The sniffles, sneezes and coughs that provide the soundtrack of the sick season are unavoidable. Even health care professionals get sick too. When they do, they use the health properties of certain foods to nourish the body and support recovery.
Barbara Bauer, program manager of clinical nutrition at Sharp Coronado Hospital
Chicken noodle soup
Even when you have a respiratory illness, you should eat the same healthy food you normally eat. But sometimes when you don’t feel well, comfort foods may be what sounds good to you. Chicken noodle soup can be helpful — just like your mother gave you when you were not feeling well.
If the illness results in vomiting or diarrhea, then fluids are especially important to remain hydrated. Start with clear liquids such as tea, broth, Jell-O, juice (non-citrus) or ice pops. Eat a little at a time, but frequently throughout the day. Remember to call your doctor if you continue to have problems.
When to add back solid foods
As you improve, increase to solid food choices that don’t irritate the stomach or bowel. Foods that provide protein, but are not spicy like baked chicken, cottage cheese, eggs or your favorite smoothie. Other foods such as toast, rice and cooked vegetables or bananas are often tolerated. Bland is best — avoid the hot sauce.
Tracey Grant, registered dietitian and program manager with Sharp Rees-Stealy
When I feel like I am fighting off something, I increase my intake of oregano and zinc-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, spinach and garbanzo beans. I also add supplements, such as elderberry, monolaurin and manuka honey.
Prioritizing nutrient-dense foods — veggies, fruits, healthy fats, quality proteins and whole-food carbohydrates — are a great way to make sure that the body has the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. This time of year, I like to prioritize vitamin C-rich foods, such as kiwis and red bell peppers.
I like to load up on homemade bone broth and lots of veggies and fruits. Smoothies and soups are an easy way to maximize nutrients and ease digestion. Bone broth is both comforting and nourishing, and there is some evidence to suggest that it does actually support our immune system.
Spices and teas
Garlic has long been known to support the immune system; which is why I always add some to my soups. Turmeric — especially when paired with black pepper — is anti-inflammatory and can support the body’s immune response.
When my throat is sore, nothing soothes it better than lemon ginger tea, which also improves digestion and supports your immune system. I also recommend this healthful smoothie to aid in healing:
Golden Milk Smoothie
Steam and freeze cubed veggies ahead of time for easy use later in soups and smoothies.
Yields 1 serving
1/2 to 1 cup steamed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup steamed cauliflower
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 cup liquid of choice, such as coconut or almond milk
1 teaspoon manuka honey
1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
A dash of fresh ground black pepper
A dash of ground cloves
A dash of ground nutmeg
Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and enjoy.
Other tips for getting and staying well
With a respiratory illness, drinking clear liquids is important to help thin mucus secretions. Stay away from beverages with caffeine, which provide less hydration. Be sure to up what you normally drink if you are sneezing, having a productive cough or blowing your nose frequently.
One often-overlooked key to staying healthy is getting enough sleep. Aim for eight hours per night. To get close to eight hours, use these tips to support a healthy sleep routine.
Hand washing on a routine basis and especially before preparing or eating food is necessary to keep you healthy.