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The Best Foods to Eat When You Are Sick

During the COVID-19 pandemic it is more important than ever to do everything we can to stay healthy. 

If you find you have any cold or flu symptoms, contact your doctor to find out if you should be tested for coronavirus. Meanwhile, choosing the right foods can help you feel less miserable and get better faster.

“You want to pick foods that can boost your immune system so your body can fight off infection, and fluids are essential to the healing process,” said Family Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Wilson, who cares for patients at SamCare Express in Albany and Corvallis. “Listen to your body and what sounds good. You’ll get better faster if you stick to healthy foods and avoid greasy, sugary or junk foods.”

Wilson recommends the following all-star picks when you’re sick.

Five Foods for a Cold or the Flu

Fermented Food 

Fermented foods have probiotics that can help prevent a cold and shorten the duration, according to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Try plain yogurt topped with honey, or miso soup with plenty of vegetables.

Hot Tea

Hot tea can help clear your sinuses and keep you hydrated. Varieties of tea have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can support your immune system while you’re sick, according to Wilson. You can choose a tea formulated for a cough or cold, or a traditional black or green tea if you prefer. There is some evidence that Echinacea tea can shorten the duration of a cold, according to research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. If you’re not a fan of tea, try a squeeze of lemon in hot water with a little honey.


Garlic is a powerhouse of antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties that can also boost your immune system. Add fresh pressed garlic to soup or try garlic tea: simply chop three cloves of fresh garlic and let it steep in one cup of hot water. You can add fresh lemon juice or honey if the garlic flavor is too pungent.

Chicken Soup or Other Broth-based Soups

Chicken soup is well studied as an effective remedy when you’re sick. The vegetables deliver vitamins and nutrients your body needs to fight infection, the meat gives protein and the warm broth provides fluids and helps clear sinuses. According to research in the journal Chest, the soup may also be anti-inflammatory which can help ward off infection. Or, try a vegetable broth-based soup like minestrone and add chickpeas for protein if you need a little variety.


Fresh fruit has important vitamins and minerals your body needs when you’re sick. Apples, bananas and pomegranates are all good choices. Eat citrus if it sounds good but be careful if you are nauseous or have a sore throat; too much of these high-acidity fruits may make you feel worse.

Foods to Eat When You Feel Nauseous


Ginger ale or ginger tea can help settle your stomach when you feel nauseous. Use fresh or dried ginger for tea.  Soda may feel better in your tummy if it’s flat instead of bubbly.


Choose plain or lightly salted varieties and bland is better; save the multigrain seed crackers for when you’ve recovered.


That stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. These classic remedies are mild and easily digestible for a sensitive stomach. These are also good choices if you are struggling with diarrhea while you’re ill.

Staying Hydrated Is Important

Get plenty of fluids when you’re sick. Water, tea or even sucking on ice chips can help keep you hydrated. Wilson notes that you may need a drink with electrolytes if you’re vomiting, but once that stage has passed it’s better to stick with a non-sugary drink. Juice, alcohol and coffee should also be avoided.

“When you’re sick, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself so that you can get better,” said Wilson. “Eat foods that provide nutrition and support your journey back to health.”

Not getting better after a cold or the flu? Book an appointment today with SamCare Express in Albany or Corvallis.

If you’re signed up for MyChart, you can schedule an e-visit in the comfort of your own home.