What to Eat When You Have the Flu – Helpful Food Tips

When you have the flu, fuel your recovery with nourishing soups, broths, and immune-boosting foods like citrus, yogurt, and leafy greens. Stay hydrated with fluids like water and electrolyte drinks. "What to eat when you have the flu?" is key for healing.

When you’re fighting the flu, your body needs the right stuff to heal. Broths, ginger tea, fruits, and oatmeal are great picks. By eating these, you give your body what it needs to keep going. This is crucial during the flu or any other time. You should feel better within a week. But, if things get really bad or last longer, see a doctor.

Key Takeaways

  • Hydrating fluids like water, broths, and herbal teas are essential for recovery.
  • Immune-boosting foods such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, and garlic can support the body’s fight against the flu virus.
  • Nutrient-rich meals with lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables provide the nourishment needed during illness.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods like ginger and turmeric can help ease flu symptoms.
  • Avoiding alcohol, fried foods, and processed items is recommended for better recovery.

Vitamin D supplements may help prevent flu infections and reduce the risk of complications.1 Probiotics in yogurt may reduce the severity of the flu in some cases.1 Vitamin C-rich foods like oranges, peppers, and grapefruit can boost the immune system when sick.1 Zinc from foods like oysters and red meat may aid in flu prevention.1 Iron from sources like lean meat and nuts can support the immune system during illness.1 Probiotics from foods like kefir and kimchi can help strengthen the immune system.1 Garlic has antiviral properties and may help prevent viral infections.1 Research suggests vitamin D may play a role in preventing flu and COVID-19 infections.1

For adults, it’s recommended to consume a minimum of 64 ounces of fluids daily.2 Symptoms of dehydration include dark urine, fatigue, muscle cramps, constipation, fast pulse, and lightheadedness.2 Children’s fluid needs vary. They should get advice from a doctor.2 Choosing water is best. But, other options like Pedialyte and tea work well for adults.2

Ice pops made from 100% fruit juice help with hydration3 Having lean protein is key to getting better from the flu3 Drink low-sodium veggie juice for its health benefits3 Fruit juice is good for both hydration and satisfying sweet cravings3 Hot chicken soup can speed up your healing3 Garlic boosts your immune system and might prevent colds3 Ginger helps with upset stomachs and has anti-inflammatory effects3 Teas have antioxidants that are great for you3 Bananas settle your stomach if you’re feeling sick3 Toast and crackers are good to calm hunger pangs3 Choose drinks with at least 6 grams of protein if they’re lactose-free for flu recovery3

The Importance of Staying Hydrated

Hydrating when you’re sick is very important. 60% of your body is water. Getting sick can make you lose water through fever, sweat, and not wanting to eat. Women over 19 should aim for 9 cups a day. Men over 19 need about 12 cups daily4.

Water: The Best Choice for Hydration

During flu, water is your best friend. It helps your skin and body barriers stay strong against bacteria. Water is key for your body to keep the right temperature, digest food, and think clearly4.

Alternative Hydrating Beverages

More than just water can help you stay moist. Broth, ginger tea, and herbal tea with honey are great choices. Also consider low-sugar electrolyte drinks. These drinks have important minerals like sodium and potassium, which are good for your cells4. When you’re throwing up or have diarrhea, drink solutions like Pedialyte. They help you get back the electrolytes you’ve lost4.

Fruits and Vegetables for Hydration

Fruits and veggies can be good for replacing lost fluids. Foods high in vitamin C, like oranges and strawberries, can ease flu symptoms. If your urine is dark, you might be dehydrated. Look for pale yellow as a sign you’re hydrated enough4.

Nourishing Soups and Broths

Nourishing soups and broths are great when you’re sick with the flu. They offer comfort and give your body key nutrients to get better.5 Chicken, beef, or veggie broth are good choices from the start of the flu until you’re better. They keep you from getting dehydrated. Their warmth helps with a sore throat and clears up congestion.6

Chicken Soup: A Classic Flu Remedy

Chicken soup is a go-to choice for fighting the flu. It gives you fluids and electrolytes from the broth. The chicken adds needed protein and zinc. Veggies in the soup boost immune function with vitamins C and A.5 You can make it your own, even if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Just swap the broth and add tofu to fit your diet.6

Bone Broth: A Nutritious Option

Bone broth is full of nutrients that can help you heal from the flu.5 It’s got collagen, amino acids, and minerals for a warming, healing drink. Whether you prefer chicken, beef, or veggie broths, they’re a key part of getting over the flu.6

nourishing soups and broths

Immune-Boosting Foods

When you’re fighting the flu, it’s vital to eat right. This means focusing on foods that help your immune system. Three key elements are vitamin C, probiotics, and garlic.

Vitamin C-Rich Fruits and Vegetables

Foods rich in vitamin C are your best friends now. Think citrus fruits, peppers, and broccoli. These help your immune system and fight the flu virus.1 For a boost, turn to red or green peppers, oranges or fresh orange juice, and kiwi. Don’t forget about broccoli. Leafy greens are great too for vitamins A, C, E, and K.1

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Probiotic Foods Like Yogurt

Eating yogurt and other probiotics can do wonders for your immune system while fighting the flu. There’s talk that yogurt with probiotics might make the flu milder. But not all studies agree on this.7 So, it’s worth a try.1

Garlic: A Natural Antiviral

Garlic is not only great for adding flavor to food, but it’s also a strong ally against viruses.1 A 2020 review found garlic has antiviral powers. It could stop viral infections by making your immune system stronger.1

Eating these foods packed with vitamins, probiotics, and antiviral powers is smart when you’re down with the flu. They give your body the help it needs to recover quickly.

What to eat when you have the flu?

When you’re battling the flu, eat foods that are gentle on your tummy and rich in nutrients.1 Go for broths, soups, oatmeal, and the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast).3

Easy-to-Digest Options

Broths and soups keep you hydrated and calm sore throats. Oatmeal brings along copper, iron, and more.1 The BRAT diet is soft on your stomach, perfect for days you feel rough.1

Nutrient-Dense Choices

Eat your greens, like broccoli, and add garlic. They’re full of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.1 Garlic fights viruses,1 and vitamin D guards against flu and COVID-19.1 Boost your immune system with vitamin C from foods like peppers and oranges.1

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

When you’re sick with the flu, reducing inflammation is key. This helps ease symptoms and speeds up recovery. Luckily, some8 foods are known to fight inflammation. Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies stand out because they are rich in nutrients and have anti-inflammatory effects.

Leafy Greens and Cruciferous Vegetables

Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are full of vitamin C and iron. They aid in fighting inflammation.8 Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts have compounds that can help reduce flu symptoms.8

Spices with Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Besides vegetables, some spices are great for battling inflammation too. Ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper are popular for their anti-inflammatory effects. They can ease symptoms like stuffy nose.9

So, adding these89 foods to your diet when you’re down with the flu can be helpful. They support your body’s healing. Choosing nutrient-rich foods will nourish you and speed up your recovery.

Flu-Fighting Nutrients

Getting key nutrients like zinc and vitamin D is vital for your immune system.1 Zinc helps fight viruses, and vitamin D boosts your immune health.1 You can get these nutrients from foods like seafood, meat, and dairy. They help your body recover from the flu.

Zinc: A Mineral for Immune Support

Zinc is key for your immune system.1 It lets immune cells fight viruses effectively, like the flu.1 Foods rich in zinc, such as red meat, seafood, and legumes, can strengthen your body’s defenses during the flu.

Vitamin D: Essential for Immune Function

Vitamin D is crucial for a strong immune system.1 Studies show it might help avoid getting the flu and lessen its impact.1 You can find vitamin D in fatty fish, fortified dairy, and by getting sunlight.

Soothing Sore Throats

With the flu, a sore throat is common and really uncomfortable.10 Things like broths, herbal teas, honey, and lemon tea can make your throat feel better.10

Warm Beverages for Relief

To ease your sore throat, warm foods and drinks work wonders.10 Try warm oatmeal, cooked cereal, broth, and cream soups.10 Gargling with warm salt water is a cheap and effective way to help.10

Honey: A Natural Throat Soother

Honey is great at calming your throat and lessening coughing, helping you sleep better with the flu.10 Choose organic, raw, or Manuka honey for the most benefits.11 Also, products with licorice root or honeysuckle can be soothing.10

For lasting sore throats, try throat lozenges and acetaminophen.10 But, if it’s not getting better or you have other serious signs, see a doctor.10

Foods to Avoid

During the flu, it’s smart to stay away from certain foods. These include alcohol, drinks with caffeine, and those with lots of sugar. They can make you more thirsty, cause swelling, and not help you get better.2

Alcohol and Dehydrating Beverages

Alcohol and drinks with caffeine can make you lose more water. This makes beating the flu harder.2 Instead, drink lots of water, broth, and other drinks that don’t have caffeine. This will help keep you hydrated.

Fatty and Fried Foods

Fatty and fried foods are hard for your body to break down. They might make your stomach feel worse. Also, they can make your flu last longer.1

Added Sugars and Processed Foods

Foods with lots of sugar and heavily processed items don’t offer much. They can even slow your healing. Stay away from sweets, baked goods, and snacks made in factories. Choose whole, nutritious meals instead. These will help you recover.1

Hydrating and Nourishing Children

Staying hydrated and nourished during the flu can be hard for kids. They can lose a lot of fluid, faster than grown-ups. This happens because kids are smaller and have higher fevers.1 To stop dehydration, give them water, electrolyte drinks, and fruit juice popsicles.3 Also, foods like soups, broths, and mashed fruits help. This way, they still get the nutrients they need while feeling sick.1

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When kids have the flu, making sure they drink enough is key. Water, broths, and herbal teas are good choices to keep them hydrated.8 Foods like lean protein, bananas, and simple carbs give them energy. They help in fighting the flu too.3

Sometimes, sick kids don’t want to eat much. But, it’s important they nibble on something. Give them small meals that are good for hydration and nutrients. Drinks with protein are a good option if they can’t handle solid food.3 By focusing on making sure they drink and eat right, kids can get better faster from the flu.

Building Immunity Year-Round

Keeping your immune system strong is important all year, not just during flu season. Start by eating foods rich in12 and7, which are antioxidants, every day. Things like bell peppers, blueberries, and spinach are full of vitamins that support your body’s defenses.12

Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Bell peppers have a lot of vitamin C, as we mentioned before with12. Another great source is blueberries, thanks to their flavonoids which protect cells.12 Add cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli and kale, for extra vitamins and antioxidants. They all help keep you healthy.12

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Eating foods with prebiotics and probiotics also helps build year-round immunity.7 Probiotics are in yogurt and fermented foods, improving your gut health, which is key for fighting off sickness.7 Foods rich in prebiotics, like garlic, support the good bacteria in your gut. This combo helps keep bad germs out and your immune system strong.13

Regularly eating these immune-boosting foods, rich in antioxidants, prebiotics, and probiotics, can help you stay well all year.12

Comfort Foods During Illness

When the flu hits, listen to your body’s cravings.14 Comforting, familiar foods help a lot. They make you feel better, even if your appetite is low. These choices provide emotional comfort and the nutrients essential for healing.

Chicken soup,1514 warm broths, and stews are great when you’re sick. They offer vital nutrients. Plus, they bring a sense of nostalgia that can cheer you up.14 Simple foods like toast, mashed potatoes, or oatmeal are also good choices. They’re comforting and gentle on the stomach.

Comfort foods aren’t always packed with nutrients. Yet, they help with emotional and mental support during recovery. Pair them with hydrating, immune-boosting foods. This way, you can enjoy these treats without feeling bad.

The BRAT Diet

The BRAT diet includes bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. It’s often suggested for stomach issues, like flu symptoms.16 These foods are mild and easy to digest, which is good when you’re sick.16 While it’s nice and comforting to eat, remember not to eat only these foods.16

This diet may help with stomach flu and similar illnesses.16 It might not stop you from feeling queasy, but it does give your body some needed nutrients.16 You can also eat foods like dry cereal, crackers, oatmeal, and brothy soups.16 It’s best to avoid sugary stuff, dairy, fried foods, hot spices, alcohol, and coffee on this diet.16

When on the [BRAT diet for flu], drink water, broth, sports drinks, weak juice, and tea.16 This diet is okay for a short time, like a day or two. But, it doesn’t have all the nutrients your body needs.16 If you keep throwing up or having diarrhea after two days, see a doctor.16

The [BRAT diet for flu] is not used as much now because it’s limiting.17 If you’re still sick after a day, talk to a doctor. Diarrhea that goes on for over 3 days always needs a doctor’s check.17 Right after you’ve thrown up, stick to clear liquids like water, apple juice, tea, Jell-O, and broth.17 Don’t eat dairy, fried, fatty, spicy foods, or raw veggies if you’re feeling sick.17 Before you take any medicine, check with a doctor if you have a fever, lose weight, feel dizzy, see blood in your stool, or have bad stomach pain.17

As you feel better, you can slowly eat more, starting with plain, low-fat food. Try bananas, rice, applesauce, crackers, toast, yogurt, carrots, and chicken or turkey.17 Rest and don’t overdo it to help your body heal.17 If you’re sweating a lot from being sick, a homemade rehydration drink can help. Mix 1 liter of water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 6 teaspoons sugar.17


When you are sick with the flu, it’s vital to keep your body hydrated. Focus on water, broths, and drinks packed with electrolytes.18 Include soups, immune-boosting fruits and veggies, and probiotic yogurt. These give your body the energy it needs to fight the virus.18,19

Avoid alcohol, greasy, fried, and processed food.19 The right foods can help lower flu symptoms and quicken your recovery.

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The flu is a very common illness that affects people of all ages.18 Influenza A and B are the top causes of the flu season.19

The common signs are a slight fever, a runny or stuffed-up nose, a cough, and chest tightness.18 Also, many people with the flu lose their sense of taste and appetite.18 Foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges and broccoli, can make flu symptoms milder and shorter.19

Zinc-packed foods, including meats and nuts, help the immune system bounce back from the flu.19

Drinking broths is good because they are full of healing minerals. They help with throat pain, reduce congestion, and keep you from getting dehydrated.18

Some herbs and spices, like garlic and turmeric, have special ingredients that can lessen flu signs.18 Probiotic foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut are also great. They help your gut stay healthy, which is important for a strong immune system.19

By choosing the right food, you can go a long way in feeling better from the flu. You’ll recover faster too.


What are the best foods and drinks to have when you have the flu?

It’s key to drink plenty of fluids and eat nourishing foods when you’re sick. Stay hydrated with water, broths, and electrolyte-rich drinks. For food, try soups, fruits, veggies, and yogurt.

Why is hydration so important when you have the flu?

Staying hydrated helps your body fight off the flu. Dehydration is common because of fever and not wanting to eat. Water is the best, but try other drinks and foods with water, like fruits and veggies, to stay hydrated.

What are the benefits of drinking broths and soups when you have the flu?

Broths and soups, whether chicken, beef, or vegetable, are great when you’re sick. They keep you hydrated and the warmth makes a sore throat feel better. They also provide nutrients like protein, zinc, and vitamins C and A.Bone broth is another healthy choice because it’s full of nutrients.

What are some immune-boosting foods to eat when you have the flu?

To boost your immune system, eat foods rich in vitamin C, probiotics, and garlic. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, peppers, and broccoli. These foods help your immune system work better.Yogurt with probiotics and garlic can also help reduce the flu’s impact.

What types of foods are easy to digest when you have the flu?

Aim for easy-to-digest foods like broths, soups, oatmeal, and the BRAT diet. These foods are gentle on your stomach and still provide essential nutrients. Leafy greens, broccoli, and foods rich in certain vitamins and minerals will also support your recovery.

What are some anti-inflammatory foods that can help with flu symptoms?

Eating foods that reduce inflammation is beneficial. Toss some leafy greens like spinach and kale, or eat broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Spices like ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper also ease flu symptoms by reducing inflammation.

What nutrients are particularly important for fighting the flu?

Zinc and vitamin D are vital for a strong immune system, especially when you’re fighting the flu. Zinc fights viruses, and vitamin D supports your immune health. Get these nutrients from foods like seafood, meat, fortified dairy, and fatty fish for a quicker recovery.

How can you soothe a sore throat when you have the flu?

For a sore throat, warm drinks like broths, herbal teas, and honey and lemon tea are soothing. Honey is especially good because it reduces coughing, helping you get better sleep.

What foods and drinks should you avoid when you have the flu?

Some foods and drinks can make your flu symptoms worse. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, fatty fried foods, and sugary treats. These can dehydrate you, cause inflammation, and slow down your recovery.

How can you keep children hydrated and nourished when they have the flu?

Kids need extra care to stay hydrated and nourished during the flu. Due to their smaller size, they are at higher risk of dehydration. Offer lots of fluids and easy-to-eat, nutrient-packed foods like broths and pureed fruits and vegetables.

How can a healthy diet year-round help prevent the flu?

Eating well throughout the year strengthens your immune system. Focus on antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Also, add prebiotics and probiotics to your diet with items like garlic, onions, yogurt, and kefir.

Can comfort foods help when you have the flu?

Listening to your body and eating what feels comforting can sometimes be the best approach when you’re sick. Even if you don’t feel like eating, going for foods that bring emotional comfort can provide necessary nutrients.

Is the BRAT diet a good option for flu recovery?

The BRAT diet is good for stomach issues, but it could also be comforting with the flu. It’s low in nutrients but easy on the stomach. Remember, it’s okay to eat a variety of foods during your recovery, not just the BRAT foods.

Source Links

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  11. https://www.health.com/condition/ear-nose-throat/foods-to-eat-with-a-sore-throat
  12. https://www.geisinger.org/health-and-wellness/wellness-articles/2018/01/19/14/09/6-foods-to-boost-your-immune-system-through-cold-and-flu-season
  13. https://www.memorialcare.org/blog/flu-fighting-nutrition-give-your-immune-system-boost
  14. https://health.umms.org/2024/01/10/what-to-eat-when-you-are-sick/
  15. https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/comfort-food-cold-flu-season/
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  19. https://www.netmeds.com/health-library/post/seasonal-flu-causes-symptoms-and-dietary-solutions-to-combat-this-illness