When you have the flu, you may not feel like eating or drinking. But, it’s essential to get the hydration and nutrients you need to recover. Broths, ginger tea, fruits, and oatmeal may be good choices.

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You may not eat as much as usual with the flu, as you likely have a reduced appetite. Still, when you do eat, it’s best to opt for foods that provide you with the energy and nutrients you need to get you back on your feet.

Read on to learn more about the best things to eat and drink and what to avoid when you have seasonal flu.

Hydration is essential for your body to work properly.

A fever, sweating, and loss of appetite are common with the flu. As a result, you can easily become dehydrated.

When it comes to hydrating beverages, water is the best option. As well as providing fluid, it acts as a natural detox for your body. If you’re looking for something with more flavor, you can also drink:

  • broth
  • ginger tea
  • herbal tea with honey
  • honey and lemon tea (mix equal parts with hot water)
  • 100% juices (look for products without added sugars)

Low-sugar sports drinks or other electrolyte-containing beverages, such as Pedialyte, may also help. However, you should only use Pedialyte under your doctor’s guidance.

Fruits and vegetables also contain water and can help prevent dehydration.

Although not typical of the seasonal flu, vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms that could warrant the use of electrolytes.

What’s the difference between Pedialyte and Gatorade?

Eating the right foods gives your body the energy and nutrients it needs to function, and this is just as important if you have the flu as when you are well.

Here are some tips on what to eat when you have the flu.

1. Broth

Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth are a soothing and nutritious choice from when symptoms begin until you have fully recovered.

Broth helps prevent dehydration, and the warm elements can help soothe a sore throat and relieve congestion.

Here, find out how to make bone broth.

2. Chicken soup

Chicken soup is traditionally thought of as a go-to food when you’re feeling sick. Though scientific evidence is lacking to back up its healing properties, it can be easy to stomach when you’re under the weather.

It also has nutritional benefits.

  • The broth provides fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
  • The chicken provides protein and zinc.
  • Carrots are a good source of vitamin A.
  • Celery and onions provide vitamin C
  • Herbs contain antioxidants.

What other healthy soups can you choose?

3. Garlic

Garlic provides flavor and is a potential remedy for various ailments.

A 2020 review concluded that garlic has antiviral properties and may help prevent the spread of viral infections by boosting the immune system.

You can add garlic to food, use garlic supplements, or eat raw garlic to get its health benefits.

4. Vitamin D foods

Vitamin D is essential for bone health but it also contributes to the functioning of the immune system.

Some research has suggested that vitamin D supplements may help prevent infection with the flu and COVID-19 and reduce the risk of complications if they occur.

Foods containing vitamin D include:

  • cod liver oil
  • some fish, such as trout and salmon
  • dairy milk
  • fortified oat, almond, and soy milks

What other foods are high in vitamin D?

5. Yogurt

Yogurt is a good source of probiotics. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that can help support the immune system.

One small study has suggested that probiotics may reduce the severity of the flu in some people, although other research has found no evidence to support its use.

When choosing yogurts, look for those that contain:

  • live active cultures
  • vitamin D
  • little or no added sugar

6. Vitamin C-containing fruits and vegetables

Vitamin C is crucial for boosting your immune system, which is especially important when you’re sick.

Foods high in vitamin C include:

  • red or green peppers
  • oranges or 100% fresh orange juice
  • grapefruit juice
  • lemon juice
  • kiwi
  • broccoli

Vitamin C supplements are another option.

7. Leafy greens

Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens can also help boost your immune system when you have the flu, being quality sources of nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E, and K.

Try adding leafy greens to a fruit smoothie, add them to soups, or eat them raw with a drizzle of lemon and olive oil.

8. Broccoli

Broccoli provides essential nutrients that may benefit your body when you have the flu. They include the immune-boosting vitamins C and E, along with calcium and fiber.

Consider eating broccoli on its own or adding it to soup.

9. Oatmeal

When you’re sick, a hot bowl of oatmeal can be a soothing, nutritious food choice. Oatmeal is a good source of several immune-boosting nutrients, including:

  • copper
  • iron
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • fiber
  • protein

Learn more about oatmeal’s benefits.

10. Spices

Adding certain spices to your diet, such as ginger and turmeric, may help ease symptoms, as they contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help break up congestion.

Consider adding them to tea or hot water with lemon. They can also add flavor to a soup or broth.

Hot peppers and horseradish can also help clear sinus passages and alleviate mucus buildup.

Get some more tips on reducing congestion.

When you’re sick with the flu, stay away from the following items:

  • Alcohol. This causes dehydration and can lower your immune system.
  • Fatty foods. Fried foods, pizza, and fast foods can be hard to digest.
  • Excess simple sugars. Foods and drinks like candy, sweetened beverages, and some fruit juices can prolong diarrhea.
  • Limit dairy intake. Milk and milk products contain the sugar lactose. Some people recovering from viral gastroenteritis may experience problems digesting lactose.
  • Processed foods. Foods from fast food chains and ready meals contain fewer nutrients due to high levels of processing.

As an adult with the flu, when you have no appetite or energy, it can be difficult to eat nutritious foods and make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. This can be even more challenging for children.

A child is also more likely than an adult to become dehydrated because their lower body mass means they are more likely to lose fluids from a high fever.

Make sure you offer fluids to your child often. You can also offer popsicles to soothe a sore throat and help with hydration.

Eating a nutritious diet year-round is a great way to boost immunity, which may in turn help prevent flu. While there’s no specific immune-boosting diet, it may help to eat foods rich in various nutrients and antioxidants, such as:

  • Vitamin C: Oranges, peppers, and grapefruit
  • Vitamin D: Salmon, mushrooms, and fortified milk
  • Zinc: Oysters, red meat, and fortified cereals
  • Selenium: Seafood, eggs, and dairy
  • Iron: Lean meat, white beans, and nuts
  • Protein: Beans, nuts, and poultry
  • Probiotics: Kefir, yogurt, and kimchi
  • Prebiotics: Garlic, onions, and leeks

What are 15 immune-boosting foods?

With a cold or the flu, it’s essential to stay hydrated, for example, by drinking plenty of water. Warm herbal teas and soups can provide antioxidants and other nutrients, and they can also soothe the throat.

Choose nutrient-dense foods that support the immune system, such as fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C.

As with a cold or the flu, you’ll need nutritious foods and to stay hydrated.

You may also want to spice up your food and drink a little if you have lost your sense of taste and smell. Choosing textures you enjoy can also make eating more pleasurable, even if you can’t taste much.

If you don’t have an appetite, try eating smaller meals more often and include carbs such as oatmeal or whole grains for energy.

Here, learn more about nutrients to help you through COVID-19.

If you have an upset stomach with diarrhea, vomiting, or both, it’s especially important to stay hydrated. Water, ginger tea, and oral rehydration solutions may help. You may have to take small sips regularly.

Probiotic yogurts may also help boost your intestinal health. Foods that are easy to digest, such as toast, are also a good option.

What should you eat if you have nausea?

If you are unwell with a virus or upset stomach, it’s always best to steer clear of the following items, which have low nutritional value and may contribute to inflammation:

  • alcohol
  • fried or fatty foods
  • added sugars
  • highly processed foods

If you can eat when you’re sick, make sure you opt for nutrient-dense foods that will boost your overall wellbeing

If you get the flu, it’s important to rest, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious foods. The worst of your symptoms should be gone after five to seven days.

If symptoms are severe, if they worsen, or if they persist, consider seeking medical advice.