We all know that what we eat can make a big difference in our health. And when we are sick, the foods we eat can play a role in helping us fight illness. Read on to get recommendations on the foods you should eat when you are battling a cold or stomach bug. You’ll get suggestions on what to eat to help stay healthy, and a delicious chicken soup recipe to make year-round.
While your genes certainly play a big part in determining your general health, what you eat on a daily basis definitely has implications for the long term (conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol all have nutritional ties) as well as the short term (such as your susceptibility to getting a cold or virus). Making the right food choices can help you avoid catching a bug—and help you quickly get back on the mend when you do succumb to a cold or the flu.
As a personal chef and nutritional consultant, I help my clients design meals that are best suited for their health conditions or dietary restrictions. I know that what you eat can make a difference in both keeping you healthy and in helping you fight illness. Below are some of my recommendations on foods to eat and not eat when you are sick.
Foods TO EAT When You Have a Cold or Flu To Get Better, Faster
So, what about the old adage, “Feed a cold, starve a fever”? Turns out it’s wrong—eating, when you’re up to it, helps you heal. Unless you have a stomach bug, it’s good to eat when you have a cold or the flu. And there definitely are some foods that will help you boost your immune system and help keep your energy up. Some of my suggestions of what to eat when you are fighting a cold or flu include:
Chicken soup: It’s an ancient remedy that has been used for centuries to help treat colds and influenza. Yes, chicken soup (or broth) is full of iron, protein, and other nutrients—and the hot liquid can be soothing. Chicken soup is also a source of electrolytes and helps to replenish fluids, which you need if you have a fever. Go for low-sodium varieties, though. Or better yet, make your own using our house recipe below.
Lean protein: Protein helps to keep you strong. Getting enough protein is especially important to maintain your strength when your body is fighting a virus. Good sources of lean protein include chicken, fish, lean meats, eggs, and legumes. Not only will you get protein, but these foods provide other important nutrients like Vitamin B6 and B12 which help to strengthen your immune system.
Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables: Foods such as spinach, kale, and broccoli contain powerful antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and help your immune system fight the virus that is making you sick. Plus, these veggies are loaded with fiber, calcium, and vitamins which can help you feel better.
Fruit: Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits contain flavonols which can help boost the immune system. Another fruit option is berries which contain anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and immune-boosting.
Oatmeal or whole grains: Oatmeal is bland and can be easily tolerated if you are feeling a little queasy or not sure what to eat. Oatmeal provides some protein and fiber and can be helpful in strengthening your immune system.
Foods to AVOID When You’re Sick
Greasy or spicy foods: It’s best to avoid greasy, heavy foods, especially when you have gastrointestinal symptoms.
Sugary juices/sports drinks: These are low in nutritional value, high in sugar, and can cause inflammation.
Dairy: Dairy can increase mucus, so it’s best avoided if you have a cold or are congested.
If You Have a Stomach Bug:
Avoid most fruit and vegetables: If you have any stomach queasiness, you should avoid most fruits and vegetables, at least until your stomach is steadier, which is usually after the first couple of days when it comes to the flu. Bananas and boiled veggies such as carrots should be fine.
Stick with a BRAT diet: Stick with simple foods. The BRAT diet really can help: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast.
Remember To Stay Hydrated
Most everyone knows the importance of hydration, especially when you’re sick. Why is that? Well, a fever draws out your body’s moisture, and mucus production drains fluid as well. Top that off with taking antihistamine medication and you’ll get even more dried out.
Drinking plenty of water is your best avenue. That way, you’ll avoid ingesting too much sugar and sodium, while the increased fluid intake loosens up mucus. And avoid alcohol and caffeine while you’re not well. Not only can those beverages dehydrate, but they also can make it difficult to get the extra sleep you’ll need.
What To Eat To Avoid Getting Sick
Of course, what you eat can affect your susceptibility to catching a cold or coming down with the flu. If you’d like to strengthen your immune system and get sick less often, make sure you incorporate the following immune system boosters into your daily diet:
- Ginger – anti-inflammatory
- Extra-virgin olive oil – anti-inflammatory
- Whole grains – anti-inflammatory
- Green tea – anti-inflammatory, antioxidant
- Blueberries – antioxidant
- Dark chocolate – antioxidant
- Apples (of course!) – antioxidant
- Oranges – vitamin C
- Tomatoes – vitamin C
- Spinach – vitamin C
- Eggs – vitamin D
- Greek yogurt – probiotic
- Salmon – zinc
The Pickled Beet’s Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
2 large chicken breasts, whole bone-in, skin on
salt to taste
black or dried red pepper to taste
64 ounces chicken stock
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 cups noodles of your choice
1/4 cup Italian parsley, minced
Preheat the oven to 375. Place the chicken breast on a sheet pan. Lift the skin up and rub the breast with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Roast for 30-50 minutes, until the breast registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Place the chicken in an open container in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool it off.
When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred or dice the chicken meat.
Saute the veggies until softened, seasoning them with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer and add the noodles.
Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. until the noodles are cooked. Add the cooked chicken meat and parsley and heat through.
Season to taste and serve.
Really want to eat healthier but need some help? If you are in the Miami area, The Pickled Beet can help; we provide delicious, healthy meals that are tasty, nutritious, and help fuel your body, regardless of your dietary restrictions. Contact us for a free consultation, 305-388-3536.
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