The 9 best foods when you are sick

The nose is running, the throat is scratchy; quickly crawl into bed, wrap up warm, and rest. A cup of tea, of course. But what other foods are helpful against colds and flu?
Who doesn’t know it: In the cold season, you quickly get a cold. Your nose is stuffy, your throat is scratchy, you feel tired, you cough, or you feel cold.

According to statistics from the DAK health insurance company, the number of employees who take sick leave because of a cold is increasing every year.
Unfortunately, you can’t completely prevent a cold, but you can strengthen your immune system. If you get plenty of exercise and are out in the fresh air, you are already doing something for your health.
But nutrition is also crucial for physical well-being and a strong immune system.
One problem with a cold is often the loss of appetite, which comes from tasting less. But what is the actual reason for this?

The nose’s olfactory epithelium experiences the food’s aroma as a scent coming from behind, so to speak, through the nasopharynx. During a cold, the nasal mucosa usually swells, including in the area of the nasal roof, where the sensors for olfactory perception are located. The olfactory substances then no longer reach the sensors due to a lack of ventilation in this area. The sense of smell can therefore be more or less impaired. Decongestant nose drops lead to a short-term and temporary improvement of this condition,” says Dr. Norbert Kmoch, an ENT specialist.
But which foods can provide relief from a cold, flu, cough, or malaise – or even have a preventive effect? Ref.

No 1. Tea

The hot drink is probably the best-known and most widely used food against colds and illness. Especially during a phase of illness, you need a lot of liquid, for which tea is ideal.

By the way, the dehydrating effect that some teas have is not decisive – so feel free to reach for your tea cup!

Tea contains the bioactive substance polyphenols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and can protect the body cells from harmful influences and against cancer. Tannins, a form of polyphenols in tea, have additional effects against viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

Studies showed that drinking Echinacea tea, shortened the time of a cold or flu. Especially in the upper part of the echinacea plant, there are a lot of essential oils, flavonoids, and vitamin C, which can strengthen the immune system.

Tea also has a decongestant effect on the mucous membranes. However, it must be drunk really hot for this purpose. Caution: of course, not so hot that you burn yourself or further strain an irritated throat! Hot water or chicken soup also shows similar effects. Ref.


Tea is a good food for a cold to replenish fluids. Certain substances in tea can strengthen the immune system and thus prevent illness or shorten the duration of illness.

No 2. Honey

Honey not only tastes great and can sweeten your tea – so you may find it easier to drink a lot – but is also a real virus killer.
HHoney has an antibacterial effect, can boost immune function, and aids in the relief of a severe irritating cough and a developing cold.f you add honey to your tea or hot milk, the drink should cool down a bit beforehand. This is because too much heat destroys the healing enzymes in honey.
In some studies, honey was shown to be very effective against sore throats and coughs in children.
However, children under twelve months of age should not be given honey yet because it may contain Clostridium botulinum germs, which can lead to botulism (food poisoning). Ref.

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Honey has antibacterial and antiviral effects and can strengthen the immune system. It also relieves sore throats and coughs. Children under twelve months of age should not be given honey yet.

No 3. Ginger

Ginger is also known to have healing properties. The gingerols in the tuber are very similar in composition to acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). They have expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and warming effects. Ginger also has an antioxidant and antimicrobial effect.
Those who suffer from travel nausea should chew a piece of ginger, as the tuber can alleviate dizziness and nausea.
If you find ginger too spicy, use fresh ginger tubers if possible, because the longer the tuber is stored, the spicier it becomes. This is because the milder pungent gingerols are converted into pungent shogaols.
For aching limbs, fatigue, or fever, you can prepare a hot ginger milk. To do this, simply mix 200 milliliters of (low-fat) hot milk with one teaspoon each of freshly grated ginger and honey and drink slowly.
Also, feel free to use ginger as a spice in dishes, because besides the healthy benefits, it just tastes good. Ref.


Ginger has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. It is also popular as a home remedy for nausea and travel sickness. The fresher the tuber, the milder it tastes.

N0 4. Chicken soup

We know it from movies and books: the obligatory chicken soup for a cold. But is this a myth? No! Chicken soup is a very effective food against cold. This is due to the healthy ingredients in the marrow.
Use lots of fresh, seasonal vegetables in your chicken soup. This will give you an extra serving of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients.
Like tea, soup helps to replenish your fluid balance. This is even more important during the flu or cold, but also for ailments like fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Chicken soup has a decongestant effect on the mucous membranes. This is due in part to the amino acid cysteine, which has expectorant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects.

In addition, scientists have discovered that chicken soup counteracts neutrophils. These white blood cells are responsible for symptoms such as cough and stuffy nose. The soup relieves these symptoms and the cold subsides.
But the one simple broth is also among the most helpful foods for colds. On the one hand as a liquid supplier, on the other hand, it also has a decongestant effect. The broth is easily digestible and so can be eaten easily, even if you have stomach problems. Ref.

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Chicken soup is a good food against colds: it provides enough fluids, vitamins, and minerals, and has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and expectorant effects.

No 5. Garlic

This tuber is also a small home remedy miracle with its antiviral and antibacterial properties. The ingredient allicin in garlic even works against those bacteria and fungi that are resistant to common medications, thus strengthening the immune system.

Few studies prove the effect of garlic on flu or cold. However, in one line of research, it was shown that people who consumed garlic were 70 percent less likely to get sick.
Another study showed that people recovered more quickly from the flu if they ate garlic.
Add some garlic to chicken soup or broth. It tastes good and can aid in healing. Ref.


Garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. The bulb strengthens the immune system and can speed healing.

No 6. Onions

Onions are also a well-known food for colds and coughs. They contain essential oils, including alliin, which have a positive effect on the immune system.
The flavonoid quercitin has antiviral and antibacterial effects. It is also not destroyed by heat, so onions can be processed excellently, for example into a warming onion soup.
Onion syrup is a special miracle cure for coughs. And it’s as simple as this: Chop six onions and six cloves of garlic, sauté and deglaze with 250 milliliters of water. Then steep for 15 minutes and sweeten with 6 tablespoons of honey. Take two tablespoons of it daily.
A proven home remedy is the onion also against fever. For this purpose, the onion is cut into small pieces and put into the socks. However, there are no scientific studies that support this effect. Ref.


Onions have antibacterial and antiviral effects, strengthen the immune system, and are good for coughs, hoarseness, and colds.

No 7. Spicy foods

Spicy foods like chili peppers contain capsaicin. This alkaloid causes a heat or spicy stimulus in the body and releases neuropeptides.
A very familiar reaction to eating spicy foods is to run your nose – and this can help if you have a stuffy nose. Of course, instead of a stuffy nose, this can then lead to a runny nose.
There is not yet sufficient research on the effect of chili on colds. However, some studies showed positive results when using nasal sprays that contained capsaicin.
Another study examined the effect of capsaicin on cough symptoms and indeed the symptoms improved in the subjects. However, this would require daily consumption of spicy food.
Capsaicin is found, for example, in sweet peppers, green chili peppers, cayenne pepper, and, of course, chili peppers. Incidentally, spicy food should not be eaten if you have stomach or abdominal discomfort, as this can often lead to greater pain. Ref.


The capsaicin found in spicy foods can help clear the airways. Some studies showed that it can also relieve cough symptoms.

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No 8. Green leafy vegetables

Vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals – the body needs them more when it is sick. You should eat these green foods for colds more often: spinach, romaine lettuce, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale.
They contain lots of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as plenty of the cell protector vitamin E, which is also great for the immune system. These vegetables can have antibacterial effects and provide abundant minerals such as calcium, potassium, and iron.
Kale in particular is therefore ideal during the cold season, so give a kale smoothie a try. Just 100 grams of kale provides 105 milligrams of vitamin C, meeting the daily recommended vitamin C requirement of 100 milligrams!
So it doesn’t always have to be the obligatory orange juice to strengthen the immune system.
Vegetables with dark green leaves contain many important plant substances that act as antioxidants and thus protect the cells, bind free radicals, and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Ref.


Green vegetables – especially cabbage – are important foods during a cold: they provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, thus strengthening the immune system.

No 9. Yogurt

Yogurt is rich in high-quality protein and, depending on its fat content, contains a greater or lesser portion of vitamins A and D, as well as plenty of calcium and magnesium. There are also special probiotic yogurt varieties.

Lactic acid bacteria are good for health, but these bacteria must reach the intestine alive. Probiotic bacterial cultures also survive the acidic environment in the stomach unharmed.
Probiotics have been shown to make children and adults less likely to catch a cold, get well faster, and need to take fewer antibiotics.

Dairy products are not recommended for some conditions (for example, tonsillitis). However, dairy products have not yet been shown to have a bad effect on cough, constipation, or mucus production.
However, if you notice that yogurt is not good for you, you can turn to other probiotic foods for colds, such as sauerkraut.

Milk can also be another source to drink enough – so feel free to enjoy your beloved hot milk with honey. Especially for sore throats, warm milk can be soothing. Ref.


Yogurt contains vitamins and minerals. Probiotic yogurt significantly strengthens the immune system. Warm milk with honey soothes a sore throat and provides fluid.

Knowledge to go

Foods such as green vegetables (e.g., kale), garlic, ginger, onions, probiotic yogurt, and honey provide a strong immune system and help fight colds.

Hot tea, soup, or dairy products provide fluids. Chicken soup contains many vitamins and minerals and has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and expectorant effects.

Ginger also has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and, like honey, antibacterial properties. Honey and spicy foods like chili and cayenne pepper relieve cough symptoms.

These foods can aid recovery and relieve certain symptoms of a cold, but of course, are not a substitute for conventional