How to Eat During Flu Season

The flu can take you out of the game for a week or more, so it’s important that you stay healthy during flu season. Get a head start by boosting your immune system to prevent the flu in the first place. If you happen to fall victim to fever and fatigue, knowing what to eat can help your body fight the flu faster so you can get back in the game.


EditPreventing the Flu by Boosting Immunity

  1. Cut down on refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates, like sugar, white flour, and rice, can cause inflammation, which weakens your body’s immune system. Avoid white breads, ice cream, pastries, breakfast cereals, candy, and pasta.[1]
    Eat During Flu Season Step 1.jpg
  2. Eat citrus fruits that are low in sugar. Citrus fruits, in particular, are high in vitamin C, which may help to boost your immunity and decrease flu symptoms. Other fruits like grapes, mangoes, and bananas can contain a high degree of sugar, which can suppress immunity.
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    • Citrus fruits that are particularly low in sugar include peppers, tomatoes, and avocados.
  3. Include lean protein in your diet. Lean proteins are important for any healthy diet, but they are especially important when boosting your immune system. They help your body create antibodies that fight off infections like the flu.[2]
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    • Lean proteins are those without a lot of fat. They include foods like chicken and turkey with the skin removed, fish, shellfish, and lean beef like sirloin and round cuts. Vegetarians can boost their lean protein intake through foods like eggs, lentils, and beans.[3]
  4. Moderate the amount of healthy oils you eat. Healthy cooking oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, can boost the immune system because they have a high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This helps them protect you from infection.[4]
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    • One tablespoon is the recommended serving size for cooking oil. Eating more than the recommended amount of even healthy cooking oils can lead to cardiovascular disease. Using these oils to fry food can also suppress your immune system.[5]
  5. Add whole grains to your daily intake. Centered mostly in your gut, your body’s immune system needs healthy bacteria to strengthen it. Whole grains have anti-inflammatory benefits that generate healthy gut bacteria to keep you healthy.[6]
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    • Choose breads and other products that are “100 percent” whole grain or whole wheat. If they don’t contain a percentage, they may include white flours too, which cause inflammation.[7]
    • Whole grains, such as quinoa and rye bread, also add B vitamins, fiber, and minerals to your diet. These nutrients are essential to overall good health and keep your immune system in working order.[8]
  6. Increase your consumption of probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that probiotics feed off of but your body is unable to digest. Probiotics are healthy gut bacteria that strengthen your immune system.[9]
    Eat During Flu Season Step 6.jpg
    • Prebiotics, such as beta-glucan and inulin, are in foods like asparagus, barley, oats, bananas, and onions.[10]
    • You can find probiotics in fermented foods, such as Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Find a yogurt with a label that includes “live cultures,” which are the probiotics.[11]

EditFighting the Flu with Food

  1. Trust in the healing power of chicken soup. Mom gave you chicken soup when you were sick for a reason. It contains carnosine, a compound that battles against inflammation. The warmth of soup can also alleviate congestion.[12]
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    • Chicken soup contains immunity-boosting lean protein, nutrient-rich vegetables, and the broth keeps you hydrated. Inhaling deeply over a bowl can also unblock a stuffed up nose or moisten a dry throat.
  2. Increase the amount of garlic, herbs, and spices in your food. Some herbs and spices can kill germs and reduce inflammation in the body. Members of the allium family, such as onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks, are anti-inflammatory and may soothe a sore throat.[13]
    Eat During Flu Season Step 8.jpg
    • Some people use oregano oil to reduce the symptoms of respiratory problems, such as sore throats and coughs. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.[14] The herbs rosemary and thyme are also antioxidants.
  3. Raise your intake of citrus. Citrus fruits contain high concentrations of vitamin C, an important antioxidant. Vitamin C supports your body’s t-cells and phagocytes, which are important to the immune system.[15]
    Eat During Flu Season Step 9.jpg
  4. Sip on some hot tea. Drinking hot tea can soothe a sore throat or cough while keeping you hydrated. Tea also has antioxidants and contains quercetin, which boosts immunity. Add a slice of lemon to your tea for a boost of vitamin C.[16]
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    • Ginger has strong anti-inflammatory powers. Sipping on ginger tea is a good way to take advantage of ginger’s benefits.[17]
    • Ginseng tea can soothe upper respiratory infections, and may drastically reduce the length of flu symptoms.[18]
    • Green tea has flavonoids and catechins, which are antioxidants. Catechins are antiviral and antibacterial, and can help fight off the flu virus.[19]
  5. Decrease the length of the flu with zinc-rich foods. Many people believe that increasing their intake of zinc can drastically limit the symptoms and length of the flu. Zinc is an important mineral in the healthy function of your immune system.[20]
    Eat During Flu Season Step 11.jpg
    • Some people take zinc supplements when they get the flu, but you can get it from turkey, beans, wild salmon, oysters, whole grains, and nuts.
  6. Battle germs with flu-fighting pineapple. Eating pineapple increases the body’s creation of granulocytes, which make white blood cells. White blood cells defend against the flu virus.[21]
    Eat During Flu Season Step 12.jpg
    • Pineapple is a lytic agent so it thins mucus, which may alleviate coughs and congestion.[22]


  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine during flu season. They can dehydrate you, making your symptoms worse. However, a small amount of caffeine, such as a cup of tea, will not be detrimental.[23]


  • Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which can cause interactions with some medications, especially blood thinners, antibiotics, anticoagulants, and barbiturates.[24]

EditSources and Citations

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