Wondering What Foods To Have When You Are Sick? Discover Our Top 8!

Medically reviewed by Julie Freeman, RDN, LDN, RYT Julie Freeman Julie FreemanRDN, LDN, RYT facebook_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health Swathi Handoo MSc (Biotechnology), Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health Experience: 4 years
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Did you wake up feeling heavy-headed and weak? Does your tummy refuse to accept anything? Is your pregnancy giving you a tough time in the mornings?

Well, if you have any of the above symptoms, your day has probably gone down the drain. And so has your appetite! What do you do then? What do you eat to survive and battle this sick feeling? Check out the list of foods we’ve lined up for you. Relax, scroll down, and thank us later!

Foods To Have When You Are Sick

  1. Coconut Water And Maple Water
  2. Herbal Tea
  3. Chicken soup
  4. Bone Broth
  5. Oats
  6. Yogurt
  7. Ginger
  8. Garlic

1. Coconut Water

Coconut water is just the thing you need when you are dehydrated and experience diarrhea, fever, vomitings, and headaches. It has ample potassium and glucose content and is better than other oral rehydration fluids (1).

Maple water is similar, except that it is lower in sugar content – 4 g vs. 15 g in coconut water.

One coconut can yield about 206 g of coconut water, which is rich in magnesium, manganese, vitamin C, and dietary fiber.

Adding table salt to coconut or maple water can balance bicarbonate, chloride, and sodium deficiencies. (1). It helps replenish the electrolytes lost via stool, vomiting (gastroenteritis), and perspiration – putting you back on the quickest route to recovery.

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2. Herbal Tea

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Tea is the fuel on which some people function. Some bodies don’t respond to any stimulus without a cup of piping hot tea. Fortunately, you don’t have to stay away from tea if you are a tea-aholic and unwell.

But, you need to add a few medicinal herbs to your tea to relieve a stuffy or running nose or a blasting headache. Mint, thyme, yarrow, elder, boneset, chamomile, and ginger are some common additives (2).

These herbs slow down the spread of the viral infection, lower inflammation, reduce flatulence and bloating, push out phlegm, and alleviate cough while boosting your overall immunity (2).


Tip: Add a teaspoon of honey to your herbal tea. Or, if you have children with severe (acute) cough, give them a teaspoon of honey.

Honey can reduce mucous secretion and relieve congestion in the air passages. This way, the children (or adults) can sleep better without coughing bouts (3).

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3. Chicken Soup

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On the days your nose is blocked, and your throat turns all dry and parched, hot liquids are a blessing. They keep your nose and air passages moist and soothe a sore throat (4).

Chicken soup is one of the preferred options.

When you make the soup, an amino acid, cysteine is released from the chicken. This amino acid thins the mucus (that is generated as a defense mechanism) in the lungs and accelerates the healing process. This also happens because the soup may have other anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting effects (5).

Also, chicken is one of the highest natural sources of protein. It provides the much-needed strength to your body when you are sick. You can also add a variety of vegetables to your soup. They help in clearing out the phlegm and recharging your body (5).

Vegans and vegetarians can opt for hot water instead of chicken soup or bone broth.

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4. Bone Broth

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Bone broth forms an important part of the Paleo (or Paleolithic) diet. It is said that bone broth, fish, meat, fruits, and veggies made it to the list of a hunter-gatherer early man, while dairy products, alcohol, grains, legumes, and coffee never existed (6).

The age-old, crude bone broth is made by simmering bones from beef or chicken with seasonings in water for over two days. The new-age bone broth has carrots, onions, leeks, cabbage, kale, and a mixture of herbs to enhance its flavor and therapeutic properties (6).

This broth is a concoction of anti-inflammatory, digestive, decongestant, and revitalizing active ingredients. You can consume it like a clear soup (6). It is light on the tummy and soothes an aching body.

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5. Oats

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We’ve stated enough benefits about protein. Now, it is time for some carbs! Carbohydrates are not always the villains. They also help in building a strong body and strengthening immunity. Since they are easily digestible, oats are an ideal carb source you can opt for, especially on days you experience tummy troubles.

Oats are whole grains that contain good sugars and fiber like beta-glucans. These polysaccharides enhance your immunity by activating the immune cells involved in fighting pathogens (natural killer cells, macrophages, etc.) (7).

This means your white blood cells work better and faster when you eat oats (8). Isn’t this what you want when you are down with a bad tummy or flu?

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6. Yogurt

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Yogurt is packed with protein, vitamins A and B, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, saturated fats, and a ton of probiotics.

This is why you are asked to eat yogurt when you are on antibiotics, during a bout of flu, fever, food poisoning, or a bloated tummy. It can calm your inflamed gut and respiratory tract with all the micro- and macro-nutrients.

Also, the probiotic or live lactic acid bacteria in a cup of yogurt can restore the lost or damaged intestinal microflora (good microbial coverage) due to antibiotic treatment. In this way, the little food eaten gets digested well, and your appetite begins to recover (9).

And no, it won’t worsen the flu (10).

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7. Ginger

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Ginger is listed as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for consumption by the US FDA and a remedy for vomiting in pregnant women by The British Herbal Compendium. It is one of the most widely consumed and studied herbs in the world.

Ginger root contains essential oils that give it a characteristic odor and flavor. Zingiberol is one of the predominant constituents. It also contains gingerols, shogaols, parasols, zingerone, and 30 other compounds (11).

Ginger is an antiemetic and is known to relieve nausea and vomiting. It acts on serotonin and cholinergic receptors and increases gastric emptying.

Since it acts directly on the central nervous system and neurotransmitters, ginger is considered the most effective remedy for diverse conditions, including dyspepsia, diarrhea, body aches, fever, nausea, and vomiting. It is particularly helpful for pregnant women and those undergoing chemotherapy (11).

Trivia Time!

  • Caffeine is known to induce alertness, improve psychomotor performance, and curb malaise (12).
  • Drinking hot black coffee in regulated amounts – 1-2 cups – when you have the flu and fever can help you get some of your pending work done.
  • Dark chocolate is known for its cardioprotective properties. It not only protects your heart but also boosts your immunity.
  • Active compounds like theobromine and caffeine in dark chocolate can aid faster recovery from illness.
  • Bananas are a good option when you are suffering from gastritis, acid reflux, or a stomach upset. They trigger the production of mucus from the inner lining of the stomach. The secreted mucus protects the GI tract from the acid and digestive juices that give you heartburn (13).

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8. Garlic

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Garlic has great historical importance and therapeutic significance and finds a place in almost every kitchen across the world. Garlic is known to work as an appetite stimulator, immunity booster, neurostimulator, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, and antinociceptive agent.

Garlic pods contain allicin, a substance that has strong bactericidal properties. It has abundant sulfur-containing compounds, amino acids, etheric oils, organic acids, minerals, and vitamins.

Research suggests that garlic prevents viral infections like the common cold. It is a strong antimycotic agent and hence can ward off fungal respiratory infections (14).

Pick your favorites from this list and stock them up for the days you are sick. If you are already down, here’s what you should avoid.

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What Should You Not Eat When You Are Sick

Whether it is the flu, a queasy tummy, or a worsening episode of morning sickness, you need to stay away from the following:

  • Oily, spicy foods
  • Unwashed vegetables and fruits (some might have worms)
  • Sweets
  • Ice creams
  • Bakery products and processed foods
  • Sour and acidic foods
  • Alcohol
  • Highly salty foods
  • Fermented foods and pickles
  • Unidentifiable and wild mushrooms
  • Unpasteurized, raw milk and milk products

In A Nutshell…

We can all stay miles away from the flu, stomach infections, and indigestion if we watch we eat. As I always say, balance and moderation are imperative.

If you feel nauseous, dehydrated, or drained because of various factors, you now know what to do!

Once you have picked your favorites from our top 8 foods list, clean them well and then consume them. If you are allergic to any of the foods above, consult your doctor for a customized food regimen.

If you have any queries or issues related to this topic, feel free to post them in the box below. Please share your feedback and suggestions about this read too!

Until next time, eat your way to recovery!


1. “Coconut water as a rehydration fluid” The New Zealand Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Seven Herbs to Support Immunity” Bastyr Health, Bastyr University.
3. “Honey for treatment of cough in children” The College of Family Physicians of Canada, US National Library of Medicine.
4. “Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup…” Chest, US National Library of Medicine.
5. “The Healing Powers of Chicken Soup” Student Affairs, Duke University.
6. “What’s the scoop on bone soup?” Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
7. “Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system” Medicina, US National Library of Medicine.
8. “Don’t Get Sick This Winter” Eating Healthy at PSU, Pennsylvania State University.
9. “Yogurt to the rescue!” Microbes- The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, Ask a Biologist, Arizona State University.
10. “Yogurt” Food Source Information, Colorado Integrated Food Safety Centre of Excellence.
11. “The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting…” Integrative Medicine Insights, US National Library of Medicine.
12. “Caffeine and the common cold” Journal of Psychopharmacology, US National Library of Medicine.
13. “Bananas and nausea” MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine
14. “Extracts from the history and medical properties…” Pharmacognosy Review, US National Library of Medicine.

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Julie Freeman
Julie FreemanMA, RDN, LDN, RYT
Julie Freeman is a licensed integrative nutritionist with graduate education in psychology, counseling and education. Her post-graduate certifications include functional medicine, yoga, and mind-body medicine. She works closely with other health professionals to support personal transformation.

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