Skip to content

7 Foods That Help Fight Off the Flu, Doctors Say

Here's exactly what to eat to feel better sooner.

When you're sick with the flu, what you put on your plate matters more than ever. By packing your diet with nutrient-rich, whole foods and avoiding processed foods that lack essential vitamins and minerals, you may even be able to speed up the process of fighting off your illness. However, doctors say there are a handful of foods that are especially beneficial when you're sick, in that they can help settle the stomach, rehydrate you, boost immunity, and more. Keep reading to learn the seven best foods to eat when you're sick with the flu.

RELATED: Should You Drink Coffee When You're Sick? Doctors Weigh In.

7 Best Foods to Eat When Sick With the Flu

1. Green tea and ginger tea

Sick woman at home blowing nose and take care of influenza virus disease. One female people using paper tissue and drink herbal tea medicine alone at home. Concept of flu cold in winter season indoor

A hot cup of tea can help hydrate you and clear congestion, but not all tea is created equally when you're sick: Green tea and ginger tea are especially beneficial.

"Green tea is filled with antioxidants and flavonoids, which boost your immune function. It also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that aids in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T-cells," explains Paul Daidone, MD, FASAM, a double board-certified doctor of internal medicine and the medical director at True Recovery.

If you're suffering from a severely stuffy nose, nausea, or upset stomach, ginger tea may also help soothe your symptoms. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory ingredients can help boost your health between illnesses.

2. Homemade chicken soup

Homemade chicken noodle soup with carrots and crackers
Jess Lessard Photography / iStock

Eating canned chicken soup will do little to help you fight off the flu, and the high sodium content may even lead to dehydration and worsen your symptoms. However, a fresh or homemade batch of chicken soup filled with hearty veggies, lean protein, and whole-grain noodles could be just what your body needs.

"Chicken soup is not just an old wives' tale. It's a source of fluids and electrolytes, both of which are necessary for hydration if you're making frequent trips to the bathroom," says Daidone. "The hot soup also helps to clear nasal congestion. Additionally, chicken is a good source of protein, essential for the health of your immune cells."

RELATED: I'm a Doctor and These Are the 5 "Food Secrets" of the Longest-Living People.

3. Garlic

Bowl of Garlic Cloves

Adding garlic to your meal is another way to help fend off the flu this season.

"Garlic contains allicin, a compound that boosts the disease-fighting response of certain types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses, like those that cause the flu," explains Daidone. "It also has antimicrobial and antiviral properties that may help prevent the flu virus from spreading and causing more discomfort."

4. Nuts

Bowl of Almonds

Nuts are a great source of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, making them a great addition to your everyday diet in moderation.

Daidone recommends eating almonds in particular when you're sick with the flu. "Almonds are packed with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that is key to a healthy immune system. It's fat-soluble, which means the fats in almonds help with its absorption," he says.

5. Citrus fruits

Different citrus fruits with leaves as background
New Africa / Shutterstock

The saying goes that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but if you've already got the flu, the best fruits to reach for are citrus fruits.

"Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are high in vitamin C, which is known to boost the immune system," Daidone tells Best Life. "Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting off infections."

RELATED: I'm a Nutritionist and Here's Exactly What I Do to Not Get Sick.

6. Yogurt

A bowl of fresh yogurt on a table with a wooden spoon

If you're dealing with severe congestion, limiting your dairy intake can help speed up your recovery. However, Daidone says that eating yogurt can also have its benefits when you're sick.

"Yogurts with live cultures are excellent sources of probiotics, the friendly bacteria that populate your gut and support your immune system," he explains, adding that they can reduce the length and severity of the flu. "Yogurt is also packed with protein and vitamin D, further supporting immune health."

Topping your yogurt with fresh berries can give you an added dose of flu-fighting antioxidants.

7. Dark leafy greens

bundle of fresh kale
iStock / 4nadia

Last but certainly not least, dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, or collard greens, are another great food group to reach for when you're sick with the flu. They're packed with vitamin C and vitamin E, both of which can help boost immune function.

Try adding them to a soup, blending them into a smoothie, or sauteeing them and eating them over a bed of whole grains.

For more health advice sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
Filed Under