8 Best and Worst Foods When You’re Sick
Food is fuel for your body – like gas in an engine. When you need your body to run, you put food in it. But just like all fuels are not created equal, neither are foods.
Some foods will help your body thrive; others cause harm. When you’re sick, knowing the difference is half the battle.
What you eat when you are sick can make or break you. You will either help yourself feel better and support your immune system to knock out your illness more quickly, or you will increase your symptoms and do your immune system a disservice.
The choice is yours.
If you want to give your body every sort of fighting chance to feel better, read on to learn about 8 foods and drinks you should eat more of and 8 foods and drinks you should avoid.
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Best Foods When You Are Sick
Let’s start off with all the good news. There are so many tasty and comforting foods that are good for you when you are sick. Below you will see foods that help symptoms, help your immune system, and help you feel comforted.
1. Chicken Soup
It’s not an old wives’ tale. Chicken soup really is the ultimate food when you’re sick. Here’s why:
- It’s warm and comforting – it feels good on a sore throat and is mild enough for an upset stomach; plus, the steam can actually help decongest your nose
- It combines food and liquids – it’s so important to stay hydrated no matter what bug you’re fighting off
- It’s filled with healing nutrients and amino acids – thanks to the veggies and chicken
Here’s a video that shows you how to make a simple, yet healthy homemade chicken soup:
If solid foods are too difficult, chicken or bone broths are great alternatives for now.
Garlic is one of the ultimate medicinal foods. It’s antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. There’s lots of ways to eat it when you’re sick:
- Make sure you add some to your soup (I’ll add some finely chopped fresh garlic to a store-bought soup too!)
- You can roast it in your oven and eat a clove (learn how to do that here!)
- You can put raw garlic on a spoon with some olive oil and swallow it (not the tastiest, but definitely the easiest)
Ginger should be your #1 go-to if your sickness involves any sort of stomach discomfort. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, and generally soothing to your gut. While you can add it to your meals, sipping on fresh ginger tea throughout the day does the trick.
Ever heard of the “B.R.A.T.” diet? Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These are four of the blandest foods that the body can often handle even when you have lost your appetite. Bananas also give you plenty of fiber and potassium (as well as countless other nutrients) to boost your immune system. Remember, they’re quite high in sugar, so don’t eat too many!
Here’s another example of a really bland, mild fruit that’s also filled with nutrition – but unlike bananas, avocados are really low in sugar. You get the anti-inflammatory oleic acids and plenty of fiber as well. It’s a great thing to put on whole-wheat toast.
6. Herbal Tea
You need to hydrate yourself when you’re sick, but sometimes plain, cool water doesn’t feel so great. Herbal teas are caffeine-free and hydrating when you don’t feel good. You can try any blend you like, but if you want the teas to really work hard at helping you fight sickness and symptoms try:
- Ginger Tea
- Peppermint Tea
- Chamomile Tea
- Lemongrass Tea
- Licorice Tea
- Turmeric Tea
7. Yogurt & Other Probiotics
Most of your immune system actually resides in your gut. Probiotics are good bacteria that feed that gut and therefore help your immune system. While you can absolutely take a probiotic supplement, there are lots of food choices that are great as well:
8. Spicy Food
Let’s be clear: spicy food is sometimes helpful. If you have a stomach bug or if you have a really sore throat, all that spice is going to make you feel more miserable. But if you’re mostly dealing with congestion, it can be your best friend by decongesting your sinuses.
Worst Foods When You Are Sick
Now let’s take a minute to talk about the foods that you should avoid when you’re sick. These foods can make your symptoms worse and even weaken your immune system.
I know that sometimes when you’re on the couch with a cold nothing sounds more comforting than a bowl of ice cream or a warm cookie. Sugar is highly inflammatory. Most of the medications or supplements you are taking to make yourself feel better are anti-inflammatory.
Plus, sugar can actually harm your body’s ability to fight off bacteria. It will make you feel worse and won’t help your immune system in any way.
2. Refined Carbs
Refined carbs offer a similar problem to sweets – too much sugar, not enough fiber, protein, or nutrients. Sometimes something very carby can settle really well when you’re sick, so stick with a whole wheat toast, oatmeal (no sugar added), or multi-grain crackers.
3. Orange Juice
Yes, citrus fruits are full of helpful vitamin C. But when you juice them you get rid of all that fiber that helps your body digest all the fructose without an intense sugar spike. If you’re dealing with a sore throat, anything acidic like orange juice will not feel good going down.
You really shouldn’t be having a soda even if you are healthy – much less when you’re sick. They’re sugary (fake sugar is arguably worse!) and dehydrating. Water. Water. Water.
But if you’re getting tired of H2O or herbal tea, try coconut water with no sugar added. You’ll get extra electrolytes too!
Sugar + serious dehydration = a nightmare for healing.
6. Too Much Dairy
People have lots of different opinions about whether or not you should eat dairy when you are sick. Some believe it causes you to make more mucus (which you don’t want when you have upper respiratory problems/cold), and it can be harsh on your digestive system if you have a stomach bug. Studies don’t necessarily show these to be entirely true, which is exactly why yogurt lands on best foods.
But don’t overdo it. It’s better to fill up on fresh produce, broths, meat, etc. Don’t have a glass of milk, have a mug of tea. Don’t cover your meal with cheese. And if you feel like it makes more mucus in your body…by all means…avoid it!
7. Fried Foods
Fried foods are most often cooked in inflammatory oils, so they’re not good for any ill person. They’re especially bad for anyone dealing with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. They are slow to digest, which is why you often feel a sort of “heaviness” after you eat them. Stay fresh!
8. Chips (Crunchy snacks)
If you are dealing with a sore throat, any sort of crunchy snack may irritate it. Stick with soft foods. However, if you’re dealing with a stomach bug, mild chips or crackers may be soothing.
Healing Your Body Naturally
Your body’s pretty amazing – it heals itself! Your job is to support that healing process. Proper food and drink choices is one of the #1 ways you can do just that. Here are a few more:
- Rest: Take naps, take the day off, sit down as much as possible
- Supplement: There are lots of natural ingredients like echinacea, andrographis, and astragalus that have been shown to boost your immune system and get you healthy quickly!
Taking care of your body naturally through lifestyle choices like these is the best way to heal up quickly and reduce the frequency of getting sick in the future.