Feeding the Flu

What to eat when fighting the flu.

Flu season is in full swing and, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s packing a powerful punch. According to the most recent CDC report, the flu is widespread in most states, and healthcare providers report an uptick in influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths.

While The thought of eating might be unappealing to someone who is battling the flu, nutritionists and health care providers say certain nutrients are essential for keeping up one’s strength. Soothing and healing ingredients are key allies when fighting this season’s virus.

“The thing you need most is water,” said Sara Ducey, professor of Nutrition and Food at Montgomery College. “You need sufficient water to bring nutrients to your cells and take away the waste. As you hydrate it gives your immune system more of a boost.”

Protein, says Ducey, will help one’s body build and maintain strength. “It’s important for supporting the immune system and for helping your body breakdown medicines like Tylenol,” she said. “One of the best sources for protein when you have the flu is real, bone-based soup, not ramen noodles that have chicken flavoring.”

Bone broths, like those made from chicken or beef, offer hydration, protein and amino acids, added Ducey. Broth can be sipped or used as the base for a soup. “It’s a natural healing and restorative food,” she said. “At this point, everyone can assume that they’re going to get the flu and prepare some bone-based broth ahead of time and keep it on hand in the freezer. You can also buy boxes of it.”

Fresh ginger can work as an anti-inflammatory, soothe an upset stomach and boost one’s immune system, says nutritionist Debbie Hynes of Practical Ayurveda. “Warm water with grated ginger and honey can soothe a sore throat or upset stomach,” she said.

Foods that are high in Vitamin C like orange juice, particularly a variety that contains pulp, can boost your immune system, says Ducey. “It’s a powerful antioxidant which is important for keeping your muscles strong especially when you’re sick.”

Garlic is another ingredient that Hynes likes to include in flu-fighting recipes. “It has antibacterial properties, especially when it’s raw,” she said. “I add it to chicken broth along with chili flakes to sip when someone in my family has a stuffy head. The combination can clear the sinuses. And if you can stand to eat it, raw garlic has the strongest antibacterial properties.”

Turmeric works as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, says Hynes. “It’s been known for those properties in Chinese medicine for centuries,” she said.

Ducey uses the spice in a creamy drink she creates called Golden Milk. “I take a cup of milk, a teaspoon or two of honey and a little black pepper and put it in the microwave to warm it,” she said. “You can use almond or coconut milk if you can’t tolerate dairy. Turmeric is very poorly absorbed by the body, so adding a little black pepper helps absorb it. It sounds bizarre, but it’s strangely comforting.”

Log in to comment