Did you know that when we’re sick, our bodies require more calories in order to function normally? In fact, one of the worst things to do if you’re sick is to stop eating, because you need the fuel to support your immune system that’s on overdrive.
Additionally, few people know this, but it’s important to stick to a regular eating schedule when you’re sick because if you’re consuming fewer calories than normal, it can restrict the body’s ability to heal itself. In fact, studies suggest that it worsens the symptoms and lengthens the duration of illness.
Equally important is to make sure you’re eating the right foods when you’re sick, so here’s what to eat when you have a cold:
It’s not just an old wives’ tale – chicken soup is a great cure for the common cold. The chicken in chicken soup contains an amino acid called cysteine, which helps thin mucus in the lungs, and the hot broth of the soup helps to keep nasal passages moist, keeps you hydrated, and fights inflammation in the throat.
Drinking tea, particularly of the Chinese varieties, can help the body fight off infections, thanks to natural bacteria-fighting compounds found in tea. As a bonus, warm liquids in general can soothe a sore throat and help with congestion, so hot drinks (even just warm water with lemon) are ideal for keeping yourself hydrated while working on that stuffy nose.
While vitamin C, which is largely found in all citrus fruits, can’t necessarily cure the common cold, several studies have found that it can help reduce the length or severity of colds. Plus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes contain flavonoids, which can help boost the efficiency of your immune system and are also great for helping speed up your recovery.
Spicy foods can make for surprisingly effective natural decongestants. Eating wasabi, chili peppers or horseradish can help relieve the symptoms of congestion and make your nose run.
Staying properly hydrated when you’re sick can keep mucus thin and help lessen congestion. Of course, it’s generally better to eat whole fruit rather than to drink it, but popsicles keep you hydrated while being especially easy on the throat when you’re sick. Buy ones made from 100% whole fruit, or make your own.
The trick is to eat smaller portions more frequently during the day if you’ve got a loss of appetite, because this makes it easier to keep your body nourished through the recovery process.