When you’re sick, everything in life becomes more difficult — food included. Whether you’re thinking about your meal plan for the day or just reaching for a snack, a fever haze can impair judgment, so it’s best to consider what you're going to eat should you fall sick even before symptoms set in. Consider making and freezing nourishing soup options in the winter that you can pull out when you feel a cold coming on, and keep in mind that eating healthy when you're ill is even more important than eating healthy in day to day life. And be careful when it comes to comfort foods: “everything in moderation” applies even when the world seems askew through the foggy lens of a head cold.
Dr. Lawrence Hoberman, a San Antonio gastroenterologist (who also markets a dietary supplement called EndoMune Advanced Probiotic), warns against sugary products, as sugar binds with white blood cells to keep them from efficiently performing their duties to fight infection. And while we know that grains are healthy, keep in mind that they're converted to sugar in the body, so consider putting them off while sick. However, Dr. Krystal Richardson, a naturopathic doctor with the Naturopathic Family Medicine clinic in Seattle, says that if foods such as saltine crackers help settle your stomach, they’re perfectly fine in moderation.
Avoiding high levels of fats is also a good idea. Jennifer Cohen Katz, registered dietician and licensed nutritionist, favors monounsaturated fats found in plant products to keep the body focused on fighting infection instead of processing hard-to-digest foods. Sticking with simple, home-cooked foods that are dense in nutrients and proteins is the best route to follow. Staying hydrated is essential, and the old adage of ingesting vitamin C still holds true. Instead of drinking sugar-heavy juices, consider eating whole fruits, which contain less sugar, more water, and lots of fiber. Healthy eating is essential on the road to recovery, so be sure to avoid the inflammation-promoting, illness-prolonging dishes we’ve rounded up here.
Adding acid to a body already unbalanced due to illness can cause additional inflammation, according to Dr. Hoberman. He advises avoiding excess consumption of acidic fruits, such as cranberries, grapefruits, and kiwis, as well as acidic veggies like corn, lentils, and olives.
Ever drink a hot toddy for a sore throat or cold? Next time, Dr. Richardson advises to stick to the hot water, lemon, and honey. “Alcohol suppresses the immune system, and your body is fighting a battle with that bug that infected you — it isn’t a good idea to add in one more element that is going to make that battle an uphill one.”