Instead of going to the park with my housemates and probably 90% of the entire Dutch population last Sunday when it was a sunny 18°, I stayed home in bed.. staring longingly out the window while I clutched my pack of tissues. It was probably the most depressing day I had this year, and it motivated me to kick this sickness to the curb as fast as possible.
Meds aren’t really my thing, meaning I focused on food. So I’m sharing my findings, and letting you know exactly what you’re supposed to eat when you’re sick as well.
Do you have the cold or the flu?
I’ve been asked a few times already, “so what do you have?” and I sort of brush it off like “the flu, the cold..something. I have something.” But alas, there is actually a difference between the two and I should probably stop using them interchangeably. Here’s the lowdown. The symptoms of both the cold and the flu are actually pretty similar, but the cold is a bit less serious/milder than the flu and generally lasts a lot shorter.
When you have the cold, you may experience symptoms like a runny or stuffed nose, cough, sneezing, mild muscle aches, and a slight fever. While the cold may be gone in a few days, the flu is not as forgiving. The symptoms are also more severe than the cold, and you end up getting that dry, hacking cough, chills, high fever, heavy muscle aches and a constant state of tiredness you really can’t escape from.
Ok. But honestly, what do you eat when you’re sick?
When you’re sick, your body actually needs even more calories than normal so that it can function properly. It simply needs some fuel to run on as your immune system does it’s best to fight the source of your sickness. Give your body the fuel it needs by getting enough protein in. Stay away from fatty meats like steaks and burgers (who has the energy to cook that anyway?) and look for other sources of protein that are easily digestible like some plain yogurt or eggs.
- Magnesium and Calcium
When it comes to your achy muscles, you should eat foods that are high in calcium or magnesium since these two may help ease your soreness. Foods that are high in magnesium are bananas, leafy greens, avocados, nuts and beans. So you have a lot to choose from. On the other hand, you can find calcium in canned salmon, yogurt, dark leafy greens, broccoli and almonds. Bonus: the omega-3s in the nuts and salmon also decreases inflammation in the throat ;).
- Food With a Kick
Besides bringing tears to your eyes and getting your nose to run, spicy foods are really good natural decongestants. So if you’re feeling super congested, incorporate something spicy into your meal to clear out your nasal passage and help you to breathe more easily.
You’ve got to stay hydrated when you are suffering from the cold or the flu. When you’re properly hydrated, this helps your mucus to thin, making it easier to breathe, plus you’re making up for the water loss you get from sweating with your fever. Go for warm green and black teas that are rich in antioxidants. This helps to soothe your throat and even the sneezing and chills. Green tea supports your immune system, and you can even try peppermint tea or ginger tea with some honey. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties which can help clear up your nose. Basically: all the teas, all day, everyday.
- The Holy Grail: Chicken Noodle Soup
Your mom was always right to insist that this soup is what you eat when you’re sick. Here’s why: most chicken noodle soups contain (at least) chicken broth, chicken, noodles and carrots, celery, onion. Well, the broth is filled with minerals and vitamins, plus the warm broth gives you hydration. The chicken is a protein which supports the immune system as explained above but also has the amino acid cysteine which thins mucus in the lungs, while the noodles will satisfy your appetite. The vegetables all have vitamin A, C, and other antioxidants that help to fight off viruses, helping you to recover. Veggies are always a good idea, so feel free to add some other ones in there!
Stay away from processed foods and sugars, since these can increase inflammation, making your cold or flu that much worse! Wishing you a quick recovery. Got any special tips for what to eat when you’re sick?