When sick or battling a cold, everyone’s different with what they avoid eating when they’re sick. But the body needs more calories to function normally. The body must work harder than normal when we are sick in order to fight infection, especially with fevers when it’s battling higher body temperatures, too. To do this effectively, it needs to maintain higher energy levels, which can be tough when it’s already working so hard. This is why properly fueling a sick body is an essential part of getting better.
It’s important to stick to regular eating schedules when sick because consuming fewer calories than normal can restrict the body’s ability to heal. In fact, studies suggest reducing calorie intake when sick not only increases susceptibility to the flu, but also worsens symptoms and lengthens the duration of illness.
While a nasty cold or bad case of the flu might ruin your appetite, it’s important to stay well nourished and hydrated. Eating smaller portions of food more frequently, and listening to your body to determine when you’re actually hungry, makes it easier to steadily fuel ourselves through the recovery process. The best foods to eat will keep us hydrated and give our bodies extra energy and nutrients to stay strong without aggravating upset tummies or clogged-up respiratory systems.
Here are the best foods to eat when sick
Chicken soup has been a longtime remedy for any sickness and for good reason. Broth, slow-cooked bone broth in particular, is very dense in nutrients, including magnesium, phosphorus, and other difficult to obtain trace minerals. Your body will have a harder time fighting off illness if it is suffering a deficiency, and drinking warm broth is comforting for the soul.
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.
Honey is sometimes thought to be as effective (or more) in suppressing coughs as over-the-counter meds. A 2010 study found that children with upper respiratory infections experienced greater relief from a 2.5 ml serving of honey before bed than from over-the-counter cough suppressants. If you have some spare change, try New Zealand’s own manuka honey, which is touted as being one of the most medicinal honeys in the world.
It’s a myth that vitamin C can cure the common cold, and there isn’t actually much scientific evidence behind the theory that it’ll reduce the length or severity of colds, either. However, while citrus fruits might not be a cure-all, the soft white layer of skin found on oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes does contain flavonoids, which can help boost the immune system and are great for speeding recovery.
Apple cider vinegar
Does ACV have no end to its glory? It is a potent anti-viral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. It also helps to reduce acidity in the body by acting as an alkalizing agent. A tonic consisting of a tablespoon or two of raw ACV, raw honey, and lots of water could have you feeling a little bit less foggy in no time.
If you just have a head cold, eating something spicy might be the way to clear out your sinuses. When consuming spicy foods, your body will naturally loosen the mucus and phlegm that is clogging your body, and you might be able to breathe a little better. Spicy foods include chili pepper, horseradish, and wasabi. Take note: if you have a stomach illness, spicy foods may only aggravate your symptoms.
As an antimicrobial and antibiotic, garlic is known to boost immunity. It also increases enzymes that help to detoxify the blood. Studies have shown that garlic can not only help ward off colds but also reduce the duration and severity of illness. Load up a homemade bone broth and sip throughout the day.
A 2009 study showed that elderberry extracts were able to block the H1N1 virus’s ability to infect host cells. That means it is a potent anti-viral. Okay, so maybe you don’t have an elderberry tonic stored in the back of your fridge, but if you find it or decide to make some, know that elderberries are great virus-fighters. Some even claim it can reduce the duration of colds and upper-respiratory infections.
This well-documented root helps with nausea. But, instead of reaching for a regular ginger ale loaded with high fructose corn syrup, try a natural ginger beer or ginger tea. These will have a higher potency of ginger and won’t cause further inflammation caused by unwelcome sugars.
Aside from their high vitamin content and energizing sugars, bananas are quite gentle on the stomach. If you’re suffering from a digestive-related illness, know bananas are a safe bet along with rice, applesauce, and toast.
Anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory, oil of oregano is extremely powerful and has been shown to fight viruses. It inhibits the growth of unwelcome pathogens, and has myriad other health uses to warrant it a spot in your medicine cabinet. Add a few drops to water or cook with the whole herb. Just exercise caution, as it is very potent.
Crackers and Toast
Plain, unsalted, or lightly-salted crackers and toast are simple, bland foods that are easy on the stomach. These high-starch foods won’t aggravate the stomach and can help stabilize digestion (which is especially helpful after vomiting).
Staying properly hydrated while sick with a chest cold can keep mucus thin and help lessen congestion. While it’s generally better to eat fruit rather than drink it, popsicles are great as a different way to hydrate and are especially easy on the throat. Bonus points if they’re 100 percent fruit juice, or made from whole fruit!