10 of the Best Flu Season Foods

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10 of the Best Flu Season Foods

The “tripledemic” is here. Covid, flu and RSV are waging their holiday-time war, and we’re all trying to avoid getting sick. Those of us who get unlucky, though, are likely to experience cold and flu symptoms in the upcoming weeks. Ensuring you get your flu shot and covid booster is one of the best ways to keep yourself from feeling too sick, but if you’re already miserable, you may be looking to food to cure your ailments.

The following are some of my personal favorite sick day foods. Some are backed by science, some are backed by common sense and some may seem strange if you’ve never tried them before, but hopefully, they can offer you a modicum of relief as you empty your third box of tissues. Here are 10 of the best sick day foods.

1. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut and other fermented foods can be beneficial when you’re sick because they contain probiotics. However, I love sauerkraut when I’m not feeling well because of its strong, briny flavor. When I can’t taste anything else, sauerkraut still often offers a pop of intense saltiness that makes my taste buds feel alive again.

2. Congee

I didn’t grow up eating congee, but the first time my (exceptionally sweet) college roommate made the Asian staple for me when I was suffering from the flu, I fell in love with it. It’s easy to get down even when you’re not feeling your best, and it feels more substantial than a typical chicken noodle soup. The addition of meat and veggies can make it more filling, but a rice-only version isn’t a bad idea if you’re having gastrointestinal issues.

3. Liquid Jell-O

When I was sick as a child, my mom would always make me purple Jell-O. I ate some of it after it had spent time solidifying in the fridge, but I liked it best when it was still warm and liquefied. The gelatin coats your throat, which is ideal if you’re suffering from post-nasal drip.

4. Sushi

Are you technically supposed to eat raw fish when you have a weakened immune system? According to the internet, no. But is it the number one food I crave when I’m feeling under the weather? Absolutely. When I have no appetite, fresh fish and rice always seem to satisfy, and it feels like a healthy option when a salad holds no appeal.

5. Anything aggressively spicy

If you’re experiencing stomach issues, it should probably be obvious that skipping spicy food is a smart move. But if you want to clear your sinuses, spicy foods can work wonders. Horseradish and wasabi are solid options, but I also love a spicy Sichuan broth when I’m sick. If you can’t bring yourself to cook anything, sprinkling chili flakes on just about anything might just get the job done.

6. Sparkling water

For some reason, still water becomes absolutely repulsive to me when I’m sick, while the bubbles in sparkling water feel refreshing and work to calm an upset stomach. I truly believe sparkling water is a panacea for all of our ills, so it’s an absolute essential for flu season.

7. Plain chicken or veggie broth

Sometimes, I can eat a massive meal when I feel sick, and other times, I am forced onto a liquid diet against my will. That’s where broth comes in. To me, it doesn’t really matter if you opt for chicken or vegetable broth, but what does matter is that it’s super salty and served as hot as possible.

8. Pudding from a plastic cup

Pudding is a sick day special, but if you ask me, it shouldn’t be the fresh, homemade stuff. I want my chocolate pudding straight out of a plastic cup like I’m back in an elementary school cafeteria. Does it provide any health benefits? I doubt it. But the creamy texture has always felt soothing to me, and I never pass up an opportunity to eat anything chocolate.

9. Raw onions

There have been some studies that indicate that onions have anti-viral properties, but I love onions when I’m sick because, like spicy foods, they can help clear out your sinuses. Their intense flavor can also cut through congestion to reach deadened taste buds.

10. Ice cream

I mean, does this one even need an explanation? Ice cream is cold, it’s refreshing, and it helps soothe a sore, uncomfortable throat. I would normally never advocate for plain vanilla, but sometimes, that’s the best option when you’re not feeling well.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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