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5 Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu—And One You Should Avoid

Learn the best foods to fight, treat, and beat a cold or the flu.

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bowl of chicken noodle soupcobraphotography/Shutterstock

Try: chicken soup

Grandma’s favorite remedy contains cysteine, a compound that helps thin mucus and relieve congestion. A serving may also reduce inflammation in the lungs. Try these surprising ways to prevent the cold and flu.

Greek yogurt in a glass bowl with wooden spoon JeniFoto/Shutterstock

Try: yogurt

Cool, creamy yogurt and other dairy products are rich in zinc, which helps support the immune system, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Juniper berries spilled from a glass spice jarMichelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock

Try: citrus and berries

Vitamin C won’t prevent colds, but studies show that eating foods rich in it may get you back to normal more quickly. It also has a slight antihistaminic effect, which may reduce nasal symptoms. Check out these vitamin-C rich foods that also blast fat.

A variety of colorful spices and fresh herbsChodyra Mike/Shutterstock

Try: spices

Garlic, turmeric, hot peppers, and other strong flavorings can help break up nasal and sinus congestion. Try these natural cold remedies that really work.

different cuts of red meat on a wooden cutting boardLisovskaya Natalia/Shutterstock

Try: red meat and oysters

Choose these for your protein; they’re good sources of zinc, the immune-boosting mineral.

three cocktails on a barTsuguliev/Shutterstock

Don’t try: alcohol

While you should drink lots of fluids when fighting a cold or flu, abstain from alcohol. Wine, beer, and liquor dilate small blood vessels, which makes the sinuses feel stuffed up and reduces the body’s ability to fight infection. Next, read about these other foods that can make your cold or flu worse.


Perri O. Blumberg
A former food editor at Reader's Digest, Perri Blumberg is a writer and editor based in New York City. After attending Columbia University, where she received a BA in psychology, she went on to study food at a health-supportive culinary school. Her work has appeared in O Magazine, Men's Journal, Country Living, and on Mind, Body, Green, among others.