What to Eat When You Have the Flu: 12 Foods & 3-Day Meal Plan

Updated in February 2024

Some good foods that you should eat when you have the flu include oranges, tomatoes, honey, turmeric and yogurt. These foods strengthen the immune system to help fight the virus and relieve some symptoms such as coughing, a stuffy nose and general malaise.

When you have the flu it is also important to drink plenty of water, as it helps to remove excess toxins from the body through the urine. It also plays a role in transporting white blood cells throughout the body, which also helps to strengthen the immune system.

Drinking teas with antimicrobial and decongestant properties, such as star anise, cinnamon, chamomile or echinacea, is another great way to help relieve flu symptoms. Read about teas for coughs that you can prepare at home.

What to eat

The main foods that are recommended for the flu are:

1. Oranges

Oranges are a great option for the flu, as they are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids and vitamin A. These are nutrients and bioactive compounds that strengthen the immune system and help to fight the virus and shorten the duration of the flu.

This fruit can be consumed raw after lunch or dinner, or in one of the small meals throughout the day. See other ways to consume orange.

Also recommended: Orange Peel Tea: 8 Health Benefits & Tea Recipes tuasaude.com/en/orange-peel-tea

2. Honey

Due to its antimicrobial and calming properties, honey is a great food that is recommended for fighting the flu and relieving flu symptoms, such as coughing and throat irritation. Learn more about the benefits of honey and what it is good for.

You should consume one tablespoon of honey per day, which can be taken pure or added to juices, yogurts and fruits.

Also recommended: Immune System Boosters: Foods, Natural Remedies & Recipes tuasaude.com/en/immune-system-boosters

3. Garlic

Garlic contains allicin, alliin and alhoene, which are bioactive compounds with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory action. They help to balance the intestinal flora and inhibit the growth and multiplication of viruses. Learn more about garlic benefits for your health.

Garlic is highly recommended food to strengthen the immune system and help relieve flu symptoms, such as headache and stuffy nose.

You can consume 1 clove of fresh garlic per day. Iis important to chop or crush the garlic and let it rest for 10 minutes before eating. Garlic can also used to season salads and sauces.

4. Vegetable soup

Vegetable soup is a good food for the flu, because it helps dilute secretions and hydrate the throat. This can improve phlegm and relieve coughs.

Furthermore, soup is also a good option for the flu, because it can be made with other foods that are sources of vitamin A, zinc and proteins, which are all nutrients that strengthen the immune system.

5. Lemon

Lemon is rich in Vitamin C and limonene, which are bioactive compounds with antimicrobial and immunomodulatory properties. Lemons helps to strengthen immune system cells, which can reduce the duration of flu symptoms, such as cough, runny nose and sore throat.

To obtain all the benefits of lemon, it is recommended to use the pulp and grated peel of this fruit in juices, teas or as a salad dressing. Check-out all the benefits of lemons and how to prepare lemon tea.

6. Ginger

Because it contains bioactive compounds with antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, ginger is a food that helps fight flus and colds.

Ginger can be used fresh, dehydrated or in powder form, to season soups, juices, yogurts or salads, and can also be consumed in the form of teas or capsules.

Also recommended: Ginger Tea For Weight Loss: 5 Simple Recipes tuasaude.com/en/how-to-lose-weight-with-ginger-tea

7. Turmeric

Turmeric is rich in curcumin, a bioactive compound that stimulates the production of T-cells, which are responsible for immunity and work to combat viruses, fungi or bacteria. Furthermore, turmeric also has an analgesic effect, helping to relieve body aches and pain that may arise during the flu.

This spice can be used fresh or in powder form, to prepare teas or to season meats, vegetables and soups.

8. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt contains probiotics, which are “good” bacteria that balance the intestinal flora. This can stimulate immune system cells and help to fight the flu.

Yogurt can be consumed for breakfast or as a snacks, either plain or with oats or fruit. Furthermore, this food can be used to prepare smoothies and pâtés.

9. Tomato

Because it is rich in lycopene and beta-carotene, which are nutrients that strengthen the body's natural defenses and fight infections, tomatoes are a great food to include in your diet during the flu.

Tomatoes can be consumed raw or cooked, or added to juices, sauces, soups, salads, roasts, stews or jellies.

10. Avocado

Avocado is a good food that is recommended for the flu, because it has several nutrients, such as beta-sitosterol, vitamin A and vitamin E. These help to strengthen immune system cells and fight respiratory infections. 

This fruit can be consumed raw or used in preparations such as salads, smoothies, guacamole and mousses. Learn more about avocado benefits and how to consume it.

Also recommended: Avocado Oil: 7 Health Benefits, Nutrition, How to Choose & Recipes tuasaude.com/en/avocado-oil

11. Pomegranate

Pomegranate can help to treat the flu as it is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. It can also increase the number of good bacteria in the intestine, which can regulate intestinal flora and boost immunity.

Pomegranate can be consumed raw or used to prepare juices, salads and yogurts. The peels, leaves and stem of this fruit can be used to make pomegranate tea.

12. Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are rich in zinc and selenium, minerals that play a fundamental role in activating the defense cells of the immune system. Therefore, Brazil nuts are a food recommended to prevent and cure the flu.

The recommendation for this oilseed is 1 unit per day, which can be consumed alone or added to salads, bread or fruit salads.

Foods to avoid

Some foods that can make the flu worse and should therefore be avoided are:

  • Alcoholic drinks, because they lead to dehydration, weaken the immune system and irritate the throat
  • Processed food, such as ready-made sauces, fast food and ice cream, as they generally do not contain essential nutrients and are high in fat, increasing inflammation in the body
  • Sausages, mortadella and ham, because they contain dyes and preservatives, which are chemical compounds that cause inflammation and can make the flu worse.

It is also important to avoid sweet foods, such as ice cream, chocolate, cakes, stuffed cookies and soft drinks. Foods with sugar can also stimulate inflammation and reduce immunity.

Furthermore, if you have a sore throat, hard foods such as toast or cereal, for example, should be avoided. See other foods to avoid if you have a sore throat.

Sample meal plan

The following table outlines a 3-day meal plan that can be followed to combat the flu:

Meals Day 1 Day 2 Day 3

1 natural orange juice + 2 medium pancakes with honey and cheese

1 cup of black ginger tea + 2 scrambled eggs with 1/4 abocados and 1 slice of bread

1 cup opf lemon water + 1 serving of yogurt with 1 teaspoon of honey to sweeten

Morning snack 1 cup of lemon tea with honey + 1 cracker with avocado cream 1 serving of yogurt with sliced fruit, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed and 1 teaspoon of honey to sweeten 1 medium mango, diced and 1 teaspoon of chia seeds

1 cup of pumpkin soup + grilled chicken with mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables (broccoli, squash and carrots) seasoned with 1 teaspoon of olive oil + 1 slice of papaya 

1 cup of carrot soup + grilled fish fillet + salad made with lettuce, tomatoes, and onion seasoned with 1 teaspoon of olive oil + 1 kiwi 

1 cup of vegetable soup + baked eggplant stuffed with tuna + 1 tangerine

Afternoon Snack 1 smoothie made with strawberry, Greek yogurt and honey 1 handful of nut (about 30 g) + 2 prunes + 1 slice of papaya

1 cup of garlic tea + 1 slice of bread with peanut butter

Dinner 1 serving of vegetable soup (made with carrots, squash, pumpkin, leeks and potatoes) and chicken

1 cup of carrot soup + potato salad with onions and avocado with sliced chicken, seasoned with olive oil

1 cup of vegetable soup + 2 chicken wraps with lettuce and onion, seasoned with olive oil 

Evening snack 1 cup of chamomile tea 1 cup of star anise  1 cup of echinacea tea

This meal plan contains foods that are rich in vitamin C, A, E, selenium and omega 3, which are important nutrients to help the body fight flu symptoms more quickly. It also contains natural plants that help relieve symptoms.

It is important to mention that the quantities in this meal plan may vary depending on age, gender, activity level and health history. Therefore, you should ideally consult a registered dietitian for a thorough assessment and a more customized meal plan.