Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”It is true that food can do much more than provide energy.
And when you’re sick, eating the right foods is more important than ever. Certain foods have powerful properties that can support your body while it’s fighting an illness.
They may relieve certain symptoms and even help you heal more quickly.
These are the seven best foods to eat when sick.
- CHICKEN SOUP
Chicken soup has been recommended as a remedy for the common cold for hundreds of years — and for good reason.
It’s an easy-to-eat source of vitamins, minerals, calories and protein, which are nutrients your body needs in larger quantities while you’re sick.
Chicken soup is also an excellent source of fluids and electrolytes, both of which are necessary for hydration if you’re making frequent trips to the bathroom.
Your body will also need even more fluids if you have a fever.
What’s more, one study found chicken soup to be more effective at clearing nasal mucus than any other liquid studied. This means it’s a natural decongestant, perhaps in part because it gives off hot steam.
Another reason for this effect is that chicken contains the amino acid cysteine. N-acetyl-cysteine, a form of cysteine, breaks apart mucus and has anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Chicken soup also inhibits the action of neutrophils, which are white blood cells that may cause symptoms such as coughing and a stuffy nose.
Chicken soup’s ability to inhibit these cells could partially explain why it is so effective against some cold and flu symptoms.
Similar to chicken soup, broths are excellent sources of hydration while you’re sick.
They are full of flavour and can contain calories, vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, foliate and phosphorous.
If you drink them while hot, broths also have the wonderful benefit of acting as a natural decongestant because of the hot steam.
Drinking broth is a good way to stay hydrated, and the rich flavours can help you feel satisfied. This is especially helpful if your stomach is unsettled and you are unable to keep down solid foods.
If you are salt-sensitive and buy broth from the store, be sure to buy a low-sodium variety as most broths are very high in salt. If you are making broth from scratch, it may have even more benefits — including a higher calorie, protein and nutrient content.
Many people rave about the benefits of bone broth and claim it has many healing properties, although currently there are no studies on its benefits.
Garlic can provide all sorts of health benefits.
It has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries and has demonstrated antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal effects.
It can also stimulate the immune system. Few high-quality human studies have explored the effects of garlic on the common cold or flu, but some have found promising results.
One study found that people who took garlic got sick less often. Overall, the garlic group spent about 70% fewer days sick than the placebo group.
In another study, people taking garlic not only got sick less often, but they got better 3.5 days faster than the placebo group, on average.
Additionally, several studies showed that aged garlic extract supplements can enhance immune function and decrease the severity of colds and the flu.
Adding garlic to chicken soup or broth can both add flavour and make them even more effective at fighting off cold or flu symptoms.
- COCONUT WATER
Staying well-hydrated is one of the most important things you can do when sick.
Hydration is especially important when you have a fever, sweat a lot or have vomiting or diarrhoea, which can cause you to lose a lot of water and electrolytes.
Coconut water is the perfect beverage to sip on when you are sick. Besides being sweet and flavourful, it contains glucose and the electrolytes needed for re-hydration.
Studies show that coconut water helps you re-hydrate after exercise and mild cases of diarrhoea. It also causes less stomach discomfort than similar drinks.
Additionally, several studies in animals found that coconut water contains antioxidants that can fight oxidative damage and may also improve blood sugar control.
However, one study found that it causes more bloating than other electrolyte beverages. It might be a good idea to begin slowly if you’ve never tried it.
- HOT TEA
Hot tea is a favorite remedy for many symptoms associated with colds and the flu.
Just like chicken soup, hot tea acts as a natural decongestant, helping clear the sinuses of mucus. Note that tea needs to be hot to act as a decongestant, but it shouldn’t be so hot that it further irritates your throat.
You don’t need to worry about tea being dehydrating. Although some teas do contain caffeine, the amounts are far too small to cause any increased water loss.
This means that sipping on tea throughout the day is a great way to help you stay hydrated while relieving congestion at the same time.
Tea also contains polyphenols, which are natural substances found in plants that may have a large number of health benefits. These range from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action to anti-cancer effects.
Tannins are one type of polyphenol found in tea. In addition to acting as antioxidants, tannins also have antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
One study in rats found that tannic acid in black tea could decrease the amount of a common type of bacteria that grows in the throat.
In another study, hibiscus tea reduced the growth of avian flu in a test tube. Echinacea tea also shortened the length of cold and flu symptoms.
In addition, several types of teas specifically developed to relieve cough or throat pain were shown to be effective in clinical studies.
All of these effects make tea an important part of your diet when you’re sick.
Fruits can be beneficial when sick. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, which support your body and immune system.
Some fruits also contain beneficial compounds called anthocyanins, which are types of flavonoids that give fruits their red, blue and purple colour. Some of the best sources are strawberries, cranberries, blueberries and blackberries.
Anthocyanins make berries excellent foods to eat when sick because they have strong anti-inflammatory, antiviral and immune-boosting effects.
Honey has potent antibacterial effects, likely because of its high content of antimicrobial compounds.
In fact, it has such strong antibacterial effects that it was used in wound dressings by the ancient Egyptians, and is still used for this purpose today.
Some evidence suggests that honey can also stimulate the immune system.
These qualities alone make honey an excellent food to eat when sick, especially if you have a sore throat caused by a bacterial infection.
Many studies show that honey suppresses coughing in children. However, remember that honey should not be given to children under 12 months old.
Mix about half a teaspoon (2.5 ml) of honey with a warm glass of milk, water or a cup of tea. This is a hydrating, cough-soothing, antibacterial drink.