The Best and Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

Even when you’ve done your best to fight off the winter blues and miserable flus, it’s likely everyone will get at least a mild sniffle at some point this winter. And even though being stuck at home with a fever does warm up our bodies—which may sound nice when the temperature outside is below zero—it’s not exactly enjoyable. With flu season approaching, it’s time to stock up on food and drinks that’ll get you back to tip-top shape in no time.

The Need-to-Know

You know that old wives’ tale: “Starve a fever, feed a cold”? Not true! The reality: When we’re sick, the body needs more calories to function normally. “In fact, for every degree your body temperature is elevated, your metabolic rate is stimulated (or elevated) by seven percent,” explains Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., RD, director of nutrition research at Miami Research Associates. “So one of the worst things to do if you have a fever is not eating, as your body needs the fuel to support the immune system.”

Additionally, 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).

Next time you’re feeling under the weather, be sure to get plenty of rest and lots of fluids and try incorporating some of these foods into your diet to experience a quicker—or at least more comfortable—recovery.

Best Foods for Cold-Like Symptoms

The best way to kick a cold is to drink plenty of fluids and eat phlegm-fighting foods. Here are some of the best ones to pick.

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Broth-Based Soup

Now this one isn’t just an old wives’ tale—chicken noodle soupactually can help soothe a cold. The chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, which helps thin mucus in the lungs, and the hot broth helps to keep nasal passages moist, prevent dehydration, and fight inflammation in the throat. Plus, chicken soup (or vegetable broth) may also help the body kick a cold by stopping congestion and inflammation in their tracks.

Hot Tea

Drinking tea (especially Chinese, Japanese, or American varieties) while you’re under the weather can help the body fight off infections, thanks to natural bacteria-fighting compounds in tea. Plus, warm liquids can soothe a sore throat and alleviate congestion, so drinks like freshly-brewed green tea or hot water with lemon are ideal for staying hydrated while helping out that stuffy nose.

Citrus Fruits

While vitamin C, found in large amounts in citrus, can’t necessarilycure the common cold, several studies suggest that it can help reduce the length or severity of colds. What’s more, fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes contain flavonoids, which can help boost the immune system and are great for speeding recovery.

Popsicles

Staying properly hydrated while sick with a chest cold can keep mucus thin and help lessen congestion. While it’s generally better to eat whole fruit rather than drink it, popsicles are great as a different way to hydrate and are especially easy on the throat. Buy ones made from 100-percent whole fruit, and bonus points if you make your own healthy popsicle.

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