What to eat when you don’t feel like eating anything
When you’ve got the flu, the only true cure is rest and time—there’s no food or drink that will magically make your symptoms go away. But making sure you’re staying hydrated and eating nutrient-rich foods can help ensure you don’t feel any worse than you already do and may help ease your discomfort and get you back on your feet faster.
Because you may not feel like eating much at all when you’re under the weather, we asked two nutritionists about foods and beverages that go down easy and pack the biggest immunity-boosting, symptom-soothing benefits. Here’s what they recommend–based on research and on their own experiences–adding to your sick-day routine.
Another way to stay hydrated is to sip on hot tea. The flu usually involves upper respiratory symptoms, and drinking warm or hot liquids can help open airways. It may also feel better to drink than room-temperature water. Adding a little honey may help soothe sore throats and relieve coughing as well.
Another nutrient you want to get plenty of while you’re sick is zinc. Studies show that the mineral helps fight infection by regulating the immune system. Taking zinc supplements may reduce the duration of the common cold. Getting zinc from food sources may also be helpful, although there’s less research in this area.
Three ounces of braised beef contains around 7 mg of zinc, about half of the recommended daily value for adults. It’s rich in protein and vitamin B too, which may also help you recover fully from the flu. Other good sources of zinc are oysters and shrimp, although shellfish may not be as appetizing—or as easy to get—when you’re home sick.
Chicken noodle soup
Chicken noodle soup’s reputation as a go-to cold-and-flu food is more than just clever marketing. It’s salty broth can help hydrate and replace lost sodium, while the vegetables provide vitamins and minerals. The chicken itself provides protein which is important for healing and for getting your strength back when you’ve been sick.
Some scientists even suggest that the aromatic properties of chicken noodle soup can loosen up mucus and clear nasal passages. Other research has found that chicken soup helps infection-fighting white blood cells work more efficiently.
Beans or peas
Of course, chicken’s not your only protein option. Sometimes when you’re sick, you don’t want to choke down a chicken breast. In that case, getting protein in an alternative form—a protein drink, or a more palatable food source—may be a better option.
Plant-based proteins, like beans and peas, may not seem as dense and hard to stomach. And just like chicken, they’re also delicious in warming, hydrating, easy-to-slurp-down soups and stews.
You can also drink your antioxidants: Orange juice is a good source of vitamin C, which some studies suggest may help lessen the duration of colds and flu. But taking in too much might actually make you feel worse. Your body can only absorb so much vitamin C at once, and if you have too much it can cause gastrointestinal issues.
Instead of chugging large glasses of orange juice, she suggests mixing 4 ounces of juice with 16 to 20 ounces of water. You’ll stay hydrated and still get 100% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C, without overdoing it on sugar and calories.