Food Science

The Best Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

As the saying goes, “eat to live, don’t live to eat.” Essentially, what and how you eat should ebb and flow according to what your body needs and what’s healthiest for you at present. Whether you’re eating to lose weight, trying to counteract the effects of a medical condition, or simply trying to feel better, the food you consume is directly tied into your health.

When you’re sick or fighting off a cold, it’s usually best to make food choices to support your body’s needs at that current time. By making supportive food choices when you’re sick, you can potentially lessen the symptoms you’re experiencing and promote recovery much sooner.

Below, we’ll review some of the best food choices that you can make when you’re under the weather. Take a look.


Garlic is well-known to provide numerous health benefits. While more study needs to be conducted, several studies have shown that garlic can potentially provide various immune benefits. Some studies have also shown that garlic can assist in reducing the severity and longevity of colds.

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is one of the most popular and well-known cold remedies, and for good reason. Chicken soup is packed full of healthy protein, vitamin-loaded vegetables, and consists of a thin broth that promotes hydration. Chicken is also thought to help reduce mucus due to its levels of the amino acid cysteine.


The overall medical benefits of honey have been well-known for a long time. There are some studies that contribute an increased immune boost to honey consumption. Honey is also widely used in the medical community for wound dressing due to its natural antibacterial properties. For those looking to soothe sore throats and reduce coughing, honey has also shown promise in these areas.

Hot Herbal Tea

Hot herbal tea is popularly drunk during colds due to its ability to assist with decongestant effects through its temperature. Herbal tea can also act as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory at times. Depending on the herbs found in individual teas, you can potentially gain benefits from their contents as well.


Because staying hydrated during illness is very important, broth can be a great food to consume. Depending on the broth you drink, you can also gain a variety of minerals and vitamins that can aid in recovery and reduction of symptoms. The hot temperature of broth is also excellent as a decongestant.

Spicy Foods

Because of the high concentration of the capsaicin element in spicy foods, those with stuffy noses and head congestion can potentially see relief from consuming them while sick. Capsaicin is known to thin mucus and assist in breaking up mucus congestion within sinuses.


If you’re feeling nauseous or have an upset stomach, ginger may help. Fresh ginger, ginger extract, ginger ales, and ginger teas have all been shown to assist with stomach ailments. Ginger also has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory and hold antioxidant effects.


Smoothies can be an excellent food for several reasons while you’re sick. The cool temperature can soothe your throat, you can gain health benefits according to the fruits and vegetables added, and it’s a quick and easy way to increase some nutritional value while you may not feel up to eating much.


Oatmeal not only can help with energy while you’re sick due to the carbs present, but it’s also been shown to help support a healthy immune system and support a healthy gut. Oatmeal is also packed with protein, which can help you feel fuller faster.

Sports Drinks

You’ll want to be careful not to consume too many sports drinks due to their usual sugar content. However, sports drinks can be excellent for restoring hydration so that your body has the strength to fight off any cold or infection faster.


Bananas are excellent sources of fiber, which can aid in upset stomach relief and in the reduction of nausea. Because bananas are also rich in potassium, they can help reduce bloating and assist in promoting heart health.


Yogurt is generally packed with probiotics, which can aid in promoting healthy gut bacteria. Some studies have shown that probiotics can also boost immune health and reduce the severity of colds. For those looking for a great way to support bone health, yogurt is also packed with healthy calcium and other nutrients.

Saltine Crackers

Saltines are great for when you have an upset stomach; this is due to the salt present in the crackers and the relatively bland ingredients and taste present.


Your body needs strength to fight off colds and infection, and this is where avocados can help. Avocados are packed with healthy vitamins, minerals, and fibers to support providing the energy your body needs. Avocados also have a high concentration of monounsaturated fat, which is excellent for your heart and in controlling cholesterol levels.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is excellent for keeping you hydrated while sick. There have also been studies that have shown that coconut water is rich in antioxidants, and the refreshing beverage is also packed full of electrolytes.

What Not to Eat

Just as it’s essential to know what foods to eat to support recovery when you’re sick, it’s similarly important to know what foods to avoid. Here are a few examples of foods to stay away from as a general rule while sick:

  • Alcohol – Because your focus should be on keeping yourself hydrated, you should avoid alcohol. Alcohol has dehydrating properties.
  • Caffeine – Similar to alcohol, caffeine can cause you to dehydrate and should be avoided while sick.
  • High-Fat Processed Foods – With processed foods often being high in salt and fat, they can be less conducive to promoting digestive recovery and proper energy levels.
  • Starchy processed grains – You don’t get much nutritional value out of starchy processed grains like white bread and white rice. Because of this, you should avoid these foods and choose whole grains as much as possible to gain nutritional value to aid in recovery.

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