Foods for Flu: What to Eat and Drink to Recover Faster

Updated on March 18th, 2020
Foods for Flu

When you have flu, you want to recover fast. While eating is not much of a delight when you have flu, certain foods can satiate you quickly along with providing the much-needed nutrients as well as the energy required for recovery.

A 2018 study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) concluded that around 8% of the US population is affected by flu in every season. However, the number of people affected may vary depending upon the severity of the annual flu season.

Also, it is estimated that around 5% to 20% of Americans experience the symptoms of flu at some point in their lives. Flu can be treated with medications, proper hygiene, and by eating the right food for flu to stop its progression and resolve the symptoms.

[Also Read: Natural Remedies to Treat Flu]

Flu – An Overview

Cold & flu
Image: ShutterStock

Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a contagious respiratory ailment resulting from influenza A or B viruses. Flu spreads most frequently during the winters and early spring. Typically, the flu virus(1) progresses through our upper or lower respiratory channel.

Flu typically infects the throat, nose, and occasionally the lungs. In general, the flu can result in mild to severe disorder, and may sometimes cause death. The ideal way to avoid flu is by getting an influenza shot each year.

Unlike the common cold, the flu can affect suddenly. People with flu may experience one or more of the symptoms listed below:

  • Fever or chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

Some people can even have diarrhea and vomiting.

Types of Flu

There are mainly three types of influenza viruses, namely type A, B, and C.

Type A and B flu cause the yearly flu epidemics that gets up to 20 percent of the population in the US sniffling, coughing, and aching with high fevers. The symptoms of type C flu; however, are less severe.

Influenza A or Type a Flu

Type A flu has the potential to infect animals, though it usually affects humans more than animals. Wild birds tend to act as the hosts for the type A flu virus. Type A influenza virus is generally accountable for the large influenza epidemics.

Influenza B or Type B flu

Unlike the influenza A virus, type B flu only affects humans and tends to cause a less severe reaction as compared to the type A flu virus. Influenza type B does not lead to pandemics(2).

Influenza C or Type C flu

Type C flu virus also affects humans. However, the severity is less as compared to both type A and B flu. People usually do not experience a lot of symptoms when affected by the type C virus. Also, type C flu does not lead to epidemics.

[Also Read: Best Teas to Treat Flu]

List of the Best Foods that Help With the Flu

Eating the right food for flu can help stop the progression and severity of the flu reaction in your body along with boosting your immune system, and also promoting a faster recovery.

Also, appropriate food for flu complements any prescribed medications you may be taking for the flu and improves its effectiveness to prompt the most favorable results.

Here is a list of the best food for flu to resolve your symptoms more effectively.

1. Ice Pops

Ice pops soothe your dry, swollen, and sore throat. They also help you stay hydrated to ensure you get the energy required to fight the flu. Also, ice pops help ease congestion and keep the mucus thin.

Make sure you avoid ice pops made from sugar water and prefer the ones prepared with 100 percent fruit juices that will give your body the much-needed nutrition. Also, you can prepare frozen juice bars at home.

2. Turkey Sandwich

Turkey sandwich contains lean protein, an essential part of a well-balanced and healthy diet. And though you might not feel like eating it, a fresh turkey sandwich can be an excellent choice to provide your body the energy it needs to combat illness. You may add cranberry sauce to pep up the taste.

3. Vegetable Juice

vegetable Juice

As you might not want to get up and prepare a salad for yourself while recovering from flu, a mug of low-sodium vegetable juice can come handy. It will provide you with essential antioxidants to strengthen your immune system, hence supporting your body’s defense system to combat germs.

4. Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is the most preferred food for flu since it not just provides you with the vital fluids necessary to maintain energy, but also loads up several essential nutrients to prompt faster recovery from influenza. Studies suggest that chicken soup can also help your body heal quickly.

Also, chicken soup tends to improve the way micro hair-like parts in your nose passages safeguards your body against viruses and bacteria.

5. Garlic

Garlic is an excellent choice to add some flavor to different foods for flu such as soups. Garlic is a medicinal herb and has proven effective to boost your immunity. It helps speed up your recovery time from flu along with reducing the risk of further complications or reversal of flu symptoms post recovery.

6. Ginger


Similar to garlic, ginger also has an excellent medicinal value. It helps relieve your nausea and stomachache. Studies suggest ginger has potent anti-inflammatory properties as well.

You can add ginger to any other food for flu, either as a powder or freshly grated. Also, drinking flat ginger ale is an excellent choice.

7. Hot Teas

Drink oolong, black, and green tea to get some essential antioxidants. You may also breathe in the tea steam to get rid of nasal congestion. Squeeze a slice of lemon and add a tablespoon of honey to soothe your dry and sore throat. In case you don’t go well with caffeine, try herbal or decaf versions instead.

8. Banana

Mashed or sliced, bananas are generally easy on the digestive system. They can be an excellent food option if your symptoms of flu include diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.

[Also Read: Banana Health Benefits]

9. Toast

Crackers or toasts are appropriate foods when you are fighting diseases. They make a great pair with chicken noodle soups, and their pleasing crunch can quickly satiate you.

10. Meal Replacement Drinks

When you begin to recover, and your appetite starts returning to normal, try to get in some calories and nutrients. Look for low-sugar lactose-free drinks that contain a small amount of protein. These meal replacement drinks will boost your energy quickly.

[Read: Apple Cider Vinegar for Flu]

List of Food to Avoid

When you have flu, it is imperative to know what foods to eat. However, it is just as imperative to know what foods to avoid. The last thing you’d want is to aggravate the condition by eating something you shouldn’t.

Here’s a list of foods you must avoid when you have flu:

1. Sugar

Image: ShutterStock

Sugar leads to inflammation, which tends to weaken the white blood cells in your body. As white blood cells play a leading role in fighting infections, you must avoid sugar while fighting flu to ensure your body’s defense mechanism doesn’t get weakened.

2. Simple Carbohydrates

Looking for buttered toast, saltiness, or a bowl of pasta? We suggest you think again. Your body breaks down simple, refined carbohydrates into sugar, prompting the similar rise in blood sugar as caused by snacks and sugary drinks, and with similar inflammatory effects.

3. Alcohol

Similar to sugar, alcohol weakens your white blood cells and leads to inflammation. Also, it contributes to dehydration. Typically, staying hydrated is important when you’re ill since mucous membranes in the nose flush out viruses more effectively when they are damp. Therefore, dehydration will only worsen your symptoms.

[Read: Use Zinc for Flu]

4. Spicy food

If your flu symptoms include an upset stomach, refrain from the hot stuff since it will only worsen your symptoms.

5. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits, including lemon, grapefruit, and oranges, tend to irritate the lining of your stomach and intestines, hence aggravating the symptoms of an upset stomach. Also, in case you are feeling nauseatic while having flu, your best bet will be to refrain from all types of citrus fruits.

6. Fatty foods

fatty foods

Fatty, creamy, and greasy foods tend to cause inflammation, thereby weakening your immune system. Also, they are usually tougher to digest than protein or carbohydrates, so you’d do well by avoiding fatty foods when you have flu.

Other Preventive Measures to Be Undertaken

Influenza is a contagious disease which spreads from one person to another through the air or direct contact. However, there are certain preventive measures that you can undertake to ensure maximum safety against the influenza virus during the peak flu season.

Some of the things to consider:

Avoiding Close Contact

Make sure you avoid direct contact with individuals who are sick with the flu. When you have flu, try to maintain a safe distance from others to avoid passing on the virus and bacteria that will make them sick as well.

Staying Home When You Have Flu

As much as possible, try to stay home from errands, school, or work when you have flu. This will help avoid spreading the flu to others.

Covering Your Nose and Mouth

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. It will avoid the flu from spreading to those around you.

Cleaning Your Hands

Make sure you wash your hands frequently to keep germs and flu viruses at bay. If water and soap are not available, you may use any an alcohol-based hand wash.

Influenza flu is one of the most common ailments that affect millions of people across the United States each season. Typically, flu is contagious and spreads from one person to another through various modes.

While numerous medications help resolve the symptoms of flu to promote recovery, combining the prescribed medications the right food for flu as discussed in this article can speed up recovery.

Also, make sure you get an annual influenza shot to avoid your risk of catching the flu. In case your symptoms worsen, or you do not respond to over the counter medications and other alternative treatments, make sure you consult a registered medical practitioner since flu may have severe complications, and occasionally could even cause death.


What to Eat When You Have Flu?

When you have flu, consider eating food that goes well with your stomach, hydrates you, and boosts your immunity to fight the illness. Some of the best foods for flu include a turkey sandwich, chicken soup, vegetable juice, garlic, and ginger.

What to Eat After the Flu?

Once you recover from the flu and all or most of your symptoms subside, try to get in some calories and nutrients to compensate for the loss of energy during the illness. Meal replacement drinks with protein content work well here. Also, consider having some probiotics and foods rich in fiber to help settle your digestive system.

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