What To Eat When You Have the Flu: Best Foods & Things To Avoid

The flu is one of the most common respiratory infections affecting people of all ages. 

Some common symptoms of the flu include a low-grade fever, runny nose, blocked nose, breathing difficulty, cough, and chest pain.

It is also common for patients to experience a loss of taste and reduced appetite when they have the flu. 

This can worsen your discomfort further and slow down your recovery. 

Since you may not be able to eat as much with the flu, it is best to choose foods that can provide you with the nutrients and energy needed to fight the infection and continue with your routine activities.

This article discusses the best things to eat with flu so that you can get relief from your symptoms and what to avoid.

Best Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu

Here is a list of what to eat when you have the flu to increase your energy levels and support recovery.

1) Vitamin C-rich foods

Vitamin C is highly regarded for its natural immunity-boosting properties that can help you fight infections such as the flu. 

Research shows vitamin C-rich foods can boost your immune system, enabling your body to attack and destroy infectious germs more efficiently.

Vitamin C can also act as an antioxidant and protect healthy tissues against potential damage. 

This is another reason why you should include vitamin C-rich foods in your diet when you have the flu.

Some foods that contain a high amount of vitamin C include:

  • Oranges
  • Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
  • Red or green peppers
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Broccoli
  • Kiwi

2) Green Leafy vegetables

Research shows that green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, can strengthen your immune system and help you get faster relief from the symptoms of the flu. 

Leafy greens also provide a great source of several nutrients, including iron and vitamins A, C, E, and K, which can help heal damaged tissues, lower inflammation, and improve breathing. 

3) Vitamin D-rich foods

Research shows that vitamin D can contribute to the efficient functioning of the immune system and clear the infection in a shorter duration.

Moreover, some studies suggest that vitamin D-rich foods or supplements could also reduce the risk of complications associated with the flu and other respiratory infections.

Some good sources of vitamin D include:

  • Dairy milk
  • Cod liver oil
  • Seafoods such as trout and salmon
  • Vitamin D-fortified oats, almond milk, and soy milk

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4) Broth

Vegetables, chicken, or beef broth provide healing nutrients, especially proteins. 

Broth can also be a nutrient-dense, soothing choice of food to consume to get relief from the flu symptoms.

Broth can soothe a sore throat, reduce congestion in the nose and chest, and prevent dehydration. 

This can help relieve the symptoms of the flu, improve your energy levels, and allow you to recover in a shorter duration.

5) Herbs and spices

You can include herbs and spices that possess antibacterial and antiviral properties, such as garlic, ginger, and turmeric, in your diet. 

Studies show that the antiviral properties of garlic can help destroy the flu viruses and prevent the spread of the infection.

Some other herbs and spices, such as ginger, holy basil, and turmeric, can also help ease your symptoms by acting as anti-inflammatory agents. 

They can also add flavor to your soups or broths. This can be a great benefit, especially when you are experiencing a loss of appetite or loathing of food.

6) Probiotics

Probiotic foods, such as yogurt, can improve your gut microbiome and strengthen the ability of your immune system to clear the infection.

Probiotics can also reduce the severity of the flu symptoms, allowing you to continue with your routine activities with ease.

7) Oatmeal

A freshly prepared hot bowl of oatmeal can be soothing to your throat. It can reduce congestion in the nose and chest and provide relief from cough and sore throat.

Oatmeal also offers a good source of immune-boosting nutrients, such as fiber, iron, selenium, copper, zinc, and protein. 

So, it can be a tasty and nutritious choice of food for you when you are having unpleasant flu symptoms such as low energy levels, weakness, reduced appetite, and loss of taste.

What to Drink to Stay Hydrated

Maintaining optimum hydration is essential for avoiding fatigue and weakness associated with the flu and allowing your immune system to work properly.

However, the common symptoms of the flu, especially reduced appetite, fever, and sweating, can lead to dehydration, making you vulnerable to experiencing severe weakness and low energy levels.

Increasing your water intake is undoubtedly the best option to maintain hydration. There are also a few other drinks you can consume to improve your body’s hydration. 

Some of the best drinks to consume when you have the flu include:

  1. Green tea
  2. Ginger tea
  3. Fruit juices without added sugars
  4. Broth
  5. Honey and lemon tea
  6. Warm turmeric milk

You can prepare turmeric milk by adding one teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of milk and boiling it for 1 or 2 minutes. 

You can drink it warm to enjoy its soothing effect as well as the healing effect of turmeric. 

Low-sugar energy drinks and electrolyte-containing beverages can also help improve hydration. 

However, you must choose your energy drinks carefully because some products contain a high amount of refined sugars, preservatives, and additives that could be harmful to your health. 

Foods to Avoid When You Have the Flu

When you are sick with the flu, avoid eating the following foods:

  1. Alcoholic beverages
  2. Fatty foods such as fried foods, burgers, and pizzas
  3. Foods containing simple sugars ,such as candies, pastries, cakes, and sweetened beverages
  4. Processed and packaged foods

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Tips to Help You Recover from Flu

Here are some additional tips that will help your body clear the infection in a shorter duration and allow you to recover faster.

  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet.
  • Take adequate rest.
  • Take steam inhalation.
  • Make sure you get a sound sleep of at least 8 hours every night.
  • Try deep breathing exercises to reduce congestion in the nose and chest.
  • Practice yoga or meditation if you experience stress.


It is important to eat foods that help with the flu and stay hydrated when you have influenza. 

Eating the foods listed above will provide the nutrients needed to clear the infection and heal the damaged tissues. These foods will also give you the energy needed to perform your daily tasks.

You should also avoid foods that can slow your recovery so that you can resume your routine as soon as possible.

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