Foods to Fight the Flu

The best foods to eat when you’re sick

I’m still a little green around the gills after a bout with the awful stomach flu that’s careening through the Hudson Valley. Food was the last thing I wanted during the moaning and groaning stage, but as I eased back to life, I did some research to see if my impulse to eat nothing, and sip only flat ginger ale and weak chicken broth, aided my recovery. I sincerely hope that it’s information you will not need any time soon.

Fresh ginger root
Among its many properties (including deliciousness in cooking), fresh ginger relieves nausea. You can make ginger tea by pouring a cup of boiling water over two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger and letting it steep for a few minutes. Ginger ale is a poor substitute, because it’s sugary — and sugary sodas make things worse.

Yogurt contains beneficial bacteria that boost the immune system and act as a probiotic. It also eases the ghastly symptoms not usually discussed in a food blog. Eat frequent, small amounts of plain, low-fat yogurt until the worst is over.

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matzoh ball soup

Chicken broth
The twelfth-century physician Maimonides used chicken broth — aka Jewish penicillin — as a remedy for all manner of ailments, and modern science now agrees with him and a zillion grandmothers: it has anti-inflammatory and other curative properties. It’s so simple to make, it’s a staple in our freezer and may be responsible for my continued existence this week. Sip a clear, fat-free broth, warm rather than hot. If you can manage a few noodles, or a couple of matzoh balls (the mix from the grocery is fine), so much the better.

The BRAT diet
A tummy that’s been in turmoil needs about 48 hours before it can absorb anything solid, at which point the BRAT diet — bananas, rice, applesauce and toast — is the old-fashioned fall-back. Those foods are easy to digest, supply needed carbohydrates, and have a catchy acronym to help you remember what they are.

Orange things
Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and butternut squash are all rich in beta-carotene, which helps your immune cells and neutralizes toxins. Cook them until they’re soft and mash them up with a little salt to help replace what you’ve lost.

Shiitake mushrooms have long played a part in Chinese medicine, but recent studies reveal that even common white button mushrooms help your body produce cytokine cells that fight infections and bad bugs. Just slice and sauté them in a little bland oil.

Harvard researchers have determined that drinking five cups of black or green tea a day (even decaf) transforms the infection-fighting T-cells into super-cells with 10 times the anti-viral power. Go super-cells!

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The bivalves provide zinc, which also gets those T-cells going, and you only need one medium oyster a day. Still, the thought of swallowing an oyster when queasy…

Dark chocolate
My top favorite health food. High doses also help T-cells. My T-cells like their dark chocolate to come on candied orange peel for that vitamin C boost.

Stay well!

» More from The Accidental Foodie blog
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