What Should You Eat and Drink When You Have the Cold

When you’re sneezing, sniffling, and coughing with a cold, you may not feel like eating. And let’s face it, even if you are hungry, nothing tastes quite right when you’re sick. So, is it really important to “feed a cold?”

Eating well when you’re sick helps boost your energy which makes you feel better. And certain foods can also help you fight a cold, so you may recover faster. Learn why these are some of the best foods to eat when you have a cold.

Common Cold Symptoms

The common cold is, in fact, very common. Most adults catch at least two colds yearly, and children get even more. Cold viruses infect your nose and sinuses, causing these symptoms:

  • Sneezing.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Coughing.
  • Sore throat.
  • Watery eyes.

You might have less of an appetite when you have a cold. And you might have trouble smelling your food, making it less enjoyable to eat.

The loss of smell happens when nasal congestion prevents air from getting to smell receptors in your nose. It’s temporary, and your smell (and taste) will get better when your cold symptoms improve.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Foods to Eat When You Have a Cold

No food (or anything else) can cure a cold, but certain foods can support your immune system and help fight a cold. And even if you have a smaller appetite than usual, eating helps boost your energy. Try to plan a few small meals or larger snacks like:

  • Chicken soup. It’s a classic for many good reasons. Soup is warm and easy on the stomach when you’re not feeling well, but it’s also hydrating and nourishing. Plus, the steam from hot soup helps clear congestion in your nose and sinuses.
  • Yogurt with fruit. Yogurt is rich in probiotics, friendly bacteria that support your immune system. For the healthiest option, choose plain Greek yogurt for its high protein content. If you like, sweeten it with a drizzle of honey, which has antiviral properties.
  • Avocado toast. A big step up from regular toast and jam, avocado is rich in healthy fats that reduce inflammation and support immune health. Use whole-grain bread for even more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Oatmeal. This breakfast classic is satisfying and nourishing any time of the day. It provides vitamins, minerals, and beta-glucan fiber, which benefits your immune system.

What to Drink When You Have a Cold

Fluids are important every day, but they’re essential when you have a cold. A runny, stuffy nose and more mouth breathing cause you to lose fluid faster. Drink a minimum of eight cups of fluid each day to prevent dehydration.

Water is always a great choice, but if you want some variety, try these:

  • Tea. Green, black (ideally decaf), or herbal tea provide different types of immune-supporting antioxidants. And for an extra boost, steep your tea with a few slices of fresh ginger and add some honey.
  • Bone broth. It provides some protein along with vitamins and minerals. No need to cook — pick up a few cartons at the grocery store.
  • A fruit smoothie. These are a great option if you don’t feel like a meal but want something both hydrating and filling. Blend frozen fruit, regular or plant milk (or tea), and yogurt or a scoop of protein powder (if desired).
  • Tomato or vegetable juice. These provide an extra boost of vitamin C. To limit salt, choose low-sodium juices.
  • Coconut water. Not only is it refreshing, but coconut water is also full of electrolytes. Drink it straight or add it to a smoothie.

Cold-Fighting Ingredients

You may not have the energy to prepare elaborate meals when you’re under the weather. But when you do cook, try to add these ingredients. They have various vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that help fight a cold or make you feel better.

Because many of these ingredients are spicy and strong-flavored, they’re also great choices if you’re having trouble tasting food. And they can help clear your sinuses.

  • Garlic has compounds that fight viruses and infections.
  • Ginger can soothe an upset stomach or sore throat.
  • Hot chili peppers can help clear a stuffy nose.
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, or lemon) are rich in vitamin C, which can stimulate your immune cells.
  • Honey can help calm a cough, and it has antiviral properties.
  • Mushrooms are another source of immune-stimulating beta-glucan fiber.
  • Kimchi or sauerkraut (fermented cabbage dishes) are good sources of probiotics that support immune health.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, which might reduce the length and severity of a cold.

Add some of these ingredients to soups, broth, or tea to help clear a cold faster.

Foods and Drinks to Avoid With a Cold

Just as certain foods support your immune system, others can suppress it. The main foods and beverages to steer clear of include:

  • Foods high in added sugar, like desserts, cookies, ice cream, or sweetened soft drinks.
  • Highly processed foods like packaged snacks, frozen dinners, ready-to-eat meals, and fast foods.
  • Alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages (like energy drinks). These not only stress your immune system, but they can also dehydrate you. And be aware black tea has far less caffeine than coffee, but if you drink it throughout the day, it adds up.

Certain ingredients and compounds in these foods and drinks can increase inflammation, making it harder for your body to fight a cold. If your diet is high in these, you may also be more likely to catch a cold or other viruses.

Colds are never fun to deal with, but they tend to run their course quickly. To feel better faster, stay hydrated and feed your cold with lots of nourishing, immune-boosting foods.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common Cold. LINK

About Primary Care

The relationship with a patient and their primary care doctor can be extremely valuable, and that’s what you get with UPMC Primary Care. When you work with a primary care physician (PCP), you develop a lasting relationship. Your doctor will get to know you and your history and can plan your treatments accordingly. Our PCPs offer a variety of services, including preventive care and treatment for both urgent and chronic conditions. With dozens of UPMC Primary Care locations across our network of care, you can find a PCP close to you. Schedule an appointment today.