The 11 Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick
Avoid These Foods
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.”
Ever go for a cup of coffee to give yourself a little jolt when you feel under the weather? Dr. Richardson recommends avoiding all caffeinated beverages, including green, black, and white teas, as they contribute to dehydration and the thickening of mucus. Stick to soothing herbal teas or warm water with lemon and fresh ginger.
A staple of the comfort food category, sniff but don’t touch these sweet treats when your immune system isn’t up to snuff. Refined sugars rear their ugly heads again here, keeping your body distracted with detoxification after a sickness-induced, comfort-seeking cookie binge when it should be recovering.
Cohen Katz points to saturated fats as a source of inflammation in the body, and fried foods are packed with unhealthy fats. Anything that the body’s detoxification system has to metabolize while your immune system is compromised is a roadblock to recovery.
While chicken noodle soup contains lots of proteins that help give you energy and spicy soups can help clear sinuses, heavy cream- or cheese-based soups fall in the no-no category when you’re sick. Cohen Katz again points to the fats that can be harder to digest in these soups, as well as the mucus-thickening dairy elements. Even if broccoli cheese soup is your favorite, it might be a good idea to wait until you’re well before eating.
When you’ve got a sore throat, ice cream may sound heavenly, but Dr. Richardson warns, “You could be making it worse on yourself afterward when you develop mucus that becomes thick and even more bothersome.” Foods that are high in fat can also be harder to digest, which may increase sluggishness or even cause stomach cramps.
Macaroni and Cheese
This comfort food staple is a major no-no when you have a cold. It may be easy to whip up, but Dr. Richardson reports that dairy thickens mucus. And if you’re reaching for the extra-quick boxed version, it can be even worse — Cohen Katz reports that processed foods overload the body’s detox pathways with omega-6 fatty acids, high-fructose corn syrup, and refined ingredients.
Processed Orange Juice
The go-to drink at the first sign of the sniffles warrants a closer look at the label these days. All of the experts agree: sick people should avoid ingesting too much sugar. Even 100 percent orange juice has lots of natural sugar in it, but it still provides thiamin, folate, potassium, and vitamin C, which make it worth the sugar intake. The problem arises when even more sugar is added to processed blends of the juice. Dr. Hoberman points to spikes in inflammation, and both Dr. Richardson and Cohen Katz cite a decrease in immune function due to slowed white blood cells, which fight infection, due to excessive ingestion of sugar. So be sure to reach for freshly squeezed, all-natural juice when you feel that cold coming on.
Whether it is diet, sugar-free, or regular, soda is not a healthy option when illness knocks on your door. While carbonation might help settle some people’s stomachs, it can burn a sore throat. And Cohen Katz reiterates that it’s best to avoid sugars, noting that the “immune system can remain compromised for several hours after ingestion of sugary choices.” She also notes that sodas lack any real nutritional values, which the body is in particular need of when sick.
Replenishing electrolytes is a noble idea, especially after fever and sweating have occurred, but it’s important to weigh the positives and negatives when it comes to sports drinks, as they pack in high amounts of sugar. Dr. Hoberman recommends diluting sports drinks with water to ingest the electrolytes that stave off dehydration and boost adrenal glands.