12 Foods to Eat When You Have a Cold (2022)

When you're sick with a common cold, the idea of eating or drinking anything may be the opposite of appetizing. However, there are foods and drinks that can offer some relief from the dreadful symptoms of a cold—including a runny nose, incessant cough, and fatigue, among others. They can even help strengthen your immune system, helping you feel better sooner rather than later.

Although, per the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, most foods and drinks that have immune-boosting qualities will not cure an existing cold. So, how can some ingredients help reduce the severity and length of your next cold?

Here are simple ways to incorporate 12 cold-fighting foods and drinks into your diet to prevent severe symptoms during your next bout of the common cold.

12 Foods to Eat When You Have a Cold (1)

Primarily, a hot cup of chamomile tea may have some positive impacts on sleeplessness, per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which can help you feel better quickly.

Also, according to a study published in 2020 in the journal Antioxidants, researchers found that chamomile is a useful antioxidant. That is due to chemicals found in the herb, called flavonoids. Flavonoids—also found in apples, kale, and onion—have anti-inflammatory properties that help you feel better when you're sick.

Sip the drink hot or iced, or use steeped chamomile tea as a liquid base for smoothies or oatmeal.

Turmeric

Curcumin, the natural compound found in turmeric that is responsible for its vibrant color, is a potent anti-inflammatory compound. Per the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, curcumin has several health benefits, like reducing inflammation.

(Video) Battling a cold? Eat these foods

However, according to a study published in 2017 in the journal Foods, on its own, turmeric is a weak antioxidant. The researchers suggest that, combined with black pepper, the potency of curcumin and the effects of turmeric amplify.

Sprinkle a combination of turmeric and black paper into a smoothie, soup, broth, or a plate of cooked vegetables.

The high antioxidant properties in tart and sweet cherries are due to their high content of vitamin C, per a study published in 2018 in the journal Nutrients. And according to the National Library of Medicine, although foods containing vitamin C do not prevent you from catching a cold, they can help ease your symptoms if you become sick.

Additionally, cherries support healthy sleep due to their natural melatonin content. Restful sleep is key to fighting off viruses and bacteria that make us sick. Earning less than seven hours of sleep per night can weaken your immune system—per the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library.

Try dried tart cherries—or stir some into nut butter—to enjoy as a snack.

This Is How Many People Die From the Flu Each Year, According to the CDC

Walnuts

In addition to being one of the most common anti-inflammatory foods, walnuts contain several nutrients that play a key role in supporting the immune system. Those include vitamins E and B6, copper, and folate.

In 2018, researchers published an article in the journal Nutrients, which stated that walnuts also help reduce symptoms of depression. It turns out that some of the components of walnuts can increase your ability to concentrate and improve your energy. And that's particularly important because unchecked stress can weaken your immune system.

(Video) 9 Foods You Need To Eat When You're Sick

Pair walnuts with dried tart cherries as a snack, or chop and use them as a garnish for fresh fruit or cooked vegetables.

For decades, caretakers have been doling out soups and broths to people under the weather. What's more is that there is some evidence to support their benefits. According to the National Library of Medicine, while a steaming hot bowl of chicken noodle soup is not necessarily a cure for a common cold, it can provide you some relief from the agonizing symptoms.

First, the steam from soups and broths speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, relieving congestion. Second, a healthy soup also alleviates inflammation. Catching a cold triggers an inflammatory response in your upper respiratory tract. That is what causes those hallmark symptoms of a common cold—like a stuffy nose. And third, the salt from soup or broth will cause your body to retain more water. Staying hydrated gets rid of headaches and dry mouthes.

If you don't eat chicken, opt for vegetable broth, flavored with add-ins like garlic, ginger, cayenne powder, turmeric, and black pepper.

Pepper

Peppers, including cayenne powder, help thin mucus to relieve nasal congestion. In one study published in 2016 in the journal Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, researchers found that capsaicin—the compound that gives spicy peppers their heat—may also help suppress coughing fits.

Add a pinch of ground cayenne powder to your tea, soup, or broth.

9 Signs It's More Serious Than the Common Cold

Historically, people have used garlic to ward off illnesses, fight infections, and treat wounds. And some research lends credibility to garlic's immune-supporting capabilities.

(Video) What To Eat When You Feel Sick │TOP 3 FOODS

In a study published in 2014 in the journal Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers recruited 146 volunteers who received either a placebo or a garlic supplement daily for 12 weeks. The researchers determined that the volunteers who received garlic supplements experienced significantly fewer colds—and less severe symptoms if they became ill—than those who received a placebo.

Include a clove of garlic in your next meal, or add a garlic supplement to your daily vitamins.

Raw Honey

In addition to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, some research shows that raw honey eases coughs among children. Researchers reported, in a study published in 2018 in the journal AIMS Microbiology, that manuka honey specifically helps bolster immunity, protecting people from a plethora of viruses and bacteria.

Take it off a spoon before bedtime to soothe your throat and potentially relieve a cough, or stir it into your chamomile tea.

Per the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, ginger mostly helps ease nausea and vomiting. However, it also possesses numerous anti-inflammatory nutrients that may get rid of infections in your upper respiratory tract. Although, there are limited studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of ginger's anti-inflammatory impacts.

To reap its benefits, opt for fresh ginger root. Slice or grate and add it to tea, broth, smoothies, and juice. Or sprinkle some over fresh fruit.

Coronavirus or Cold Symptoms: How Do They Compare?

Bananas

Bananas are one of the easiest foods on the digestive system and remain one of the few appealing foods when your appetite diminishes due to illness.

(Video) 15 Best Foods To Eat When You Are Sick with a Cold or Flu Symptoms

Per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, bananas also raise blood sugar and provide energy while delivering key nutrients that help support the immune system. Those nutrients include vitamins C and B6, copper, and folate. Bananas are also full of potassium, which is an electrolyte that you lose when sweating.

You can eat bananas as they are or mix them into other tasty treats. Mash and drizzle them with raw honey and freshly grated ginger, blend them into a smoothie, or freeze and eat them as a popsicle.

Pure pomegranate juice is another drink that supports immunity via its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity. Polyphenols are antioxidants found in pomegranate juice that combat viruses and minimize symptoms, per a study published in 2017 in the journal Nutrients.

Sip on pomegranate juice, add splashes of it to water or chamomile tea, blend it into smoothies, or freeze it in BPA-free molds—along with pureed banana and ginger root—to make popsicles.

Green Vegetables

Green vegetables—including kale, spinach, and chard—provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as key nutrients that aid in the function of your immune system. They also provide compounds that optimize immunity in your gut, which is the location of a large number of your immune cells, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library.

Sauté green vegetables in extra virgin olive oil with garlic, turmeric, and black pepper, or add them to soups and broths. You can also blend leafy greens into a smoothie.

What Are the Stages of a Cold?

In addition to foods and drinks that improve your immune system before you become sick, it's important to drink plenty of fluids when you catch a cold. Water replenishes the fluid you're losing through your lungs every time you cough, as well as from losses due to sweating.

(Video) The 5 Best Foods to Eat When Sick

As far as what to avoid when you're sick, steer clear of foods that may fuel inflammation or stress your immune system. Those foods include refined sugar, processed foods (especially those with artificial ingredients), conventional dairy and meat, caffeine, and alcohol.

Of course, get plenty of sleep and rest, and don't feel guilty about taking the time you need to recover. Trying to maintain the status quo while you have a cold can infect others and prolong your own illness.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.

FAQs

How get rid cold fast? ›

To help you get better more quickly: rest and sleep. drink plenty of water (fruit juice or squash mixed with water is OK) to avoid dehydration. gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat (not suitable for children)

What should you not eat when sick? ›

Foods to avoid when you have the flu
  • 1 Caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Between elevated temperatures and increased sweating, dehydration is something to be cautious of when you have a fever. ...
  • 2 Greasy foods. ...
  • 3 Hard to digest grains. ...
  • 4 Sugary food or drinks.
26 Jul 2019

Which fruit is good for cough and cold? ›

Citrus fruits

Fill your diet with plenty of vitamin C rich foods, such as oranges, grapefruit, or use lemons and limes when cooking at home. Other VIT C rich foods include strawberries, tomatoes and broccoli.

What fruits are good for colds? ›

Citrus fruits and berries

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, contain high levels of flavonoids and vitamin C. These decrease inflammation and boost immunity, which may help to fight a fever.

What is the final stage of a cold? ›

Stage 3: Days 8 to 10 (End/Late)

A cold typically wraps up around day 10. There are, of course, exceptions. If you're still feeling the effects, your symptoms worsen, or your fever increases then it's time to re-evaluate and think about a different course of treatment.

How long can colds last? ›

Colds usually last 3 to 7 days, but sometimes they hang on as long as 2 weeks. If you're under the weather for longer than that, one of these things could be to blame.

How do I know if my cold is getting better? ›

Cold and flu symptoms such as a blocked nose or cough usually subside after 7-10 days and the absence of these things is quite an obvious indication that you are on the mend.

What type of tea is best for a cold? ›

The best teas for a cold include peppermint teas, chamomile teas, ginger teas, lemongrass teas, and hibiscus teas. Depending on what kind of tea you're drinking, you'll also reap plenty of other benefits including an immune system boost, antioxidants, vitamin C, and antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

How can I beat a cold in 24 hours? ›

While the duration of your symptoms may vary, many people wonder how to cure a cold in 24 hours or even overnight. The best way to tame a cold fast is to stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, gargle with salt water, take an OTC medication, and humidify the air.

Why is my cold getting worse after 3 days? ›

If symptoms get worse, rather than better, after 3-7 days, you may have acquired a bacterial infection. These symptoms can also be caused by a cold virus other than a rhinovirus.

What should I eat for breakfast when I have a cold? ›

"The BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, is a common go-to menu for the flu or other stomach viruses alike."

How do you cure a cold in one day? ›

How to Practically Cure a Cold in One Day - YouTube

What foods make cough worse? ›

And so can the following foods which you should avoid if you want that cough and cold to get any better.
  • Sugar. You might crave a sugary tea or something sweet when you're down with a cold - what would you do without some comforts when you're sick after all? ...
  • Alcohol. ...
  • Caffeinated drinks. ...
  • Milk. ...
  • Spicy food.
13 Feb 2020

What foods can trigger cough? ›

Some ingredients tickle the cough center and might result in coughing after eating. Pay attention to your coughing symptoms after eating citrus foods, such as oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruit. Acetic acid (often found in pickled vegetables and vinegar) can cause a similar result.

Is orange good for cold? ›

It's a myth! Unfortunately, this myth is quite persistent! Because oranges are rich in vitamin C, we believe – falsely – that eating them can help cure a cold. Let us be clear: after the onset of cold symptoms, eating oranges or drinking orange juice is not an effective treatment.

Are eggs good for a cold? ›

When you're recovering from a cold or flu and don't have much energy, eggs are probably about the easiest and fastest food to whip together. Make sure to keep the yolks in--that's where the vitamin D is. Two eggs have 160 IU of vitamin D. Eggs also contain zinc, a mineral that helps keep your immune system kicking.

Why do I eat a lot when I have a cold? ›

As Abramson explained, when we are sick, whether we have a fever or not, our metabolic rates skyrocket, and our bodies need more calories to support that high metabolic rate.

What should you eat when you're sick and have no appetite? ›

Some good choices of cold foods include Jell-O, ice cream, chilled fruits, yogurt, custard, and frozen ice pops. If your nausea makes it difficult to keep food down, simply sucking on an ice cube may help. This is also a good way to slowly replenish your fluids.

How do you make a cold go away overnight? ›

While the duration of your symptoms may vary, many people wonder how to cure a cold in 24 hours or even overnight. The best way to tame a cold fast is to stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, gargle with salt water, take an OTC medication, and humidify the air.

What should you not eat when sick? ›

Foods to avoid when you have the flu
  • 1 Caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Between elevated temperatures and increased sweating, dehydration is something to be cautious of when you have a fever. ...
  • 2 Greasy foods. ...
  • 3 Hard to digest grains. ...
  • 4 Sugary food or drinks.
26 Jul 2019

Should you eat when you have a cold? ›

And here's a more important solution: It's always important to eat well — especially when you're sick. Not eating when you're sick can inhibit your body's ability to heal itself. While you might crave junk foods while you're sick, they won't help your body heal either.

How do I know if my cold is getting better? ›

Cold and flu symptoms such as a blocked nose or cough usually subside after 7-10 days and the absence of these things is quite an obvious indication that you are on the mend.

What do you put in your socks when your sick? ›

Putting a raw onion inside a sock and sleeping with it overnight is a remedy that some people believe can treat a cold or the flu.

How long should a cold last? ›

And sometimes that happens. But more often, those pesky symptoms stick around and leave you feeling sneezy and sniffly. Colds usually last 3 to 7 days, but sometimes they hang on as long as 2 weeks. If you're under the weather for longer than that, one of these things could be to blame.

What should I eat for breakfast when I have a cold? ›

"The BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, is a common go-to menu for the flu or other stomach viruses alike."

What can I eat besides soup when sick? ›

Here are some of the best foods to eat when you're sick:
  • Chicken soup. Soups that are broth-based, including—and especially—chicken soup, are traditional fare for those who are ill. ...
  • Citrus fruits. ...
  • Popsicles. ...
  • Garlic. ...
  • Bananas. ...
  • Fatty foods. ...
  • Dairy. ...
  • Sweets.

What foods make cough worse? ›

And so can the following foods which you should avoid if you want that cough and cold to get any better.
  • Sugar. You might crave a sugary tea or something sweet when you're down with a cold - what would you do without some comforts when you're sick after all? ...
  • Alcohol. ...
  • Caffeinated drinks. ...
  • Milk. ...
  • Spicy food.
13 Feb 2020

What foods can trigger cough? ›

Some ingredients tickle the cough center and might result in coughing after eating. Pay attention to your coughing symptoms after eating citrus foods, such as oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruit. Acetic acid (often found in pickled vegetables and vinegar) can cause a similar result.

Why do I eat a lot when I have a cold? ›

As Abramson explained, when we are sick, whether we have a fever or not, our metabolic rates skyrocket, and our bodies need more calories to support that high metabolic rate.

What drinks help with congestion? ›

Water, juice, clear broth, and warm water with lemon and honey can really help loosen congestion.

Which fruits should be avoided during cold? ›

But citrus fruits, including oranges, grapefruit, and lemon, can irritate the stomach lining and aggravate an upset stomach. If you're feeling nauseous, best to stay away until your stomach settles down. Dr.

Is orange juice good when sick? ›

Orange juice won't help you heal from a cold or flu

Some studies suggest it could actually do more harm than good, since the juice is high in the sugar fructose, which some evidence suggests could actually suppress your immune system. Many people believe that drinking juice is a good way to give the body vitamin C.

Videos

1. Eat this when you sick/ Best food for kids and adults
(eathealthyallday)
2. Best Foods for Cough and Cold in Kids
(My Little Moppet)
3. Foods To Eat: When Sick
(Ryan Taylor)
4. Do you prefer these foods hot or cold?
(Sambucha)
5. Foods to Eat or Avoid During Cold and Cough for Babies and Kids
(simple gruhini indu)
6. The 12 Best Foods to Eat When You're Sick
(Healthy Choices)

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Jonah Leffler

Last Updated: 11/02/2022

Views: 5711

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (65 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jonah Leffler

Birthday: 1997-10-27

Address: 8987 Kieth Ports, Luettgenland, CT 54657-9808

Phone: +2611128251586

Job: Mining Supervisor

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Electronics, Amateur radio, Skiing, Cycling, Jogging, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Jonah Leffler, I am a determined, faithful, outstanding, inexpensive, cheerful, determined, smiling person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.