When you’re sick every piece of food either seems unappealing or makes you nauseous. It often feels impossible to find something that makes you feel better and that’s delicious. But that’s why I’m here, to help with this problem by using personal experience of being sick and doing a ton of research so you don’t have to.
This one is probably pretty obvious, but it’s well-known that soup is great when you’re sick. In fact, soup is good for soothing both cold and flu symptoms.
The hot soup helps break up the congestion associated with both colds and the flu. The salt in the soup and its warmth can soothe a sore throat. A 2000 study claimed to have shown that it also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can relieve congestion too, although this is still uncertain. In particular, it relieves congestion by reducing the movement of white blood cells in the upper respiratory tract.
Hot chicken soup has been regarded for centuries as a “cure” for common colds. While research affirms that this is not a cure, hot chicken soup is a potent mucus stimulant, especially when it is loaded with pepper, garlic, hot curry powder, and other pungent spices that help to thin out the mucus in the mouth, throat, and lungs.
Chicken also contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which is similar in chemical content to a drug called acetylcysteine that doctors give for bronchitis and respiratory infections to help thin mucus and make it easier to eliminate. You might throw in some chili peppers and spices and gain an extra advantage in thinning mucus, making it easier to expel.
Because applesauce is bland and gentle on the stomach, it’s absolutely perfect for an upset tummy. The diet is rich in starch and contains little fiber, which can have a binding effect on loose stools and speed up recovery from diarrhea.
I know, super gross to think about.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” isn’t just a saying — apples, in general, actually can help prevent illnesses such as the common cold. This fruit contains phytochemical antioxidants, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal. These antioxidants help boost immunity and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
3. Hot Tea
I know, I know. This isn’t technically a ‘food’, but sometimes you don’t have an appetite when you’re sick and that is completely okay. Drinking tea (especially Chinese, Japanese, or American varieties) while you’re sick can help your body fight off infections. This is thanks to natural bacteria-fighting compounds in tea, especially green tea.
Plus, warm liquids can soothe a sore throat and alleviate congestion. Freshly brewed tea or hot water with lemon is ideal for staying hydrated while helping out that stuffy nose. Just like chicken soup, hot tea acts as a natural decongestant, helping clear the sinuses of mucus. Note that tea needs to be hot to act as a decongestant, but it shouldn’t be so hot that it further irritates your sore throat.
You don’t need to worry about tea being dehydrating to you when you’re sick. Although some teas do contain caffeine, the amounts are far too small to cause any increased water loss. This means that sipping on tea throughout the day is a great way to help you stay hydrated while relieving congestion at the same time.
4. Something Spicy
Spicy foods like chili peppers contain capsaicin, which causes a hot, burning sensation when touched. When high enough in concentration, capsaicin can have a desensitizing effect and is often used in pain-relieving gels and patches. Many people report that eating spicy foods causes a runny nose, breaking up mucus and clearing out the sinus passages, and making it the perfect thing to eat when you’re sick.
While few studies have tested this effect, capsaicin does seem to thin out mucus, making it easier to expel. Nasal capsaicin sprays have been used with good results to relieve congestion and itching. However, capsaicin also stimulates mucus production, so you may just end up with a runny nose instead of a stuffed one. Cough relief may be another benefit of capsaicin. One study found that taking capsaicin capsules improved symptoms in people with a chronic cough by making them less sensitive to irritation.
Additionally, this is meant for a cold more than an upset tummy. Spicy food can cause bloating, pain and nausea in some people.
5. Honey and Ginger
I know, I’m cheating by putting two things for number five. But, I simply couldn’t decide between them. So, I put both.
Honey has potent antibacterial effects, likely because of its high content of antimicrobial compounds.
In fact, it has such strong antibacterial effects that it was used in wound dressings by the ancient Egyptians and is still used for this purpose today. Some evidence suggests that honey can also stimulate the immune system
These qualities alone make honey an excellent food to eat when sick, especially if you have a sore throat caused by a bacterial infection. Many studies show that honey suppresses coughing in children.
However, remember that honey should not be given to children under 12 months old.
Mix about half a teaspoon (2.5 ml) of honey with a warm glass of milk, water or a cup of tea. This is a hydrating, cough-soothing, antibacterial drink.
While honey is known for soothing sore throats, ginger is probably best known for its anti-nausea effects when you’re sick. It has also been shown to effectively relieve nausea related to pregnancy and cancer treatment. What’s more, ginger acts similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It has also demonstrated antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-cancer effects. It’s absolutely wonderful to eat when you’re sick.
So if you are feeling nauseous or throwing up, ginger is the best food available to relieve these symptoms. Even if you aren’t nauseous, ginger’s many other beneficial effects make it one of the top foods to eat when sick. Use fresh ginger in cooking, brew some ginger tea or pick up some ginger ale from the store to get these benefits. Just make sure that whatever you’re using contains real ginger or ginger extract, not just ginger flavor.