Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu

Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu
Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu (Image: C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish, CDC/

There's no doubt about it, having the flu is not fun. Regardless of the variety of flu, it's likely you may be seeking some self-help methods to speed recovery. For generations, chicken soup has been advocated as a home treatment for all variety of ailments. Proper nutrition, according to research, does have a key role in the body's response to illness. Certain foods can aid the immune system or bring welcome relief to symptoms.


Deciding what to eat when sick depends on the type of symptoms present. Influenza typically causes upper respiratory symptoms, such as coughs, fever, congestion and sore throats, and may also include vomiting or diarrhea. You will want to treat the worst symptoms first. Generally this means getting stomach conditions under control before offering other foods.


Wait an hour after vomiting, and then try small quantities (2 to 3 oz.) of watered-down electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade, flat lemon-lime soda, or water. Ginger has strong properties for upset stomachs, as well. A few sips of weak ginger tea often have been found to be helpful. Clear liquids such as broth, gelatin, or fruit drinks can be added when vomiting has ceased for a few hours. Very cold drinks or ice prove beneficial to ease nausea. When food can be tolerated, start with crackers or toast. Gradually increase food intake to a normal diet.


Choose items with natural pectin, which can solidify bowel movements. Doctors often recommend the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet as apples and bananas are rich in pectin. Some experts suggest eating yogurt with live cultures to add beneficial bacteria in the intestines once food can be tolerated and diarrhea has ceased.

Upper Respiratory Symptoms

Treat coughs, stuffy noses and chest congestion with steamy liquids if no fever is present. Chicken noodle soup, preferably homemade, has actually been found to have medicinal benefits by reducing and thinning mucus. Carrots, sweet potatoes and squash contain vitamin A, which has additional respiratory-system benefits. Try soups with these vegetables for a healthy dose of vitamin A. Choose vitamin C-rich citrus fruit, such as oranges or grapefruit, for immune support, vital for kicking the flu naturally.

Chicken Soup
Chicken Soup


Drink plenty of cold clear liquids, especially water, to flush viruses out of your body. In general, most people with fevers are not hungry, though appetite usually returns as the fever subsides. Soups, whole grains (such as oatmeal) or cooked vegetables are more easily tolerated than raw foods following a fever. Avoid sugar and processed foods as these will slow white cells' germ killing abilities.

Sore Throat

Reduce inflammation pain in raw throats by gargling with 1/2 tsp. of salt (preferably sea salt) in 8 oz. of warm water. Repeat as needed. Sipping hot green tea with a teaspoon of honey and lemon soothes a sore throat and gives a healthy vitamin C boost. In studies, green tea has been shown to fight infection and improve healing.


Remember, most severe symptoms last a short time, typically a week or less. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen after getting better, linger longer than a week, or if a serious condition presents itself.

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