Limit these foods to help you recover faster.

Alex Loh; Nutrition review by Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D.
March 03, 2020

When you're sick with the cold or flu, there are lots of great ways to combat your illness. You can eat foods like chicken soup and fruits packed with vitamin C, which are great for giving your immune system a boost. It's important to also stay hydrated and get plenty of rest so your body has time to heal. You should also be aware of how you might spread germs to other people and be sure to see a doctor if you need medicine for your symptoms.

But what about the foods that don't help your body heal? Turns out, there are a few foods that can actually distract your immune system from fighting off illnesses. Here are some foods to avoid if you have the cold or flu.

1. Processed Foods

When you're sick, symptoms like loss of appetite can make food seem unappealing. That's why it's important to put the right kinds of food in your body when you do manage to eat. Processed foods aren't as high in nutrients and your immune system needs to be strong as it fights bacteria. You can easily make homemade versions of common processed foods. And if you don't have time to make homemade versions, be sure to read the nutrition labels to understand what's in your food.

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Stay Healthy Through Cold and Flu Season

2. Alcohol

If you're treating your cold or flu with medicine, you should avoid alcohol. Ginger Hultin, a Seattle-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, warns that you should "check your medications for interactions with alcohol or caffeine." Be sure to read the labels on your medicine, as there could be multiple ingredients that cause a negative reaction if mixed with alcohol.

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3. Spicy Foods

If your cold or flu is giving you a sore, inflamed throat, it's best to avoid spicy foods. Spicy foods could be irritating to your throat tissue and make it difficult to swallow. Instead, Hultin recommends any foods that are cool and easy to swallow, like smoothies, yogurt or homemade popsicles.

Related: How to fight cold and flu: What works and what doesn't

4. Caffeine

Caffeine is another stimulant to avoid, as Hultin warns that it can also have a negative reaction with cold and flu medicines. Caffeinated drinks can often contain high amounts of sugar and Hultin suggests limiting the amount of added sugar you consume while sick. Take note that caffeine can be present in other forms, like ice cream and tea.

Related: Are You Getting Tricked By These Cold & Flu Myths?

5. Inflammatory Foods

Overall, you should exclude foods that could cause inflammation in the body. Avoiding foods like refined carbs and processed meats will help tamp down inflammation and boost your immune system. Even when you're not sick, eliminating inflammation-causing foods and increasing inflammation-fighting foods will allow your body to be in tip-top shape for fending off illness.

Related: Healthy Immunity Diet Guidelines

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