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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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What Should I Eat When I Have the Flu?

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If you have the flu, you may be wondering if there's a special diet to help you feel better. After all, you've heard the old saying, "Feed a cold, starve a fever." But what do you eat when you have both a fever and cold-like symptoms that come with the flu?

Of course, good nutrition is a must to help your immune system fight this virus. But when your body battles flu symptoms for days or even weeks, your diet becomes even more key to helping you get better.

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Which Foods Help Fight the Flu?

Even when you aren’t sick, you need protein to keep your body strong. Your body uses it to build strength and keep what you already have. Lean meat, poultry, fish, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds are good sources.

The FDA says adults should eat 50 grams of protein a day. Pregnant and nursing women need more. Foods that have it provide nutrients like vitamins B6 and B12, both of which keep your immune system working like it should.

Vitamin B6 comes in protein-rich foods like turkey and beans, as well as potatoes, spinach, and enriched cereal grains. Meats, milk, and fish also contain vitamin B12, a powerful immune booster.

Minerals like selenium and zinc also keep your immune system going strong. These minerals are found in protein-rich foods like beans, nuts, meat, and poultry.

Do Flavonoids Help?

Flavonoids include about 4,000 compounds that are responsible for the colors of fruits and flowers. Research shows that flavonoids found in the soft white skin of citrus fruits -- like grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes -- really rev up your immune system.

What Other Nutrients Fight Infection?

Glutathione strengthens your immune system so it can fight off infections. You’ll find this powerful antioxidant in the red, pulpy area of a watermelon near the rind. It’s also in kale, collard greens, broccoli, and cabbage.

Does Food Help or Hurt Congestion?

Any food or beverage is fine if you're hungry or thirsty. Dairy products make some people produce more mucus. If this happens to you, avoid dairy for a few days. They may also make nausea and vomiting worse.

Orange juice, especially with the pulp, is packed with vitamin C and folic acid, which give your immune system a boost and help you feel better faster.

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