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What To Eat When You Have The Flu

Understanding The Flu

Most people will develop the flu at some point or another during their lives, and if you have experienced the illness, you know just how miserable it feels.

While the flu is a virus that needs to run its course before you recover, there are home remedies that can help you feel better and minimize your symptoms, including eating certain types of foods and avoiding others.

If you’re wondering what to eat when you have the flu, we’ve put together a complete list of what to eat and what to avoid in order to help you feel better faster.

What Is the Flu?

Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a contagious disease spread by the influenza viruses, which are part of a family of viruses called orthomyxoviridae. The flu can affect many parts of the body, including the nose, throat, lungs, head, and muscles.

The most common strain of the flu varies from year to year and the virus spreads most commonly during the colder months of the year, typically fall to early spring.

Everyone experiences the flu differently and the severity of a person’s symptoms can range from mild to severe. In some cases, the flu can even be life-threatening, particularly for immunocompromised people.

What Are the Symptoms of the Flu?

Each person may experience the flu differently, so symptoms may not look the same from person to person. Symptoms of the flu can range from mild to severe, and while some symptoms may mimic those of the common cold or other respiratory viruses, the flu is a different illness that can be life-threatening.

Symptoms commonly associated with the flu include:

  • Cough
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever, feeling feverish, or chills
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue

Unlike a cold, which may cause symptoms to develop over the course of several days, the flu typically comes on suddenly. People may feel within a day of being exposed and infected with the flu.

It should be noted that not everyone who develops the flu will have a fever, although fever is very common. The presence of fever and/or muscle and body aches are two ways to differentiate between the symptoms of the flu and the common cold.

Additionally, while vomiting and diarrhea may be present in some adults, these symptoms are more common in children.

What Foods Should You Eat With the Flu?

Eating the right foods when you’re sick can help give your body the energy, vitamins, and minerals it needs to help you feel better faster. There are certain foods that may be particularly beneficial when fighting the flu.


Broth of any kind, including chicken, vegetable, or beef broth, is an excellent choice to eat when you’re sick, as it is easy on the stomach and can replenish electrolytes. Broth helps to hydrate the body while also providing some calories and nutrients to help your body heal. Additionally, warm liquids like broth can help to reduce congestion and soothe a sore or irritated throat. Add some rice to a broth of your choice for a more complete meal.

Garlic and Ginger

Garlic is a common ingredient in traditional and alternative medicinal practices due to its purported abilities to boost immunity and minimize the severity of symptoms. Whether you sprinkle some garlic onto your food, take garlic supplements or a homeopathic remedy that contains the ingredient, or choose to eat raw garlic, this remedy is most effective when consumed at the first signs of flu symptoms.

Ginger can help soothe any nausea you are experiencing, and may be easily consumed in teas.

Fruits and Vegetables Containing Vitamin C

Consuming extra vitamin C is one of the most well-known ways to naturally boost your immune system. When you’re fighting the flu, your immune system needs all the help it can get, so eating fruits and vegetables that are naturally high in vitamin C can give your body a boost.

Choose fruits like strawberries and citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, or grapefruits, along with vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bell peppers for a natural dose of vitamin C and other nutrients that may help fight infections and even lead to fewer colds in the future.

Fruit and Vegetable Juices

If the idea of chowing down on raw fruits and vegetables when you’re sick is entirely unappetizing, you can still get a boost from vitamin C from juices. Although consuming whole fruits and vegetables is always preferred, natural fruit and vegetable juices typically contain many of the same nutrients. Make sure to choose juices that are 100 percent natural and don’t contain added sugars, as the sugar may actually increase inflammation in the body, potentially delaying your recovery.

Chicken Soup

We’ve already discussed the benefits of broth on its own, but eating chicken soup is an even better option when it comes to fighting the flu. The chicken in the soup contains nutrients like iron and also offers protein as an energy source, providing your body with the fuel you need to help fight the illness. The vegetables in the soup, including carrots and celery, offer additional nutrients and fiber.

While it’s best to avoid soups that are high in sodium in order to minimize dehydrating effects, chicken soup in general is also effective at combating dehydration.


Yogurt offers a cooling effect that helps to soothe a sore throat when you’re sick, but choosing a yogurt with live cultures can also yield other benefits, especially for gut health. Live cultures, or probiotics, are beneficial types of bacteria that are naturally found in yogurt and can help support your immune system naturally by boosting your healthy bacteria.

Steer clear of yogurts that contain added sugars and try to choose whole yogurts that are labeled as containing live culture in order to receive maximum benefits against the flu virus.

Leafy Greens

Leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and collard greens are naturally high in nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin C, which are known to support a healthy immune system. However, these vegetables also contain vitamin E, which is another antioxidant that can help support your immune system while you fight the flu.

If the idea of chowing down on a plate of vegetables doesn’t sound appealing at the height of your illness, consider blending them into a fruit smoothie. The natural sugars of the fruit help mask the taste of the vegetables for a sweet, soothing treat.

Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as a warm bowl of oatmeal or slices of whole-grain bread or toast, offer a nutritious choice that can help support your recovery from the flu. Whole grains naturally contain antioxidants like vitamin E and polyphenol, and they can also be soothing for a sore throat when consumed in the form of oatmeal.

Top your toast with some banana and honey for even more benefits, or consume it as a side dish with some soup.

Natural Popsicles

Although many people who are sick find warm liquids to be more soothing than cold liquids, popsicles may provide soothing effects while helping you stay hydrated. The cold liquid from popsicles can help to reduce inflammation in your throat, lower your body temperature if you are struggling with a fever and sweat, and offer important liquids in a way that is more appetizing than water or juice, particularly for young children.

Make sure to choose popsicles that do not contain extra added sugars, which may contribute to increased inflammation.

What Foods Should You Avoid With the Flu?

While eating the right foods when you have the flu can help you to feel better, consuming the wrong foods and beverages may prolong your illness and cause you to feel worse.


Alcohol is a depressant that can cause dehydration. It may cause the immune system to weaken or work ineffectively, which may prolong the amount of time you experience symptoms of the flu.

Dairy Products

One common old wives tale around consuming dairy products when you have the flu suggests that dairy can cause the body to secrete more mucus. Thicker, drier mucus is harder for the body to cough up, which compounds congestion.

While there is noclinical evidence to suggest that dairy products actually thicken mucus, the combination of milk and saliva in the mouth and throat can create a thick substance that makes you feel more congested. Dairy products may also cause existing mucus to be thicker.

As a result, you may prefer to steer clear of dairy if you’re already struggling with mucus-related symptoms like congestion and wet cough.


When sick with the flu, ingredients like fruits and vegetables can help support your immune system, soothe a sore throat, and keep you hydrated. Make sure to steer clear of things like alcohol and dairy products, which may exacerbate your symptoms and prolong the amount of time that you spend feeling sick.


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