When you’re sick with the flu, the last thing you want to do is plan meals.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best food and drink for the flu. This list is based on how each item can relieve your symptoms and help speed up recovery. Plus, most of them don’t take much time to prepare, so you can get back to resting ASAP.
Even if you don’t feel like eating, it’s important to at least try. In order to get better, you have to eat to maintain your strength and stay hydrated.
And since the cold and flu season is upon us, these food and drink options will work just as well if you’re dealing with a cold, too.
Ready to stock your cupboard with all the flu fighting essentials?
Here’s a list of the best foods and drinks for the flu:
Best Food for the Flu
It may sound quite unappealing to eat while you’re battling the flu. In-between resting and sleeping, though, it’s essential to eat what you can. Choosing the right nutritious foods can speed up healing and help you feel more comfortable sooner. The healthy food options listed below soothe the throat and provide antioxidant-rich benefits to help you heal.
Give these foods a try for tackling the flu:
- Bone broth - If you don’t keep your own on hand, you can easily pick up some pre-made broth at the store. Because bone broth extracts gelatin, it adds an extra level of protein. Plus, it has other minerals like magnesium, which can help you sleep — a must for getting better sooner!
How to use it: Drink it straight or use it as a base for your favorite homemade soups.
- Honey - If your throat is feeling scratchy and irritated, a spoonful of honey makes the sore throat feeling dissipate. Additionally, it can help reduce coughing, too. Research suggests honey is an effective cough suppressant. It’s not safe for children under age one, as it often contains botulinum spores, which can cause illness in infants.
How to use it: Take a spoonful of it anytime your throat hurts. Or, mix it with hot water and some lemon.
- Garlic - It’s antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory! When used either raw or cooked, garlic has been known to provide a variety of health benefits. You may also want to consider adding it to your daily diet as some research shows that regular garlic consumption in adults can reduce the frequency of colds.
How to use it: Consider adding minced garlic to your bone broth or soups.
- Ice pops - When your throat is sore, it’s hard not to feel uncomfortable 24/7. Ice pops can soothe your throat and provide some essential vitamins as well. Buy ice pops with 100% fruit juice so you’ll get actual nutrients and not just sugar water.
How to use it: If you feel up to it, make your own with coconut water and fresh fruit slices.
- Vitamin C-rich foods - You already know oranges are full of vitamin C, but there are a ton of other options if you aren’t an orange lover. Acerola cherry juice, bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, tomato, broccoli, and kale all have high levels of vitamin C.
How to use it: Make a fresh fruit salad or regular greens salad. Too exhausted? Throw some greens and fruits in a blender and soothe your throat with a smoothie.
- Spices - Since ancient times, spices have been used for medicinal purposes. The use of spices in fighting off colds and the flu is no exception. Two spices to consider adding to your diet when you’re sick? Turmeric and ginger. Both roots provide anti-inflammatory properties, which can help minimize swelling and aches.
How to use it: Add these two spices — fresh or dried — to stir-fries or soups. You can even make fresh ginger or turmeric tea, which can help settle your stomach or soothe your throat. Just add boiling water to peeled and sliced pieces of the roots.
- Herbs - If you’re open to trying other natural options, herbs are another alternative. You can find these in capsules and teas most commonly in the vitamins section. Herbs can also be purchased online or in natural food stores. Echinacea — a flowering plant in the daisy family — may reduce cold-like symptoms. Peppermint is also a favorite for its cooling and healing properties and can ease sinus pain and headaches.
How to use it: Echinacea can be easily taken in a capsule or as a tea. Try peppermint steam to reduce congestion. Place your head over a bowl of hot water with a few drops of 100% peppermint oil in it. Drape a towel over your head and inhale the steam.
Best Drinks for the Flu
One of the most important aspects of knocking the flu out is staying hydrated. When you drink enough of the right fluids, it loosens mucus and relieves congestion. It also helps replenish electrolytes that you’ve lost during mucus drainage. Plus, if you’re taking any antihistamines or other over-the-counter flu relief, it can dry you out — so make sure you drink up!
Here’s a look at the best drinks for the flu:
- Plain water - Nothing beats the benefits of drinking plain H20. Keep a big glass or water bottle nearby so you can keep refilling it throughout the day to stay hydrated. You don’t have to go to the store to get this, which makes it one of the best options to start using right away when you get the sniffles.
- Coconut water - If you need a little flavor when hydrating, give coconut water a try. It’s full of electrolytes and glucose — and generally has less sugar than sports drinks — making it a great flavored option to keep you hydrated.
- Warm salt water - Tired of the annoying tickle in your throat from postnasal drip? A warm salt water gargle and rinse may help. In an 8-ounce glass of warm water, mix in ½ teaspoon of salt. Swish and gargle until you empty the glass. Don’t swallow the mixture.
- Ginger tea - Ginger’s compounds are known for keeping germs at bay. Plus, its anti-inflammatory benefits due to a compound known as gingerol can alleviate muscle aches and headaches. Steep fresh ginger (peeled and sliced) in hot water for five minutes. Add some honey or lemon and drink it up!
- Warm water with lemon - If you don’t like ginger, warm water with lemon and honey can be helpful, too. The warm liquids will keep you hydrated and can loosen up mucus to help you feel less congested. Plus, lemon contains vitamin C, which protects the immune system.
- Garlic lemonade - You can try this beverage when you feel a cold coming on quickly. Garlic’s antiviral properties make this the perfect go-to beverage if you want something slightly sweet with a healthy kick of garlic. Check out the recipe below if you’re open to trying it!
Try this recipe from Julie DeMaio, a clinical herbalist at BK Apothecary:
Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic to a quart-sized mason jar. Cover the garlic with freshly boiled water. Let sit for 15 minutes and then add the juice of one organic lemon and raw honey to taste. Drink the mixture hot, up to 4 cups per day.
Food and Drink to Avoid During the Flu
Last but not least, there are definitely foods and drinks that you should avoid when you're sick with the flu. Some are just not great for improving inflammation in general; others may further contribute to your congestion.
When you’re down with the flu, consider skipping these:
- Dairy - While dairy-filled comfort foods may be tempting, it’s best to skip the milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese products. That’s because consuming dairy when congested may lead to phlegm feeling thicker and harder to get out.
- Hard foods - When your throat is sore, the last thing you want to do is add more irritants. Crackers, chips, granola bars, and other scratchy textures can further aggravate your throat and cough. Skip the crunchy, hard foods.
- Alcohol - Drinking wine, beer, liquor, or any other alcoholic beverages leads to dehydration. This can further lead to feeling more “stuffed up” and congested. Plus, if you’re taking any over-the-counter medicines, it’s dangerous to mix the two.
The Best Food and Drink for the Flu Are Ones You Like
All the items on the above “best food and drink for the flu” are simply suggestions.
If you don’t like one food item listed, skip it and try the next one! When you're down with the flu the last thing you want to do is be gagging down your meal. Instead, opt for what you enjoy normally that’s on this list. You may just need to do it in smaller quantities.
A few other flu relief ideas:
- Rest - You need sleep to recover and feel better sooner. Now is not the time to run all your errands or clean your house from top to bottom. Sleep as much as you can. Take time off of work in order to rest fully.
- Run a humidifier - If you’re having a hard time sleeping because you're congested, try using a humidifier next to your bed. It will help alleviate the stuffy feeling.
- Keep the fluids going - All day long you should be drinking water or another hydrating beverage. This will thin the mucus and help you feel less congested overall.
- See the doc - While the flu generally only lasts about a week or so, you may have a dry cough for several weeks after. If you have serious health conditions like heart disease or diabetes, be sure to connect with your doctor sooner. Or, if your symptoms feel were getting better but suddenly worsened, give your physician a call.
- Get a flu shot - Once you’re well again, consider getting your annual flu shot. It's never too late in the season to get one. Getting vaccinated can reduce the severity of your flu symptoms, too, in the event you catch a different strain.
If you’re reading this while you’re sick, from all of us here at TotalWellness, we hope you feel better soon!
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