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What to Eat When You Have the Flu: 5 Foods to Boost Recovery

Updated in October 2022

Being mindful of what you eat when recovering from the flu can help you feel much better. Some foods can strengthen the immune system and relieve symptoms like fever, nasal congestion, body aches and fatigue.

When you have the flu, it is also important to increase your calorie and fluid intake, to ensure you body has enough energy to fight and eliminate the virus.

Teas with antimicrobial properties (like star anise tea and cinnamon tea) and teas with decongestant properties (like echinacea tea and chamomile tea) are great ways to manage symptoms naturally. 

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What to eat

When fighting the flu, you should consider incorporating the following foods into your diet: 

1. Chicken noodle or vegetable soup 

Eating vegetable soup helps to loosen mucus and spit-up phlegm more easily. The vapor from the warm vegetables can also help to unplug your nose.

Chicken noodle soup is a great soup for combating the flu as it usually contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and protein. These are all essential for recovering strength and boosting the immune system. Chicken noodle soup also contains sodium and potassium, which are minerals that can help regulate body temperature and manage a fever.

2. Fruits and vegetables 

Fruits and vegetables increase the levels of water, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc in the body, which can boost the body’s ability to fight off a virus. Citrus fruits are most advised, due to their high quantities of vitamin C. Great examples of food with vitamin C include strawberries, oranges, pineapple and lemon.

You should also increase your vegetable intake, particularly those with betacarotenes, like kale, carrots and tomato. These vegetables contain antioxidant compounds that strengthen the immune system and help to fight infection. 

Loss of appetite is a common symptom of the flu, one that can actually prolong the duration of infection. Therefore, you should eat nutritious food that is easy to digest and high in water content. 

3. Herbal tea

Tea is a great flu remedy because it keeps you hydrated and can work as a decongestant due to its warm vapor. Chamomile tea, echinacea tea, mint tea and ginseng tea can be taken as a drink or inhaled to help unplug a stuffy nose. 

Eucalyptus tea is most advised for inhalation. Once the tea is prepared, you can lean your head over the cup or pot and breathe in its warm vapor. 

Cinnamon tea is another great remedy as it contains antiseptic and antibacterial properties that help to treat the flu virus. To prepare it, boil 1 cup of water with a cinnamon stick for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool, strain and drink up to 3 to 4 times per day. Honey with propolis can be added to the tea while warm. Honey helps to lubricate the throat and soothe inflammation from coughing.

Star anise tea can also be an excellent home remedy, as it contains shikimic acid that possesses antiviral properties and is used to make Tamiflu medication. 

Check-out more tea recipes you can use as natural flu remedies at home. 

4,. Yogurt or fermented milk

Eating yogurts and fermented milk with probiotics (like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria), helps to strengthen the good bacteria in the gut. This can stimulate immune system on a cellular level and help to combat the flu. 

5. Natural spices 

Some spices, like garlic, mustard seeds and pepper are great for treating a stuffy nose. These help to dissolve phlegm and reduce fever and body aches. Other helpful spices include rosemary, oregano, and basil, which can be added to soup, meat dishes, vegetables and pasta.