What to Include in Your Diet When You Have the Flu

Keeping your immune system in good shape is essential for facing any disease or infection. For that reason, your diet influences your body's defenses. Find out how in this article.
What to Include in Your Diet When You Have the Flu

Last update: 23 May, 2020

When it gets colder outside, we tend to spend more time indoors in enclosed spaces and near other people who can infect us with the viruses that cause colds and the flu. A good diet when you have the flu or a cold can help strengthen your immune system to avoid getting sick or to alleviate the symptoms.

It’s important to know what foods will help you strengthen your defenses so you can fight the uncomfortable cold or flu symptoms as quickly as possible. In this article, we’ll explain what to include in your diet when you have the flu.

Food and health

Foods can affect your health.
If you get enough essential micronutrients from your diet, your body’s defenses will work better.

Hippocrates said 2500 years ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This shows that Hippocrates, who many call the father of medicine, knew very well that your diet has a big influence on your health. 

The foods you eat throughout the day can positively or negatively affect your health. In fact, there are many micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that contribute to the normal functioning of your immune system, like copper, folates, iron, selenium, vitamins A, B12, B6, C, D, and zinc.

How does your diet help when you have the flu?

Your body needs all of its resources to fight the disease, which is why it’s helpful to eat good quality foods, with high nutrient content that are easy to digest. You should avoid large meals, as well as foods high in animal fats, sausages, snacks, or industrial products.

Your diet when you have the flu should be a light diet, full of fruits, greens, and vegetables, since they are easier to digest and will help you recover faster from the symptoms.

What should you include in your diet when you have the flu?

1. Garlic

Include garlic in your diet when you have the flu.
Its antimicrobial properties can help to fight against respiratory infections.

Garlic has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help to keep you healthy. It can help fight cough, colds, and sinusitis. Fresh, raw garlic provides the most health benefits. You can eat 1 or 2 cloves of garlic per day as a preventive measure.

2. Yogurt with probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms with beneficial health effects. There are several scientific articles that confirm that probiotics can reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms. For this reason, we recommend you eat yogurt regularly. Your defenses will thank you!

3. Ginger

Ginger is a traditional remedy in medicine around the world. With its strong and spicy flavor, ginger helps to remove phlegm to help clean your respiratory tract and alleviate the symptoms of congestion. It also contains phytochemicals that help fight the viruses that can cause respiratory diseases.

4. Foods that contain zinc

Foods with zinc.
This mineral strengthens your defenses, improving them to reduce your flu symptoms.

Foods that contain high levels of zinc can strengthen your immune system and prevent infections. If you already have a cold, zinc can help to reduce the severity of the symptoms and help you to heal faster.

These are some common foods that contain zinc: legumes (dried beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, lentils, peas, and soy), pumpkin seeds, whole grains, nuts, beef, and eggs.

5. Honey

According to data from the National Library of Medicine, this food acts directly on your throat because it’s a natural expectorant that helps to eliminate phlegm. Due to this, it’s a very useful food for controlling and fighting infections, especially thanks to its antiseptic properties.

Other diet tips when you have the flu

Hydrate well to recover

Hydrate well when you have the flu.
Hydrating often allows you to remove mucous and phlegm easier.

If you already have the symptoms and you aren’t hungry, during the first few days you don’t have to eat a lot of solid foods, but you should definitely drink liquids, like homemade juices, purées, or soup. It’s important that you drink enough fluids (between 8 and 10 glasses of water a day) to help remove mucous and hydrate your mucous membranes.

Drink chicken broth

A study from the University of Nebraska confirmed what every grandmother already knew: chicken soup makes you feel better because it reduces congestion and lubricates your throat, alleviating irritation. Not to mention that it’s nutritious and hydrating. Additionally, there’s some scientific evidence about its anti-inflammatory properties.

Eat white meats and legumes

It seems that if you consume 75 mg of zinc a day it helps reduce the duration of colds from 20-40%. Keep in mind that the foods with the highest amount of zinc are white meats, seafood, dried fruits, whole grains, and legumes.

Lastly, as you have been able to see, your diet should be balanced when you have the flu. Additionally, getting enough sleep and moderate exercise can help you to overcome the infection.

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  • López de Romaña Daniel, Castillo D Carlos, Diazgranados Doricela. EL ZINC EN LA SALUD HUMANA -1. Rev. chil. nutr.  https://scielo.conicyt.cl/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0717-75182010000200013&lng=es.
  • Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI. Chicken soup inhibits
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