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Cold and Flu Center

Food to Eat When Sick With the Flu

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
Food to Eat When Sick With the Flu
Warm fluids, fruits, vegetables and spicy foods can enhance recovery from the flu.

The flu, also called influenza, is a contagious upper-respiratory virus that causes fever, chills, body aches, nasal congestion, dry cough and fatigue. Stay home, rest and avoid contact with others when you have the flu, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you experience severe symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, severe vomiting or chest pain, seek medical attention. Numerous foods and beverages can support your wellness and recovery from the flu.

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Sip On Warm Liquids

Chicken noodle soup
Chicken noodle soup Photo Credit: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images

Chicken soup helps alleviate nasal congestion, inflammation and body aches, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Hot steam from soup and hot beverages may also reduce congestion. Choose broth-based chicken soup when possible, since creamy soups may provide fewer benefits and possibly increase congestion. Vegetables in soup provide antioxidants that can help your body defend itself against infection and disease. Chicken provides amino acids, which supporting tissue repair. Other protein-rich soup ingredients include beans, lentils, split-peas and tofu.

Herbal teas, such as ginger tea, may help with symptoms of nausea, reports the UMMC. Add honey and lemon to your tea to help soothe throat pain and provide modest amounts of glucose, the body's primary energy source. Limit caffeinated teas and coffee, which may disrupt your ability to rest.

Opt For Vitamin C-Rich Foods

Halved kiwi fruit
Halved kiwi fruit Photo Credit: Igor Dutina/iStock/Getty Images

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, known for its disease-fighting capabilities. Since excessive vitamin C in supplement form can cause negative side effects, opt for vitamin C-rich foods. Valuable sources of vitamin C include red and green bell peppers, citrus fruits, citrus juices, berries, kiwifruit, Brussels sprouts, tomato juice, broccoli, cantaloupe and cabbage.

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, five servings of fruits and vegetables daily provides over 200 milligramsof vitamin C—more than twice the recommended daily amount for children and adults. Consume a variety of vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables when you have the flu. If your appetite is reduced, consume fruit juices, vegetable juices, fruit smoothies, broth or tomato-based vegetable soups for similar benefits.

Snack On Spicy Foods

Cayenne peppers
Cayenne peppers Photo Credit: longtaildog/iStock/Getty Images

Spicy foods can reduce congestion associated with the flu. Try horse radish, to reduce sinus congestion, suggests the UMMC. Add cayenne pepper to soups, teas and other foods, or enjoy a spicy vegetable or chicken-based curry or stir-fry dish. Since the flu can reduce your sense of taste, spicy foods may also provide greater taste potential than bland foods. Consume cautiously spicy foods and beverages to prevent burning your tongue or developing other bothersome symptoms.

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