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The 11 Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

The 11 Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

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When you’re sick, everything in life becomes more difficult — food included. Whether you’re thinking about your meal plan for the day or just reaching for a snack, a fever haze can impair judgment, so it’s best to consider what you're going to eat should you fall sick even before symptoms set in. Consider making and freezing nourishing soup options in the winter that you can pull out when you feel a cold coming on, and keep in mind that eating healthy when you're ill is even more important than eating healthy in day to day life. And be careful when it comes to comfort foods: “everything in moderation” applies even when the world seems askew through the foggy lens of a head cold.

The 11 Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

Dr. Lawrence Hoberman, a San Antonio gastroenterologist (who also markets a dietary supplement called EndoMune Advanced Probiotic), warns against sugary products, as sugar binds with white blood cells to keep them from efficiently performing their duties to fight infection. And while we know that grains are healthy, keep in mind that they're converted to sugar in the body, so consider putting them off while sick. However, Dr. Krystal Richardson, a naturopathic doctor with the Naturopathic Family Medicine clinic in Seattle, says that if foods such as saltine crackers help settle your stomach, they’re perfectly fine in moderation.

Avoiding high levels of fats is also a good idea. Jennifer Cohen Katz, registered dietician and licensed nutritionist, favors monounsaturated fats found in plant products to keep the body focused on fighting infection instead of processing hard-to-digest foods. Sticking with simple, home-cooked foods that are dense in nutrients and proteins is the best route to follow. Staying hydrated is essential, and the old adage of ingesting vitamin C still holds true. Instead of drinking sugar-heavy juices, consider eating whole fruits, which contain less sugar, more water, and lots of fiber. Healthy eating is essential on the road to recovery, so be sure to avoid the inflammation-promoting, illness-prolonging dishes we’ve rounded up here.

Acidic Foods

Adding acid to a body already unbalanced due to illness can cause additional inflammation, according to Dr. Hoberman. He advises avoiding excess consumption of acidic fruits, such as cranberries, grapefruits, and kiwis, as well as acidic veggies like corn, lentils, and olives.


Ever drink a hot toddy for a sore throat or cold? Next time, Dr. Richardson advises to stick to the hot water, lemon, and honey. “Alcohol suppresses the immune system, and your body is fighting a battle with that bug that infected you — it isn’t a good idea to add in one more element that is going to make that battle an uphill one.”

13 Healing Food Recipes to Boost Your Immune System

When you’re sick, nutrition is super important. When your appetite is running low, you can’t keep much down or taste well, and it can be hard to eat enough to fuel your body and start getting healthier. These paleo recipes are packed with healing foods like turmeric, lemon and garlic, and will help boost your immune system so you can recover quicker and regain your appetite.

1. Upgraded Turmeric Latte
Turmeric has long been regarded as a healing root for your body with its anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re feeling under the weather, a hot drink often feels great going down, too! Try this sooth turmeric latte with collagen peptides, ginger, cinnamon, coconut oil, and more.

2. Healing Paleo Chicken Soup
Of course, chicken soup is good food for a sick body. In this recipe, the broth is healing to the gut (even better if you use homemade bone broth) while the turmeric and garlic get to work on inflammation and bacteria that could be keeping you from feeling your best.

Photo: Simple Roots Wellness

3. Healing Green Smoothie
A discussion of healing foods for a paleo lifestyle wouldn’t be complete without a green smoothie recipe, would it? This smoothie is a great way to get your nutrients in and energize your body if you feel up to drinking it. In place of the kefir, you can use coconut yogurt.

4. Creamy Carrot Turmeric Soup With Coconut
Regardless of the type, soup is usually good healing food for a sick day. This one is full of healing and nourishing ingredients like turmeric, carrots, apple cider vinegar, curry, garlic, and ginger. And because it’s so creamy and smooth, it feels really good on a sore throat.

5. Healing Lemon Ginger Bone Broth
Bone broth doesn’t have to be all rosemary and thyme—this amazing version for sick days tastes so good and is full of nutrients. You can make it ahead and freeze it so it’s ready when you need it! The secret is Vitamin C-rich lemon and healing ginger. Replace the vegetable oil with olive or coconut.

6. Immune Boosting Hot Cocoa
Being sick can leave us feeling pretty run down even after the worst of it is over, but there are things we can do to boost our immune system and get things running smoothly again. I love this creamy recipe with coconut and almond milks, maple syrup, raw cacao powder, collagen, coconut oil or butter, cinnamon, and maca powder.

7. Turkey Vegetable Soup
Why should chicken soup get all the attention? Turkey soup is just as good for you! This one is made with leftover turkey, onion, carrots, parsnips, celery, riced cauliflower, and seasonings like garlic and sage. It’s sure to help you get back on your feet with all that healthy goodness.

8. Good For Your Tummy Mango Gummies
If you’ve been paleo for more than a few minutes, you probably have heard at least a little about how good grass-fed gelatin is for healing your digestive tract. These gummies are a great way to get than gelatin into your body or into your kids’ bodies because they taste so darn good.

9. Pink Grapefruit Ginger Smoothie
With grapefruit, banana, non dairy milk, carrots, and fresh ginger, you know this smoothie is filled with nourishing ingredients to get your immune system in tip-top shape. The maca powder is optional but encourages general vitality while adding a caramel-like flavor to your smoothie.

Photo: Joy filled Nourishment

10. Cranberry Orange Gelatin Gummies
Here’s another gummy recipe, this one with cranberry juice, which promotes a healthy urinary tract and can provide relief from UTIs (of course, always see a doctor if you think you may have one!). The healing properties of these ingredients are fabulous.

11. AIP “Chocolate” and Peppermint Gummies
Made with carob powder for a chocolaty peppermint flavor without any actual chocolate, these gummies are good for your gut (just like the mango ones) but have a different flavor. I’d recommend the peppermint extract over essential oil, as essential oils aren’t for internal use.

12. Honey, Lemon, and Ginger Tea
This is a great tea for sore throats, and it’s super simple. All you need is lemon, freshly grated ginger, raw honey, and optional cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper is a key ingredient here, but it’s pretty intense, so consider it optional if you can’t handle the heat or if this is for a child.

13. Raspberry Probiotic Gelatin
Made from brewed kombucha, this gelatin is great for everything from sore throats (so soothing) to stomach bugs (easy on the belly and full of probiotics). With lemon stevia and extra Vitamin C, you know it tasted great too, which can be important if you’re feeding sick kids.

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You have diarrhea.

For diarrhea caused by a stomach virus or a meal that didn't agree with you, try the BRAT diet, says James Lee, MD, gastroenterologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. "Many different things can cause diarrhea, such as Crohn's disease or colitis," so see your doctor if symptoms continue for longer than two weeks or sooner if signs of dehydration appear, or if diarrhea is accompanied by fever, blood, severe pain, or severe nausea and vomiting.

Best foods: The BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Also oatmeal, boiled potatoes, saltine crackers, and baked chicken or turkey without skin are safe bets.

Worst foods: Sugarless candy and gum containing sorbitol or other artificial sweeteners, which aren't digestible and can trigger diarrhea. Other foods that can cause gas and bloating include onions, apples, broccoli, cabbages, and beans. Dairy may also aggravate diarrhea, as well as alcohol and caffeine.

How Your Diet Affects Blood Sugar Levels

Since all glucose in our bodies is derived from our diets, what we eat has a big impact on our blood sugar levels. How much glucose is produced and how our body responds to it is determined by a few key factors.

Genetics can be a primary factor in how the body responds to glucose and insulin. Certain populations can be at greater risk of diabetes. (4) Dozens of other specific genetic mutations can increase the risk of type 1 or type 2 diabetes and the associated glucose and insulin problems. (5, 6) So, while some may claim that their genetics are at fault and diet has nothing to do with it, the management of genetic-induced diabetes still requires lifestyle modifications, which are highly effective. (7)

If you eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates, vegetable oils, and sugar, then you’re most likely getting more glucose than your body needs for energy. When you consume excess glucose that insulin can’t take into your cells, it gets stored as fat. This is because your body can draw from your fat tissue when it needs extra energy. In cases of diabetes, however, this extra fat can lead to obesity, which further fuels the hormonal chaos that happens when insulin resistance becomes a chronic problem. (8, 9, 10)

Bottom line: While genetics can play a role on how your body uses blood sugar, diet also influences levels since it’s the source of glucose. Insulin resistance or autoimmune diabetic issues can also influence how glucose gets used or stored.

Sick? Guilt Your Family Into Making These Dishes for You

A pinch of cayenne with help clear up any congestion you have while the creamy, rich egg filling will cooperate with even the sorest of throats. We wouldn't blame you if you ate it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

It's warm, easy to eat, and packed with ginger, which has a host of health benefits. Look no further for sick day comfort. If your family is hesitant, spout off some benefits of ginger and flash them your best "I don't feel good" look.

This soup is a healthy compromise between completely from-scratch soup and the canned alternative. Chicken stock is doctored into a warm, comforting version of homemade chicken noodle that's easy on the cook and patient.

Just like the basic favorite, this sandwich is buttery and gooey, with a few sophisticated upgrades. Hey, if your family's willing to cook for you, you might as well get something special!

This is a grown-up alternative to macaroni and cheese, but it packs in the same gooey comfort as the original. Squash adds a creamy note you'll love and vitamins you need to this dish, making it perfectly suited for sick days.

Chili and potatoes both rank highly as sick day eats since they're warm and comforting. Combining them, though? That's sure to make you feel at least a little better!

For a stick-to-your-ribs supper, nothing beats this creamy dish. Protein will help you fight off whatever has you stuck in bed and dumplings are simple, doughy comfort you deserve when you're feeling under the weather.

These mashed potatoes have a delightfully creamy texture and are full of subtle garlic flavor, thanks to the cream, reserved garlic oil, and a little of the potato cooking water. They'll go down a little too easily, even if you're sick.

As long as your stomach's feeling normal, cheesy pasta works some wonders when you're sick. A combination of three cheeses gives our macaroni and cheese an especially creamy texture and mellow flavor. Corkscrew-shaped rotini lets the dish soak up extra cheese for the perfect crunchy baked topping.

This lovely, luscious soup is made simply by pureeing celeriac (celery root) with celery and vegetable stock &mdash there&rsquos no cream. It's hearty, warming, and easy on the stomach &mdash perfect for cold days and sick days alike.

Instead of plowing through a sleeve of stale crackers, have someone whip up a batch of homemade graham crackers to ease your stomach. They're basic enough to keep your stomach settled, but much better tasting than anything that comes from a box.

There's always a limit to how much tea you can drink, even when you're sick. Get the same benefits from honey in a health-boosting dessert. These oranges can be eaten plain or ladled over ice cream if the honey isn't enough to sooth your throat.

10 Foods Nutritionists Eat When They’re Sick

We asked 10 nutritionists what foods they crave when they're feeling under-the-weather.

Related To:

Photo By: KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Photo By: Foxys_forest_manufacture

Sick Day Solutions

When you're sick with the flu, stomach bug, or even a common cold, what you eat can make all the difference between spending another day in bed and waking up refreshed. The key is to eat meals that are comforting physically and emotionally. That&rsquos why we asked 10 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) which foods they turned to when they&rsquore under the weather. Shockingly, chicken soup isn&rsquot on the list.


"When I'm feeling under the weather I often make a smoothie with fresh or frozen strawberries, yogurt or kefir, and a little bit of milk. If my stomach is upset I prefer a mango or tropical smoothie, with coconut milk and freshly grated ginger root. Smoothies are easy to make, nutritious, and soothing. They're also flexible based on personal preference and dietary restrictions."

-Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, cookbook author and recipe developer at


"Although I rarely get sick, my go-to comfort food when I'm under the weather is a steamy bowl of oatmeal. This practice dates back to when I was a child. My dad used to make it for me before he left for work in the morning. The comforting memories, plus the fact that oatmeal is a creamy carb that supplies energy without making my body work very hard, brings a warmth to my mind and body. (And when I'm feeling better, I add a swirl of a nut butter, too!)"

-Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of Better Than Dieting and @bonnietaubdix on Instagram


"Garlic contains allicin, which can help fight infection and bacteria. Whenever I'm starting to feel sick, I add crushed garlic to whole grains and pasta dishes, or I make a paste with garlic and olive oil and put it on bread."

-Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness and author of Three Steps to a Healthier You


"When I&rsquom sick, I reach for ginger. My grandma used to give us a locally bottled ginger ale when we were sick as kids. I didn&rsquot love it (it was spicy!), but I&rsquod always wake up feeling better the next day. Today, I usually go for ginger tea made with fresh slices of ginger. Maybe it&rsquos the pleasantly pungent, spicy flavor that helps take my mind off of feeling ill, but ginger delivers also 6-gingerol, a compound shown to help reduce nausea."

-Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition

Buttered Toast

"Nothing soothes my tummy like a slice of buttered toast like my mom used to make me when I was sick. It always hit the spot and made me feel comforted. Today, I swap out white bread for 100% whole grain and the butter to a flaxseed plant based alternative. Despite these changes, it still hits the spot!"

-Elizabeth Shaw MS, RDN, CLT, Nutrition Communications Consultant at Shaw Simple Swaps

"Kiwi has more vitamin C than an orange and I love its combination of sweetness and bitterness. I will eat them plain, throw them in a smoothie or on top of a salad."


"It&rsquos a nutrient-dense food that tastes great and it&rsquos easy to eat no matter how under-the-weather I feel. I have several kinds at home, including plain Greek yogurt, which is like a blank slate. There are tons of foods I can add to yogurt to get great healing nutrition with very little effort. If I&rsquom feeling well enough or have help at home, it can even be turned into soup or a smoothie."

-Virginia-based Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, author of The Overworked Person&rsquos Guide to Better Nutrition

Chamomile Tea (Te de Manzanilla)

"Since I can remember the manzanilla tea has been a staple in our house for whenever anyone is sick. I still remember my abuelita (grandma), who lived with us for many years, making me a cup of manzanilla tea not only when I wasn&rsquot feeling well, but also whenever I was feeling emotionally sad or drained from playing hard. It always hit the spot."

-Sylvia Klinger, DBA, MS, RD owner of Hispanic Food Communcation

Sports Drinks

"Whether I'm down for the count with a stomach bug or cloudy headed from too much nasal decongestant, I reach for a sports drink to help replenish hydration and electrolytes. I like mine cut 50/50 with water and lots and lots of ice."

-Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC Healthy Eats contributor and owner of Dana White Nutrition

Saltines with Peanut Butter

"After a stomach virus I crave salty, bland foods, so saltines hit the spot. When I also feel really hungry but can't stand a lot of bites adding a little protein and healthy fat from the peanut butter helps satiate me without a lot of volume."

13. Only about one-third of U.S. hospitals are committed to healthy meal plans.

Out of the over 6,000 hospitals in the U.S., only a fraction have taken the Health Food in Health Care Pledge. This pledge is “a framework that outlines steps to be taken by the health care industry to improve the health of patients, communities, and the environment,” as the organization’s site states.

Furthermore, the organization works with hospitals to “source and serve foods that are produced, processed, and transported in ways that are protective of public and environmental health.”

Wondering What to Eat When Sick? May These 41 Recipes Be Thy Medicine

A hypothetical: Your germy kid gave you the lurgies. You’re already at max Tylenol modern medicine won’t help you now. Hmm, you think, What to eat when sick? Well, sniffler, hold on to your handkerchief! These recipes for delicious garlic broth, chicken and rice soup with peppy chile oil, and soothing (booze-free) green tea toddies are practically made for days when you’re feeling worse for wear. They all lean on do-gooder ingredients—ginger! ferments! heat!—that can help boost your body’s physical—and let’s face it, emotional—defenses. Sure, you should also drink plenty of liquids, get loads of rest, and seek the (real) advice of an actual medical professional (which I am not). But none of that quite hits like a soothing bowl of umami-packed veggie noods. When you’re stuck on what to eat when sick, consider these 77 recipes the antidote—at least to indecision.


Leafy greens have a powerful antioxidant called glutathione, which can help keep your liver working right. And spinach couldn't be easier to prepare. It makes a great base for a dinner salad, and it's also delicious sauteed with garlic and olive oil. When it's wilted, top it with a dusting of fresh parmesan.

11 foods that lower cholesterol

Changing what foods you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the armada of fats floating through your bloodstream. Adding foods that lower LDL, the harmful cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging atherosclerosis, is the best way to achieve a low cholesterol diet.

Add these foods to lower LDL cholesterol

Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.

1. Oats. An easy first step to lowering your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.)

2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.

3. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That's one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.

4. Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.

5. Nuts. A bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.

6. Vegetable oils. Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL.

7. Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits. These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.

8. Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body's ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They're also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%.

9. Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. Analyses show that the effect is more modest — consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.

10. Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.

11. Fiber supplements. Supplements offer the least appealing way to get soluble fiber. Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber.

Putting together a low cholesterol diet

When it comes to investing money, experts recommend creating a portfolio of diverse investments instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for eating your way to lower cholesterol. Adding several foods to lower cholesterol in different ways should work better than focusing on one or two.

A largely vegetarian "dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods" substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants. Add margarine enriched with plant sterols oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber soy protein and whole almonds.

Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily statin. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors. But it's a "natural" way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.

Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check. It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive. It's good for bones and digestive health, for vision and mental health.

image: Giovanni Boscherino |


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