your daily dose of the right vitamins and minerals, you’ll be able to strengthen your immune system. Some foods contain anti-inflammatory properties, which can act as a natural remedy to aches and soreness while you’re sick. Others can help to give you more energy to combat drowsiness. Luckily, the list of foods that will help you when you’re sick includes much more than chicken noodle soup or hot tea (although those are good choices too!).

Water, Water, All The Time!

a woman drinking bottled water.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to stay hydrated when you’re sick. You may get so wrapped up in finding natural remedies that you forget the most important ingredient: water.

Especially if you’re vomiting or facing an ugly bout of diarrhea, it’s easy for your body to become dehydrated while sick. Not only will dehydration make you feel significantly more uncomfortable, but it makes it harder on your body to fight off illness. Not to mention, severe dehydration is potentially life-threatening. If you feel too nauseous to drink water, sparkling water or seltzer is a great alternative.

Oatmeal Is Good For An Upset Stomach

a large bowl of oatmeal with raisins and pecans
Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Oatmeal helps relieve a number of ailments that are caused by illness. It contains a fiber called beta-glucan, which research suggests can reduce bloating, diarrhea, and upset stomach. It has anti-inflammatory properties which means it can reduce stomach cramps, as well.

If you’re suffering from loss of appetite, oatmeal is one of the best things you can eat. It’s packed with wholesome carbohydrates and nutrients, so eating just a little bit helps to nourish your body and keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. However, many instant oatmeal products at the store contain too much added sugar. Try buying whole oats and making your own.

Garlic Can Stimulate The Immune System

Garlic products
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JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

Garlic isn’t just a tasty flavoring that makes everything more delicious. WebMD calls the kitchen staple “an immunity-boosting superstar,” which means it’s perfect to eat when you’re under the weather.

Just one clove of garlic contains five mgs of calcium and 12 mgs of potassium, in addition to 100+ sulfuric compounds that can help to eliminate infection and bacteria. Researchers have also found that garlic may lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Plain White Rice Is A Safe Choice If You’re Nauseous

Raw white basmati rice
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

This option is ideal for those who are nauseous and vomiting. If all else fails and you just can’t seem to keep food down, plain white rice is your best bet. Rice is gentle on the stomach, yet it provides enough carbohydrates to keep blood sugar at pay and ward off hunger.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, plain white rice may help with that too. It contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which causes drowsiness and promotes a higher quality of sleep. Since resting when you’re sick helps your body fight off illness faster, this is a great reason to eat white rice.

Lentils Can Help Boost Your Energy

lentil seeds in hands
Getty
Getty

Lentils are a type of legume that you can incorporate into your diet in many forms. The best way to eat legumes while sick is to make a lentil and vegetable soup.

Lentils are high in carbohydrates and protein, which means a little bit goes a long way. The nutritious and tasty food boosts energy and aids in digestion, which helps you feel less woozy when you’re sick. Lentils are high in both iron and folate, which decrease drowsy and dizzy feelings that illness may cause. Folate also helps the body break down and use vitamin C, strengthening your immune system.

Pumpkin Seeds Can Reduce The Time You’re Sick

Seeds Of Pumpkin.
Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Pumpkin seeds are considered to be a type of super food. They are rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and many other nutrients. Pumpkin seeds are most known for how heart-healthy they are, because they reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

However, promoting heart health is not the only thing pumpkin seeds are good for. They can also help you feel much better when you’re sick and reduce the duration of a virus because they contain high amounts of zinc. Research suggests that zinc prevents rhinovirus from multiplying. Since rhinovirus affects the throat and sinuses, eating pumpkin seeds may reduce sore throat and sinus problems.

Bananas Help Restore Nutrients

A woman with a banana
JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images
JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone knows bananas are rich in potassium, and that’s one of the reasons they’re great to eat if you’re vomiting. When you’re continuously throwing up, you lose essential nutrients like potassium. Bananas help to restore these while increasing cardiovascular health and preserving bone mineral density.

Bananas are also generally easy on the stomach. Their potassium content also helps to increase mucus in the lining of the stomach, which subsequently decreases nausea and stomach irritation. For best results, eat bananas that are very ripe. This way, they have the most nutritional value and are least likely to irritate the stomach.

Clear Congestion With Curry

Crab curry, lemongrass chicken and seafood cakes in crab shells are served
David Silverman/Getty Images
David Silverman/Getty Images

Curry is a broad term that generally refers to Indian dishes made with rich spices. If you’re a curry-lover, you’ve probably noticed that eating curry helps to clear your sinuses, which means it’s great at providing relief for those who have nasal congestion.

If you can, try to pick a curry that has a coconut milk base. Not only is coconut milk antiviral and antibacterial, but it’s also much easier on the stomach than dairy milk. Curry is typically served with a starchy base like white rice, which can also help to soothe an upset stomach. Add potato for enhanced results.

Herbal Tea

Woman Drinking In Terrace.
marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Herbal tea is known for its health benefits and tasty flavor. Drinking herbal tea hot and unsweetened works wonders for relieving cold symptoms. Not only does it have nutrients that aid the immune system, but it can also help reduce various cold and flu symptoms.

The aromatic herbs combined with the steam that hot tea produces are soothing to the throat. This is especially true if you drink honey-infused tea. These components can also help to clear sinus congestion. If you’re having stomach problems, finding tea infused with ginger is especially beneficial.

Chicken Noodle Soup Has Helped Treat Colds For Centuries

eating Chicken noodle soup in bed
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Pinterest/GalaPush

This isn’t just something your grandmother used to tell you — chicken soup really is great for you when you’re sick! Studies have proven that eating a bowl the delicious and comforting soup could help clear your nasal congestion and also provide an anti-inflammatory effect that can help ease the symptoms of a cold.

The ingredients that go into chicken noodle soup each add another benefit. The carrots, onion, and celery contain vitamins and antioxidants that can boost your immune system. The chicken provides protein, and the carbs in the noodles will help you feel full.

Leafy Greens Are Packed With Vitamins

A bunch of leafy greens at the Farmers Market
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Getting plenty of vitamins and minerals is essential when you’re sick, but this can be tricky if you’re not able to eat much. Turn to leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and romaine lettuce for those nutrients you need.

They can be blended into a nutritious smoothie that’s packed full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Keep in mind that darker greens have a higher nutrient content than the lighter varieties.

Honey Has Antibacterial Effects

Glass cup of hot herbal tea with dry roses buds, served with glass jar of honey and honey dipper
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Consuming honey when sick is a good idea, especially if you have a sore throat that was caused by a bacterial infection. It soothes raw-feeling throats and has even been shown to help suppress coughing,

Additionally, honey has antibacterial effects and can even help stimulate the immune system, which is just what a sick body needs. You can drink it mixed into tea or warm lemon water, or simply drink it by the spoonful.

Ginger Is Great For Its Anti-Nausea Effects

A young woman sits at a table warming her hands with a cup of ginger tea
Christina Sabrowsky/picture alliance via Getty Images
Christina Sabrowsky/picture alliance via Getty Images

The spice ginger comes from the roots of the plant, which is native to warmer parts of Asia but grown across the globe now. This amazing root contains chemicals that some people believe reduce nausea and inflammation.

In fact, ginger is thought to sooth a whole host of stomach problems which include gas, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, morning sickness, motion sickness, colic, upset stomach, and loss of appetite. One of the best ways to ingest the root when you’re sick is by drinking ginger tea with lemon and honey.

Coconut Water Replaces Electrolytes

drinking water from a coconut
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Pinterest/connie2835

You already know how important it is to stay hydrated when you’re battling a cold or other illness, but did you know that coconut water is an excellent source of electrolytes? Jean-Jacques Dugoua, a naturopathic doctor, explained this to Reader’s Digest. “Hydrating is important when you have a cold and are losing fluids, especially when you have a fever,” he said.

“Coconut water is a good source of electrolytes,” said Dr. Dugoua. He also recommends salt and bananas to help replenish electrolytes.

Salmon Is Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Chef David Pasternak prepares a salmon and fig dish
Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Oily fish such as salmon (and also including tuna and mackerel) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to help reduce harmful inflammation. Untreated, inflammation can prevent your immune system from functioning at its peak which opens the door for colds and other illnesses.

If you don’t like seafood, you can get similar results from fish oil supplements, including those heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats that keep your immune system working properly.

Avocado Provides Healthy Fats

Avocado toast is served
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for CBD For Life
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for CBD For Life

If you’re already eating avocado toast regularly, keep doing it when you’re sick! Raw avocado is potassium-rich and also contains lots of vitamin E, which helps protect against many illnesses and diseases and maintains overall health.

If that’s not enough to convince you, avocados also contain lots of glutathione. This is a key antioxidant that improves the body’s ability to absorb nutrients – very important when you’re in a weakened state. And yet another bonus: avocados also provide healthy fats.

Get Much-Needed Vitamin C From Citrus

Quarter cut and unpeeled pieces of orange fruit arranged on a round blue plate
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Many citrus fruits, such as grapefruits, lemons, and oranges, contain high levels of vitamin C and flavonoids. In some studies, vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration of cold symptoms.

Vitamin C offers additional benefits beyond helping to boost the immune system. It’s also been shown to play a role in preventing cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, and eye disease. It’s even used topically to slow skin from wrinkling.

Yogurt Contains Beneficial Probiotics

Jars of natural white yogurt with berry sauce, fruit salad with pink dragon fruit, berries and mint
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although some people swear off dairy when they’re sick, claiming that it increases mucus production, others head straight for the yogurt aisle when they’re ailing. You probably know by now how dairy affects you, so steer clear of this food if you have an intolerance for it.

Yogurt that contains live cultures can help boost your immune system, and it’s also full of calcium and rich in other vitamins and minerals. Just be careful to choose yogurt that doesn’t have any added sugars.

Fruits With Flavonoids Are Great When You’re Sick

loseup of ripe red cherries on the plant surrounded by its green leaves.
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Flavonoids are a diverse group of plant chemicals that include about 4,000 compounds. They’re found in just about every fruit and vegetable and are responsible for their colors. Some of the best sources of flavonoids include citrus, fruit juice, tea, berries, apples, and legumes.

Research has found that flavonoids are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. In addition, they are associated with skin protection, brain function, blood sugar, and blood pressure regulation.

Broth Is An Excellent Source Of Hydration

drinking broth
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Pinterest/princessbutterc

As you know, being sick commonly leads to dehydration. To get better, you need to replace the fluid that you’ve lost through vomiting or diarrhea. One of the best foods to help combat dehydration is broth, which is simply seasoned water. The heat from broth will loosen up chest congestion and keep your nasal cavity moist.

As an added bonus, you can add vitamins to broth simply by including some of your favorite veggies. Bone broth has made headlines in recent years, with its proponents citing a slew of health benefits like boosting immune function — perfect for sick days.