This Is Exactly What You Should Be Eating When You Have the Flu

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what to eat when you have the flu
Photo: Courtesy of Edgar Castrejon

Rustling up an appetite can feel like a mean feat when you have the flu, but while the best cure truly is to get plenty of rest as you wait for it to leave your system, eating the right, nutrient-packed ingredients can go a long way. To help soothe your symptoms, boost your immunity, and get you back to your healthy self in no time, try adding these foods to your diet.


One of the best and easiest-to-find sources of probiotics – friendly bacteria that essentially help to line our gut and keep it healthy – is yogurt. Probiotics can also help to boost your immune system and vitamin B12 levels, giving you more energy. Just be sure to look for yogurt that hasn’t been overly processed, since this can kill off live probiotics.

Miso Soup

Another great source of probiotics is the popular Japanese miso soup. Made with fermented soybeans and typically served with added ingredients such as tofu, seaweed, barley, or mushrooms, this warm and soothing soup will also deliver you a shot of protein, fibre, vitamin K, which helps to boost immunity, and manganese, which can help decrease inflammation in the body.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes (and other orange foods, such as butternut squash, pumpkin, and carrots) are rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to the production of vitamin A in the body. This antioxidant helps to boost the immune system, but it can also help to keep the body’s mucus membrane systems running smoothly – an essential part of healing as these dry up when you have the flu. Baked sweet-potato fries, anyone?

katarzyna grabowska unsplash sweet potato fries
Photo: Courtesy of Katarzyna Grabowska

Ginger and Honey Tea

Staying hydrated is key to battling the flu, and what better way to help flush it out of your system than with a delicious, zingy, sweet, and soothing cup of ginger and honey tea? We like using fresh, chopped pieces of ginger (boiled until the liquid tastes sharp or for at least 15 to 20 minutes) and a large dollop of local, organic honey. Make sure to wait until your tea has cooled a little bit before you stir it in to avoid the honey losing its nutrients when exposed to high heat. This antimicrobial- and antibacterial-laden concoction will help you sweat out the toxins in your body while staying hydrated.

Citrus Fruits

Oranges have long been known to be a great source of flu-fighting vitamin C, but there are a whole host of other citrus fruits out there that possess similar benefits, such as lemons, tangerines, limes, and grapefruit. Studies have shown that high levels of vitamin C can help reduce cold symptoms by up to a day, but citrus fruits are also high in potassium, which helps your body better handle its fluid regulation – essential when you’re trying to stay well hydrated.

Spicy Foods

There’s been a lot of debate around whether or not spicy foods are actually beneficial for someone trying to kick a flu to the curb, but the trick here is in simply making sure that you don’t have too much of them. Consuming a bit of spicy food when you’re suffering from the flu can help to clear your sinuses, ease your congestion, and help to loosen the mucus and phlegm that’s preventing you from breathing easily. Just don’t overdo it as spicy foods can exacerbate the gastrointestinal symptoms that often occur as a side effect of the flu. Aim for a hint of spice, rather than a set-your-mouth-on-fire level.

Chicken Soup

Good old chicken soup is still a classic when it comes to flu-curing foods, and for good reason. Aside from its comfort factor and the fact that it will keep you hydrated, the protein from the chicken contains cysteine, an amino acid that can help to clear mucus. Once you’ve boiled or stewed the chicken, the collagen that will seep into the soup can help to stimulate digestion, making it easier to absorb all of those great nutrients that you need to get better faster. Grandma was right after all.