There’s nothing fun about having a cold or the flu. Weak muscles, headaches, a stuffy nose and feeling sick to your stomach is common. But according to the experts, just drinking water is not enough to rebound quickly from a nasty bug.
“Your body is under stress from the infection,” Zhaoping Li, director of the Center of Human Nutrition at the University of California-Los Angeles, told The Huffington Post. “We need to repair or support [the immune system].”
Luckily, there are a handful of foods and drinks that may help bolster and replenish your body while it fights the good fight. Check them out below:
1. Chicken soup
There’s support behind Grandma’s remedy: The soup’s warm liquid helps speed up the movement of mucus through the nose, according to the Mayo Clinic. The salt content of the soup’s broth helps to prevent dehydration when you have the flu, in the event that you also experience diarrhea, Li said. And the chicken provides protein to help restore and strengthen the immune system, which needs extra support from battling off your infection, she added.
However, chicken broth bought from the store will not pack the same punch as actual chicken soup, Li said. You’ll want actual pieces of chicken, broken down and made more easily digestible through the process of cooking to get the most protein. Here’s a good chicken soup recipe to get you started.
2. Light protein
As mentioned above, protein helps. Try to consume foods like eggs, chicken breast or a protein shake when you have the cold or flu. Whatever you do, ditch dense foods like steak.
“Your gastric intestinal track is not in the mood for heavy lifting,” Li said.
If you’re not feeling chicken, try a mushroom omelet. You’ll get the protein from the eggs and mushrooms are a good source of potassium and zinc, which can help support the immune system, according to Lisa Young, adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and author of The Portion Teller Plan.
3. Fruit juices and smoothies
If you have little to no appetite, drink your nutrients instead of eating them. Fresh orange juice, apple juice and blended fruit and berry smoothies pack minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that may aid your body in recovery, Li said.
Drinking water is great but it shouldn’t be your only line of defense. Why? You don’t just lose water when you sweat out a fever, you lose electrolytes, too, Li explained. So blended fruit and juices help replenish those electrolytes, which are critical for hydration and normal body function.
Young agrees, adding that sports drinks, which usually pack added sugar, aren’t necessary either.
“V8 juice has salt and some potassium,” Young said. “You don’t need to drink one of those Gatorades when you can get a vegetable juice.”
4. Decaffeinated tea
Warm tea can help with decongestion in the same way that chicken soup does. And certain teas, like green tea, have antioxidants to help with fighting your cold. Just avoid caffeinated teas since they could make you more alert, which may interfere with naps and sleeping off the sickness, Young said.
Bonus: Research suggests that lifelong tea drinkers may be less likely to face early cognitive decline, certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. So, if you discover a love of tea in the middle of fighting a cold, it might not be such a bad thing.
5. Sweet potatoes
Eat a microwaved or roasted sweet potato if you have the appetite when you’re feeling under the weather. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta carotene. The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A after consumption, which is a necessary nutrient for a strong immune system, according to the National Institute of Health.
And then take it easy. You’ll be on your way to better health in no time.