Foods that fight viral infections can be a fantastic alternative to the medications prescribed for viral infections. Infections cause major damage to the body, most of the time leading to chronic conditions. Virus attack can be due to flu and fever or even a common cold. Fortunately, there are certain simple foods with antiviral properties that can help alleviate the problem.
What should you eat when you are sick? The best food for flu is something that contains a lot of Vitamin C and can help build up your natural defenses against the flu. Try these high flu fighting foods to help the body fight off viruses and bacteria and help you get better faster. Find out the importance of eating healthy food below.
Best Food for Flu
When you or a loved one has the flu, the last thing you may feel like doing is eating. It’s certainly okay to eat a little less with the flu, as you likely have a reduced appetite.
Still, you’ll need to eat small amounts of the right foods to provide you with energy and nutrients while you recover.
Read on to learn more about what you should eat and drink as well as what’s off-limits when you have the seasonal flu.
Foods to eat
Food is what gives your body the energy and nutrients it needs to function. Such effects are equally vital when you have the flu. Still, it’s all about eating the right foods for your condition.
Consider eating the following foods when you have the flu.
Whether you prefer chicken, beef, or vegetable, broth is one of the best things you can eat when you have the flu. You can eat it as soon as your symptoms begin and until you have fully recovered.
Broth helps prevent dehydration, and the warm elements can help soothe a sore throat and relieve congestion.
2. Chicken soup
Chicken soup combines the benefits of broth along with additional ingredients. Cut-up chicken provides your body with iron and protein, and you’ll also gain nutrients from carrots, herbs, and celery.
You can eat chicken soup throughout the duration of the flu to help keep you hydrated and satiated; just be sure to watch the salt content.
While you might think of garlic as a food-flavoring agent, it’s actually been used in alternative medicine for a variety of ailments for centuries. One study of garlic supplements in adults with the flu found enhanced immunity and reduced symptom severity.
You don’t necessarily have to take supplements, though. Eating raw garlic may also be beneficial. Due to the immune-enhancing effects, consider eating garlic at the first signs of the flu.
Yogurt with live cultures not only can help soothe a sore throat but can also boost your immune system, according to a study of mice reported in the journal International Immunopharmacology. Yogurt also contains protein.
You can eat yogurt while your throat is sore, but just be sure to choose whole yogurts without any added sugars.
5. Vitamin C–containing fruits
Vitamin C is an important nutrient to help boostTrusted Source your immune system, which is especially important when you’re sick. While supplements can help, your body can absorb nutrients like vitamin C more effectively from the foods you eat.
Consider snacking on vitamin C–rich fruits while you have the flu. Some fruits high in vitamin C include strawberries, tomatoes, and citrus fruits.
6. Leafy greens
Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens can also help boost your immune system when you have the flu. They have both vitamin C and vitamin E, another immune-enhancing nutrient.
Consider combining leafy greens with fruit in a smoothie, or eat them raw with a drizzle of lemon and olive oil. It’s best to eat these immune-boosting foods throughout the duration of your illness.
Broccoli is a nutrient powerhouse that can benefit your body when you have the flu. Eating just one serving will provide immune-boosting vitamins C and E, along with calcium and fiber.
Consider eating broccoli when your appetite returns toward the middle or end of the flu. You can also eat broccoli soup; just remember to check the sodium content.
When you’re sick, a hot bowl of oatmeal can be a soothing, nutritious food choice. Oatmeal, like other whole grains, is also a natural source of immune-boosting vitamin E. It also contains polyphenol antioxidants as well as immune-strengthening beta-glucan fiber.
Choose whole oats for the most benefits.
Toward the end of the flu, you might have increased sinus and chest congestion. Certain spices, such as pepper and horseradish, can help break up congestion so you can breathe better. However, avoid spicy foods when you have a sore throat.
It’s easy to get dehydrated with the flu. Not only do you eat and drink less and have an overall reduced water intake, but you also lose water with sweat when you have a fever.
Not only are fluids important for your body functions in general, but they can also help break up congestion and stave off infections.
When it comes to hydrating beverages, water still ranks number one. It also acts as a natural detox for your body. If you aren’t a fan of water or are looking for something with more flavor, you can also drink:
- ginger tea
- herbal tea with honey
- honey and lemon tea (mix equal parts with hot water)
- 100 percent juices (look for products without added sugars)
Low-sugar sports drinks or other electrolyte-containing beverages, such as Pedialyte, may be used if you’re dehydrated only.
Although they’re not typical of the seasonal flu, vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms that could warrant the use of electrolytes.
What to avoid
Knowing what to avoid eating with the flu is perhaps just as important as what you should eat. When you’re sick with the flu, avoid the following items:
- Alcohol. This lowers your immune system and causes dehydration.
- Caffeinated beverages. Items such as coffee, black tea, and soda can make you more dehydrated. Plus, many of these beverages may contain sugar.
- Hard or jagged foods. Crunchy crackers, chips, and foods with similar textures can aggravate a cough and sore throat.
- Processed foods. Whether these are from a fast food joint or made from a box, the more processed a food is, the fewer nutrients you’ll get. With the flu, your body is trying to heal itself, so it’s important to support the process with whole, nutritious foods.
Helping your child stay nourished
As an adult with the flu, when you have no appetite or energy, it can be difficult to eat nutritious foods and make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. This can be even more difficult for children.
Children are also more likely than adults to become dehydrated because of their lower body masses. Make sure you offer fluids to your child often.
You can also:
- Administer an over-the-counter pain reliever for aches and fever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB). Just be sure to check the dosage amount, and choose a baby or child version if appropriate for your child’s age and weight.
- Have your child dress in layers if they have a fever and chills.
- Offer popsicles to help soothe their throat and alleviate fever.
- Encourage them to rest by creating an environment with minimal stimulation. Even though it may be tempting to put them in front of the television, watching too much TV may have a negative effect on their sleep.
What Should You Eat When You are Sick?
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When a person is sick, they may find it difficult to develop an appetite. However, it is important to receive nourishment and stay hydrated, especially when feeling unwell.
Different types of food can combat different types of illness. A person with a sore throat may benefit from foods that would not help someone who feels nauseous.
In this article, we provide a list of foods to eat and avoid for people with common illnesses.
Colds and flu
A blocked nose, a cough, and a sore throat are common symptoms of colds and flu. The following foods can help to ease congestion and inflammation and boost the immune system.
1. Herbal teas
When experiencing cold and flu symptoms, it is important to stay hydrated. Herbal teas are refreshing and breathing in their steam can help to clear mucus from the sinuses.
Adding ground turmeric to a cup of hot water may help to relieve a sore throat. Research suggests that turmeric has both anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
Tea leaves are abundant in natural plant compounds, such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and catechins. These stimulate the immune system. Catechins, in particular, may protect against certain types of influenza virus.
Some people recommend drinking Echinacea tea to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms. However, this effect has yet to be proven by scientific research.
A sore throat can be caused by a bacterial infection. Honey is rich in antimicrobials that help to clear these types of infection.
Honey may also be effective in treating children’s coughs, though it should not be given to infants under 12 months of age.
A review published in 2018 compared honey with common over-the-counter children’s cough remedies, a placebo, and no treatment.
The authors found that honey appeared to be more effective than diphenhydramine and salbutamol, which are drugs often used in cough medicines. Honey also produced similar results as dextromethorphan, another common ingredient.
The results were limited, however, as most studies in the review only looked at 1-night acute coughs.
3. Citrus fruits and berries
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, contain high levels of flavonoids and vitamin C. These decrease inflammation and boost immunity, which may help to fight a fever.
Some studies suggest that a flavonoid called quercetin, which is also found in berries, may help to treat rhinovirus infections. This virus is responsible for the majority of common colds.
Frozen, slushy fruit juices can often help to soothe a sore throat.
Foods to avoid
Dairy is believed by many to increase mucus production, although there is little scientific evidence to support this. Dairy may make mucus thicker, however, which can worsen sinus congestion.
Caffeine can cause dehydration, which makes congestion worse. However, some caffeinated drinks, such as tea and coffee, contain immune-boosting antioxidants, and they may be helpful in moderation.
Alcohol can dehydrate and trigger an inflammatory response, which may aggravate cold and flu symptoms.
Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
When someone has one or more of these symptoms, the key is to eat foods that settle the stomach. Doing so should help people to regain their appetite.
Research suggests that ginger could help to reduce the effects of nausea and vomiting, although more studies are required to confirm these findings.
A person can make ginger tea by adding 1–2 teaspoons of fresh ginger to a cup of hot water. Steep the ginger for 5 minutes before straining the mixture and sweetening it with a little honey.
Crystallized ginger should be eaten in moderation, due to its high sugar content.
Avoid fizzy ginger ale, as this can further irritate an upset stomach.
2. BRAT foods
BRAT stands for: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are bland and gentle on the stomach.
The diet is rich in starch and contains little fiber, which can have a binding effect on loose stools and speed up recovery from diarrhea.
Other bland foods that can be added to a BRAT diet include:
- boiled potatoes
A person should start slowly, sipping water regularly for the first few hours, before gently introducing other liquids, such as apple juice or broth.
If the stomach remains settled, it may be safe to try more solid BRAT foods.
Those sensitive to gluten should make sure to choose gluten-free options.
It will usually be safe to return to a more regular diet after around 48 hours.
3. Coconut water
An upset stomach occurs when the stomach lining becomes inflamed. Compounds called tannins that are present in coconut water may help to reduce this inflammation.
Coconut water is also high in minerals such as sodium and potassium. They can help the body to rehydrate quickly after diarrhea or vomiting.
One study found that coconut water may provide the same level of hydration as a sports drink. It is also more healthful, containing no added sugar. However, it is worth noting that this study only included 12 participants.
Foods That Fight Viral Infections
They can soothe your throat when it’s sore, swollen, or dry. They also keep you hydrated, which is key when you fight the flu. Getting enough fluids keeps your mucus thin and eases congestion.
Look for ice pops made from 100% fruit juice to make sure you get nutrients and not sugar water. You can also make your own frozen juice bars.
It has lean protein, a key part of a healthy diet. And although you may not feel like it, eating helps give your body energy to fight illness. Add cranberry sauce for a spike of flavor and comfort-food taste.
Since you may not feel up to making and eating a salad while you recover from the flu, try a glass of low-sodium vegetable juice instead. You’ll load up on antioxidants that boost the immune system, your body’s defense against germs.
Do you crave a sweet taste? Go with 100% fruit juice.
It helps you get the fluids you need and it’s nourishing, too. Some scientific evidence suggests that it may help with healing. Hot chicken soup may also improve the way tiny hair-like parts in the passages of your nose protect your body from bacteria and viruses, but more research is needed.
If you feel up to it, garlic can be a good choice to spice up foods like soup. It appears to have some ability to boost the immune system and may help you get fewer colds. But larger and better studies are needed to see if this is true.
It may help relieve your stomachache and nausea. Some studies suggest it fights inflammation, too. You can add it to other foods, either freshly grated or as a powder. Another option: Have a drink of flat ginger ale.
Drink green, oolong, and black tea to take in some antioxidants. Breathe in the steam to help clear your stuffy nose. Add a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of lemon to soothe your sore throat. If caffeine bothers you, try decaf or herbal versions instead.
Whether you slice it, mash it, or eat it whole, bananas are usually easy on the stomach. They can be a go-to food if you’ve been hit with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Toast or crackers are convenient foods when you’re fighting illness. They pair well with chicken noodle soup, and their satisfying crunch can take the edge off hunger when your stomach can’t handle much.
Meal Replacement Drinks
If your appetite has returned, try one of these to make sure you get the right nutrients and calories. Look for lactose-free drinks that are low in sugar and have at least 6 grams of protein. But if real food can be eaten, that’s always the better choice.
Importance of Eating Healthy Food
1. Loaded with important nutrients
Unprocessed animal and plant foods can help provide vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health.
For instance, 1 cup (149 grams) of red bell peppers, kiwi (180mg) or orange slices (165 grams) contains more than 100% of the RDI for vitamin C.
Eggs and liver are especially high in choline, a nutrient essential for proper brain function.
And a single Brazil nut provides all the selenium you need for an entire day.
In fact, most whole foods are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients.
2. Low in sugar
Some research suggests that eating sugary foods can increase your risk for obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and heart disease
Generally speaking, real foods tend to be lower in added sugar than many processed foods.
Even though fruit contains sugar, it’s also high in water and fiber, making it much healthier option than having soda and processed foods.
3. Heart healthy
Real food is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that support heart health, including magnesium and healthy fats.
Eating a diet rich in nutritious, unprocessed foods may also help reduce inflammation, which is considered one of the major drivers of heart disease.
4. Better for the environment
The world population is steadily growing, and with this growth comes increased demand for food.
However, producing food for billions of people can take a toll on the environment.
This is partly due to the destruction of rainforests for agricultural land, increased fuel needs, pesticide use, greenhouse gases, and packaging that ends up in landfills.
Developing sustainable agriculture based on real food may help improve the health of the planet by reducing energy needs and decreasing the amount of nonbiodegradable waste that humans produce.
5. High in fiber
Fiber provides many health benefits, including boosting digestive function, metabolic health, and feelings of fullness.
Foods like avocados, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and blackberries are particularly high in healthy fiber, alongside beans and legumes.
Consuming fiber through whole foods is better than taking a supplement as it keeps you feeling fuller longer, and you also get the added nutrients from the fruit or vegetable.
6. Helps manage blood sugar
According to the International Diabetes Federation, more than 450 million people live with diabetes worldwide.
That number is expected to rise to 700 million by 2045.
Eating a diet high in fibrous plants and unprocessed animal foods may help reduce blood sugar levels in people who have or are at risk for diabetes.
In one 12-week study, people with diabetes or prediabetes followed a paleolithic diet combining fresh meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. They experienced a 26% reduction in blood sugar levels.