When you’re feeling a little under the weather sometimes the last thing you want to do is eat. Either because you’re feeling quite weak or heavy that you don’t really want to move even a few steps away from the bed or perhaps you're fearing that you won’t be able to keep it down. Unfortunately, though, you have to eat. You have to make sure that your body is getting the sustenance that it needs – particularly so with the best foods for when you’re sick.
Whether it’s a cold, the flu, or a bug, one of the keys to recovering quickly is to make sure that you’re eating and hydrating well. Ever noticed how sometimes, all it really needs is a serving of hot soup, some fresh juice, and plenty of rest to recover? Yes. More often than not, you bounce back to health just like that!
It’s important of course that you know the best foods for when you’re sick. You don’t want to just eat anything or whatever is in your fridge. For one, you wouldn’t want to upset your stomach or cause any further discomfort. You also want to go for food that is not only easy to prepare, and easy to eat, but also offers relief as well – for instance, ginger is particularly known for easing nausea.
To give you ideas on what to add to your meal plans when you’re nursing yourself back to health, here’s a list of the best foods to eat when sick:
Best Foods for When You’re Sick
Soups, particularly chicken soup are quite a popular home remedy – the idea has been passed down from generation to generation. And not surprisingly so because it’s been a common belief and practice even in the 12th century.
And although chicken soup or other types of soup, will not exactly cure your cold, it does offer some relief. For instance, the very steam from the bowl of soup will help in decongesting a stuffy nose. Soups will also keep you hydrated. It will also thin out mucus which in turn will let your body to expel it easily.
A great way to ensure that you’re still eating enough – especially when you’re already experiencing a certain aversion to food either because you’re taste buds are not up to it or you’re having a hard time keeping it down, is by eating a good old serving of oatmeal.
First off, it’s basically bland, so you don’t risk upsetting your taste buds and stomach. Yet, it’s still rich in immune-boosting beta-glucan fiber and polyphenol antioxidants. It’s even better if you can manage to sweeten it up a bit with honey or some fruit bits.
Ginger is quite popular for its many potential health benefits. In fact, it’s been revered and has been used since ancient times – both for its culinary and medicinal purposes. When you’re sick, simply use ginger when making teas, or as an ingredient when making soups or porridge. You can also try candied ginger products or ginger chews.
Ginger is particularly known for its gingerol content which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has a good amount of vitamin C in addition to its beta-carotene contents. Ginger also aids in regulating blood sugar levels and relieving nausea and vomiting.
Honey is especially great when you’re nursing a sore throat. A teaspoon of honey in your tea can give you instant relief! You can also use it to naturally, and healthily, sweeten oatmeal, smoothies, or cereals.
Honey contains antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains antiseptic properties. In fact, it’s been used as a biologic wound dressing even during ancient times. How cool, right?
Yogurt, especially the ones with probiotics, are particularly good to have when you’re feeling a little under the weather. It does not only help in boosting the immune system but in soothing a sore throat as well. Be observant of your body’s reaction though, as yogurt for some, may worsen cough by thickening the phlegm.
In addition to its probiotics content, it’s also rich in calcium, B vitamins, and some trace minerals. Yogurt also helps in boosting digestive health which is particularly sensitive when you’re sick.
Eggs are not only easy to prepare but they’re easy to eat as well – imagine scrambled eggs, plain or on top of a toast. Or you can even just boil it. You can also add it to your soups or to rice porridges, either as garnishing (boiled – whole or sliced) or as part of the dish by whisking it first and then dropping it in!
Eggs are not only rich in high-quality proteins but their vitamins and minerals content is quite impressive as well – no wonder they’re called nutrient powerhouses sometimes.
Having a decent serving of citrus in our day-to-day diet is of course ideal. But this is especially true when you’re trying to give your immune system a boost when you’re nursing a cold or flu. The extra vitamin C will help not just in easing but in reducing the severity of your symptoms.
In addition to citrus’ vitamin C content, these fruits are also particularly high in phytonutrients like carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids which don't just protect the body but also prevent other health issues.
Leafy greens, like kale, arugula, spinach, bok choy, or mustard greens, also aid in boosting the immune system. So whenever possible, load your soups with leafy greens, or try making smoothies with them, to load up on immune-enhancing nutrients.
These leafy greens are packed not just with antioxidants but with fiber, folate, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Their health benefits are not contained in just supporting bone health but also in protecting against inflammatory diseases and even in preventing cancer.
Bananas are soft, mild-tasting, and gentle to the stomach, so it’s also perfect when you’re sick. You can easily eat and keep it down without any issues. You can simply snack on it, add a few slices to your oatmeal, top your toast with it, or even use it in making smoothies.
Bananas are particularly known for their potassium and fiber content. It also has several antioxidants and decent amounts of vitamin C, copper, potassium, magnesium, and riboflavin. It’s perfect for calming the stomach, which is again particularly sensitive when you’re sick, by improving digestion.
Toast is another food that is not only gentle to the stomach but will also help in easing an upset tummy. You can simply eat it plain, or you can top it with eggs, banana slices, or perhaps some berries. The toast on its own is just fine – it’s actually even better when you’re trying to reduce nausea because it hardly smells of anything.
Toast, especially whole grain bread, packs a good amount of fiber. It’s also a decent source of vitamins and minerals. And did you know that toasting bread actually not just lessens its fat content but also lowers its glycemic index? This can be particularly important if you’re diabetic.
Teas are actually one of the best drinks for coughs and colds. It helps with the decongestion of stuffy nose and alleviating sore throat. Teas with a squeeze of lemon, a slice of ginger, and perhaps a teaspoon of honey are just perfect!
Teas are packed with natural compounds like polyphenols which help in reducing inflammation. It’s good for boosting the immune system and may even reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease.
Avocados are great immunity boosters. They’re also soft, bland, and easy to eat. You can use avocado slices to top toast or oatmeal. You can also simply snack on it plainly or with a little drizzle of honey. Making avocado smoothies is also a great idea.
Avocados are not just packed with monounsaturated fats, fiber, and antioxidants, they're also a great source of vitamins and minerals. Its vitamin E content is particularly important in defending the body against illnesses.
Applesauce is part of the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) which is particularly beneficial to relieve diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. You can eat it plainly or topped it with dried fruits or nuts. You can also use it to top your oatmeal, toast, or cereals.
Aside from carbs, in the form of dietary fiber and sugar, applesauce also contains vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and folate. It’s also particularly rich in phytochemicals.
Chicken or Turkey
Chicken and turkey both have amino acids that contain antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. This is yet another reason why chicken soup is particularly popular among foods for when you’re sick.
Both chicken and turkey are lean sources of protein. They’re both rich in B vitamins as well. And it doesn’t hurt of course that they’re both low in calories and saturated fats.
Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries, contain antioxidants that have immune-boosting, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects. They’re great snack choices especially when one is sick. You can also use it to top your oatmeal, salads, yogurt, or toast. You can even make smoothies for when you’re not really in the mood to eat anything because you can just easily chow it down in just a few gulps.
On top of its polyphenols content, berries also have good amounts of fiber, vitamin C, folate, and other key vitamins and minerals. Aside from boosting the immune system, berries are also great for supporting a healthy digestive tract.
Crackers because they’re mild tasting and contain high starch will benefit your queasy stomach. It will help in absorbing gastric acid which can easily cause discomfort. It’s one of the go-to snack ideas when you’re feeling under the weather because not only is it bland, but it’s also practically odorless (strong scents are not particularly good when one is experiencing nausea).
The really good crackers out there contain dietary fiber and are low in calories. That said be wary of the ones that contain high sodium content.
How to Quickly Bounce Back from Illness
Eating well and staying hydrated are just two of the ways for you to quickly bounce back from illness. Here are a few more tips on how you can speed up the healing process:
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is always important regardless of whether you’re sick or not but it’s especially true when your body is trying to heal from an illness. Sleeping will allow your body and mind to get the much-needed rest to recuperate quickly.
Take a shower
The desire to stay in bed, probably even wrapped in a comfy blanket, is rather strong when you’re not feeling well. But keep in mind that a refreshing shower can actually help you feel a lot better and will even speed up your recovery. Showering can help soothe achy muscles and clear up congestion as well.
Gargle with salt and water
You have probably heard this at least once in your life (if not then hear us out!). Gargle with salt and water. All you need is a cup of warm water mixed with about a half teaspoon of salt, and simply use it to gargle. This will not only help in soothing a sore throat but in relieving toothache as well. You can gargle with salt water at least twice a day or even up to four times depending on how bad your symptoms are.
Put your phone (or other devices) down
You are supposed to be resting, so put your phone down. It’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re scrolling down on your phone. Before you knew it, you just spend hours straining your eyes, back, and shoulders – and now you’re feeling even sicker. So, seriously, put the phone down.
Consider OTC medications
Depending on what’s keeping you under the weather, you may also consider taking OTC medications. Say if you’re experiencing body aches then perhaps consider pain relievers. If your clogged nose is really giving you discomfort then consider decongestants. That said, make sure that you read the labels and understand the instructions before you take any OTC medicines. Ensure, too, that it doesn’t interact with your other medication or supplement or that you’re not allergic to it.