The Best Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

The Best Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

Food can double as medicine when you're trying to ease the common cold or a nagging flu. Here are some soothing home remedies from kitchens worldwide.

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So, you’re under the weather — with a sore throat, runny nose, bloating, aches, upset stomach, or perhaps all of the above. We're glad it's not something more serious! But that doesn't mean that it's any fun: Half the time, you’d rather not eat anything at all. But if you do have an appetite, what foods are going to make you feel better (or, at least, not worse)?

Besides comfort foods, most people stick with what they know — namely, family recipes, like that soup or snack or special hot tea Grandma (or whoever!) would always make. But there’s much more wisdom in those dishes than you might imagine. Broth helps hydrate. Ginger settles the stomach. Vitamin C and garlic boost your immune system.

For a dash of comfort and a splash of deliciousness, bear these 12 recipes in mind — during flu season or whenever you feel an itch in your throat coming on.

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is popular for a reason. Studies show that it can help alleviate upper respiratory symptoms and loosen nasal mucus. Of course, it’s also nutritious and a great way to hydrate, which can help relieve congestion. In fact, few home remedies are as famous as chicken soup. Maybe that’s why you’ll find a version of it in almost every culture.

Grandma's Homemade Chicken Soup

The name says it all. For this dish from Grandma’s Recipes Made Gluten Free, you simmer a whole chicken along with the requisite carrots, celery, garlic, onion, and herbs for two hours. The recipe suggests serving it with rice, but you can add noodles or whatever carbs you like if you’re not gluten-free.

Pho Ga Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Not every grandma makes a traditional version of the affectionately named “Jewish penicillin.” This flavorful chicken pho recipe offers all the benefits of a chicken broth made from scratch — but with rice noodles and Vietnamese toppings like fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime. 


Garlic’s reputation as a natural remedy stretches back to ancient times. Studies show that these pungent little cloves have antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties. Garlic — especially raw — can help prevent and ease cold symptoms. It’s a key ingredient in all sorts of spicy foods, some of which can put you on the road to recovery.

Côte d'Azur Cure-All Soup

This rich, garlic-heavy recipe from Chowhound is Provence’s answer to America's version of chicken soup — it’s said to cure colds and hangovers alike.

Flu-Fighter Garlic Soup

This garlic soup recipe from Veg Corner promises to heal whatever ails you. Adding crushed raw garlic right before serving is optional — but effective.

Homemade Flu Bomb

This not-for-the-meek green tea from Sandra’s Easy Cooking also features garlic. 


Bananas are the "B" in the BRAT diet — bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are easy on the stomach and can help mitigate dreaded diarrhea. Even if that’s not exactly what’s ailing you, bananas are a wise choice when you're sick as they're rich in potassium, which gets depleted quickly when you’re battling illness.

3-Ingredient Banana Smoothie

This super-simple recipe from Ingredients Inc. features almond milk, which helps you avoid any potential issues with dairy.


Honey is straight-up magical — it’s proven as effective as over-the-counter cough medicine, especially for children. 

Honey and Lemon Tea

Not that you need a recipe for this cold-care classic...


Ginger is another age-old natural remedy. Not only can it help relieve nausea and other stomach problems (hello, ginger ale!), but it can also soothe certain respiratory symptoms. It’s classically brewed in a tea, but can be soothing and effective in soups for a change of pace.

Ginger Tea — a Natural Cold Remedy

Ginger teams up with turmeric, lemon, honey, and apple cider vinegar for this soothing tea from The Healthy Tart.


The anti-inflammatory powers of turmeric have earned it the status of a superfood — and it pairs beautifully with ginger, too.

Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Tea

Beware — the turmeric in this tea from Autoimmune Paleo will stain everything! But the health benefits are worth it.

Superfood Turmeric Amaranth Soup

This healing soup — replete with garlic, ginger, and turmeric — is a hearty alternative to chicken noodle.


Yes, even if you're no longer a kid, popsicles are a recommended food to eat when you’re unwell. The coldness can help soothe a sore throat, and the fruit juice will hydrate you (which, in turn, can help keep congestion at bay). Your most healthful choices are obviously made by hand from 100% juice. (TBH, we're kind of obsessed here at Yummly, in sickness or in health.)

Healthy Strawberry Popsicles

For this straightforward popsicle recipe from Baked Bree, go ahead and use thawed frozen strawberries if you can’t find fresh. Like other citrus fruits, the lemon gives it even more zing (and vitamin C). Go easy on the sweetener — excess sugar isn’t good for you, particularly when you’re sick.

3 Fruit and Veggie Popsicles

These stealthy, healthy pops from Super Healthy Kids feature veggies and fruit in a variety of combinations: Strawberry-Beet, Mango-Orange-Carrot, or Creamy Lime (with pineapple and spinach). The lime version gets its creaminess from coconut milk, so you may suffer less from any phlegm or congestion associated with dairy products.

If you’ve come down with a cold or flu, get better soon! Be sure to take a sick day and let these tasty treats help you recover.