Feed a Cold or Starve a Fever? How to Eat During Flu Season

By: Sarah Blackburn, DNP, APRN

Some of you might have been told before to “feed a cold” or “starve a fever.” What do these statements mean, exactly? And what proof do we have that they’re accurate?

“Feed a cold” and “starve a fever” are coincidentally common wives’ tales or misconceptions. These statements lead us to believe that eating more while you have a cold or eating less when you have a fever makes you feel better quicker. Instead, follow these few tips about how to eat during flu season. This will help to keep your body healthy and prepared to fight off all those germs that float around during flu season!

Tip #1: Eat foods high in antioxidants such as:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grapes (red)
  • Blueberries
  • Leafy greens
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Oranges
  • Broccoli
  • Pineapple
  • Papaya
  • Cantaloupe

Tip #2: Eat foods that contain probiotics, including:

  • Yogurt (with live and active cultures)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi

Probiotics are good bacteria that we want present in our digestive track to support a healthy immune system.

Tip #3: Eat foods and drink liquids that contain other immune-boosting properties, such as:

  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic (fresh)
  • Black Tea

If you do end up catching a cold or the flu this season, remember to eat well-balanced meals and snacks including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, proteins and dairy to help get you back on your feet quicker! Try a few of the recommended foods and drink above that nourish and support a healthy immune response. Also, do not forget to drink lots of water equal to at least 2 liters a day (more if you have a fever!). If you’re not feeling plain ol’ water, you could try to drink broth or even flavored sparkling water. Hydration is super important to allow our immune systems to function on all cylinders and ultimately keep our bodies healthy!

Many people may not have much of an appetite when they are feeling under the weather, however it is still very important to ensure adequate nutrition and hydration. If we do not eat and drink healthily while ill, it can prolong our illness because our immune system doesn’t have enough gas to fill the tank and keep on fighting! Consider starting with small portions of bland items, such as broth, black tea or yogurt. Also, try to avoid foods or drinks that may not supplement a healthy immune response, such as alcohol, caffeinated beverages, or highly-processed foods.

I would be remiss if I excluded all the other ways to promote health and wellness this flu season beyond nutritious food. Remember to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance from sick contacts, and get your flu vaccine! Sometimes, we can do everything right and still end up with a cold or flu. Don’t be discouraged! Know that by practicing the recommendations provided above your body is in the best possible shape to kick the cold or flu’s butt quicker and generally with less complications than our counterparts with suboptimal health habits.

If misfortune has fallen into your lap and you’re feeling under the weather this flu season, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our expert healthcare providers who can help with food and medicine to get you on the right track to feeling better!

Shop Foods for Fighting the Flu

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

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