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What to eat when you have the flu – Day Lewis

What to eat when you have the flu

When the flu season comes around, it can be helpful to refresh your knowledge of simple, at-home tips and tricks to help you manage your symptoms, particularly as the increased demand for health services puts the NHS under additional pressure.

Getting the flu jab reduces the likelihood of contracting the infection, and can reduce the severity of symptoms, if you do contract it.

Additionally, there are many things you can do at home either to actively reduce the impact the flu has on you, and to avoid making it worse by exacerbating your symptoms. Remember it is always important to get professional medical attention when needed.

Below, we explore how food and drink can have an effect on your health and comfort when you have the flu.

Foods to eat with the flu

First, let’s take a look at some foods that can be beneficial to eat more of when you’re feeling unwell. These include:

  • Soups
  • Yoghurt
  • Vitamin C-rich foods
  • Leafy greens
  • Porridge
  • Ice cream

Soups

You might think it’s an old wives’ tale that chicken soup is the best thing to have when you’re ill, but it’s actually true that soups – of all kinds, not just chicken – can be a good option. This is because soups are usually mostly smooth, soft and liquid, so they’re less likely to irritate your throat or be hard to swallow if you’re in pain. Soups with a high vegetable content can also be very helpful in terms of providing nutritional support for your body and immune system.

Just be careful to let your soup cool down a little before you eat it. Adding mouth or tongue burns to flu symptoms will likely make you feel even worse and reduce your appetite.

Yoghurt

You might think of yoghurt as a similar sort of food to soup, due to it being smooth and easy to swallow. While yoghurts don’t typically qualify as a meal on their own, you may be able to pair a yoghurt with some fruit or other soft foods to make it more nutritionally fulfilling. If you’re only feeling up to a snack, yoghurt can be a good choice – especially if you eat it soon after it comes out of the fridge. The cool yoghurt can help to soothe a sore or inflamed throat, and may help you to feel a little better if you have a fever.

Vitamin C-rich foods

Vitamin C is one nutrient that can’t be stored in the body, meaning it’s vital that you consume enough of it within your diet each day. Vitamin C supports the immune system, helping it to identify and fight infections, while also protecting your own cells from being attacked accidentally as part of the immune response.

So what should you eat to up your vitamin C intake? Good sources include:

  • Fruits – particularly citrus fruits, strawberries and blackcurrants
  • Vegetables – particularly peppers, broccoli and brussel sprouts
  • Potatoes

You may find that items that contain a good amount of vitamin C are labelled as such on the product packaging, which can help you to fit vitamin C into your diet. Additionally, vitamin C supplements can help to boost your intake if you’re struggling to get enough vitamin C naturally.

Leafy greens

As a hearty vegetable, leafy greens are another good source of vitamin C, but they also contain other nutrients such as vitamins A, E and K. If you’re not a big fan of leafy greens or you find them difficult to eat with a sore throat, try blending them into a smoothie or a soup to make them easier to consume.

Porridge

A great breakfast option for when you’re feeling under the weather is porridge. Porridge contains plenty of protein, fibre, iron and other minerals that help to boost the immune system – plus, it’s a simple dish that can keep you warm and cosy while you’re recovering.

Ice cream

Finally, one last food to try when you’re ill is ice cream – and not just because it’s so tasty. While it’s true that eating comfort foods can help you to feel better even if it’s just a placebo effect, ice cream has real benefits. Soft, cold foods like ice cream can help to soothe a sore throat and provide relief from a fever, which may make it easier to get on with your day while your body fights the infection.

For additional benefits, consider having an ice lolly. As well as providing the benefits of ice cream, ice lollies also help to rehydrate you – something that’s key when you’re feeling ill.

Foods to avoid with the flu

Knowing which foods to eat more of is good, but it’s also helpful to think about what foods you should avoid when you’re feeling under the weather. These include:

  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Hard or crunchy foods

This isn’t to say that you should never ever consume these foods and drinks when you’re ill. It’s more about cutting down on these less beneficial foods and replacing them as much as possible with better choices like those detailed above.

Processed foods

Although processed foods can be tempting if they’re easier to prepare than fresh ingredients, it’s worth knowing that processed foods tend to be less nutritious. That means they’ll be less helpful than fresh or organic foods in terms of providing nutrients to boost your immune system and fight off your infection.

Alcohol and caffeine

Alcohol and caffeine can often seem integral to our lives, and surely it would be worse to disrupt your usual patterns when ill? Wrong. While a boost of caffeine might make you feel better temporarily, it can actually make things worse by impacting your sleep and preventing you from getting the rest you need. Alcohol can have similar effects, especially if you drink enough to cause a hangover on top of your flu symptoms. And if you end up vomiting, that could cause dehydration and prevent you from absorbing the nutrients in whatever food you’ve consumed, delaying your recovery even further.

Hard or crunchy foods

Last but not least, hard or crunchy foods are typically a good thing to avoid when you’re feeling ill, especially if you have a sore throat or difficulty swallowing. Foods such as dry crackers, crisps, biscuits, raw vegetables or hard pastry can all be harder to consume if you have pain in your mouth or throat, which is why it’s recommended to stick to softer, smoother foods like those described above.

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Author: Rachna Chhatralia MRPharmS

Author: Rachna Chhatralia MRPharmS

Superintendent Pharmacist
GPHC number: 2045909

Rachna brings over 25 years of experience to her role as Superintendent. She qualified as a pharmacist at the London School of Pharmacy and has been working for Day Lewis since 2002. Her career is distinguished by a commitment to excellence in patient care, a deep understanding of pharmacy operations and a proactive approach to healthcare management.

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