Food For Colds: What To Eat And Avoid When Feeling Under The Weather

Every year, the average person suffers from two or three bouts with the common cold each year. It can be a nagging illness that can cause you to miss work if it’s bad enough, and usually on its best days can make you not want to do anything. Between the sniffling, the sore throats and the coughing, the cold is never fun to have, but it’s something that pretty much all of us have to endure in the winter and spring months.

Everyone seems to have their own remedies on how to get rid of a cold. For the most part, people tend to rest, drink a lot of fluids and get vitamin C in the form of citrus fruits and orange juice. While oranges are the obvious answer, there are other foods that you should be adding to your diet when you’re under the weather. There are also some that you should be avoiding at all costs. Here’s a closer look at some of those foods than can boost or hamper your clash with the common cold.

DO Eat: Fish


You might not have the appetite for fish when you’re feeling sick, but it’s going to help you get through a cold. Fish such as tuna and salmon are incredibly low in fat, while also being high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 can reduce the inflammation in your body better than just about any other nutrient out there, and even help you prevent getting sick in the future.

With an immediate boost to your immune system and reduction in inflammation levels, fish (and even oysters) help both in the short and long term. Another aspect as to why oysters are helpful is because of the high contents of zinc that can reduce symptoms that include a headache. If you don’t feel up to the task of cooking, taking omega-3 supplements can provide some relief.

DON’T Eat: Anything Fried


Eating fried foods is something that you typically think about avoiding when you have a stomach virus, but you should also skip eating them during the common cold. If your head is stuffed and your digestive system is fine, it’s not a good idea to make yourself feel even more pain that you did before.

It can be tempting as a lot of fried food is already prepared and easily available at the drive-thru, but go ahead and skip it. Foods that are easily digestible should be your goal here as your body has enough other things to worry about when you’re sick.

DO Eat: Eggs


Fried foods aren’t going to be easily digestible, but you can still get the protein that your body needs for strength in the form of eggs. Eggs also contain a lot more nutrients while still providing a protein punch and are much easier to digest. Zinc is one of these nutrients that helps you get through a cold quicker.

Just make sure not to overdo it on the eggs, as eating too much can introduce too much fat to the immune system. Then again, you might not have much of an appetite, so eating a small portion should do the trick. Just make sure to avoid most animal foods that don’t come from the seas.

DON’T Eat: Salty Snacks


This one might sound pretty obvious as foods such as potato chips are the first thing that come to mind when discussing salty snacks. Yes, you’ll want to avoid the chips, but also anything that’s heavily coated in salt. This includes things such as pretzels, sunflower seeds, and even something like watermelon that people tend to put salt on.

The salt can irritate your throat even further, causing more pain and a longer recovery time. There are also many people that get a craving for salty snacks when they’re sick because it’s a bit of a comfort food. While there are times it might make you feel better emotionally, you have to fight off those cravings and opt for something healthy if you expect to get through your cold faster.

DO Eat: Sweet Potatoes


Sweet potatoes might come as a bit of a surprise when talking about the foods that you should be eating while you’re sick. Sweet potatoes (and carrots, too) contain a high amount of vitamin A that provide an immediate boost to your immune system. Vitamin C tends to get all of the love for its immune health benefits, but Vitamin A is just as important.

Mucus production needs to be in control when you’re sick, and Vitamin A does just that. Eating these foods that tend to go hand in hand with the colder months can also help you prevent the flu. If you’re not a fan, other orange foods like cantaloupe and squash will also help, but sweet potatoes are easier to find during this time of year.

DON’T Drink: Alcohol


When you’re told to drink plenty of fluids when you’re sick, alcohol shouldn’t be one of them. Your body is likely already dehydrated, hence why you’re feeling so dragged down in the first place. Alcohol will only further that issue, leaving you feeling worse. Most people aren’t going to be craving a beer when they have the cold, but other ‘warmer’ forms are also going to hinder your health.

Alcohol itself does kill germs, but not in the way that you might think. Your liver needs to be able to operate to get rid of inflammation, and it’s going to be hard when it has to process alcohol. Certain forms of alcohol can also make your cold worse by causing a histamine reaction that makes your nose more stuffy. You’ll want to fall asleep, but you won’t be able to breathe through your nose!

DO Eat: Garlic


Gnawing on raw garlic might not sound too fun, but if you’re at the point where you can’t taste or smell anything, you’re probably desperate and more than willing to give it a try. Garlic is packed with antioxidants that can also decongest your nasal passages and introduce vitamins and minerals such as selenium and sulphur that go a long way.

Sure, it doesn’t taste or smell as appealing as a fresh orange out of the refrigerator, but it could be even more helpful. Many researchers have suggested that once you fall ill from a cold, eating one or two cloves of garlic until you’re feeling better can do the trick and speed up the process. Just make sure to have a toothbrush handy and you’ll be good to go!

DON’T Eat: Hot Peppers


Garlic is a very pungent food, but it’s not the first one we think about when it comes to decongesting. That honor belongs to peppers, and the spicier the better…or so you may think. You probably won’t even want spicy foods if you’re feeling sick all the way to your stomach, but it’s likely best to avoid them even if it’s just a head cold.

If the only symptom you have is a stuffed nose, then hot peppers are a fine treatment. However, those that have a runny nose will want to steer clear. When the nose is already running, spicy foods are just going to make the symptoms worse, causing your sinuses to become more inflamed and create headaches. For now, stick with the garlic.

DO Eat: Yogurt


A sore throat is one of the more irritating symptoms (literally) of having a cold, and you really just want something nice and cold, but not too harsh, to ease the pain. Yogurt is one of the foods that can do the trick, and it’s not just because it feels good. Yogurt also adds a lot of protein and probiotics without adding too many calories.

Probiotics aren’t something that you think about when you have a cold, usually, but studies have shown that they can prevent you from getting sick in the first place and heal faster. On average, people that take probiotics are sick with the cold for two fewer days. Calcium and other vitamins and nutrients found in yogurt also help your body operate more efficiently as a whole and feel better even when you’re sick.

DON’T Eat: Other Dairy


Your version may vary depending on how your body handles dairy, but you might want to avoid other types outside of yogurt. Like yogurt, milk can sound refreshing for your throat when you’re sick, but the high concentration of dairy could cause you to produce more phlegm. This doesn’t happen to everybody, but many have reported this symptom from drinking milk or eating other forms of dairy.

Some experts have said that if something like ice cream sounds good (and it probably does if your throat hurts), try for something with less sugar. A sugar-free ice pop can help you numb your throat, and ones that contain beneficial vitamins such as Vitamin C only add to the benefits.

Other Considerations


Obviously, there are more things than just food that can help you get over a cold faster. You want to rest as much as possible while your body heals, If all of your symptoms are “above the neck” and don’t include fever or achiness, then you should be fine to get some light exercise. Otherwise, stay on the couch or in bed and make sure to drink plenty of water (both cold and warm) and some tea with honey.

Increasing the moisture in your home’s air is also good, and experts say to avoid steam. Taking your standard over-the-counter medications and using nasal drops or sprays can also help symptoms while your body recovers. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re feeling pretty sick right now, so just make sure to follow all of these steps and pass along the knowledge once you’re feeling back in fighting shape!