Eating certain foods when you are sick can’t cure a disease, we know that much. However, there’s major scientific evidence to prove that certain foods can help immune function and make us feel better when our bodies are fighting off infection.
It’s important to note that while foods can help with making your body feel better, in the case of COVID-19, getting a vaccine and a booster shot are by far the best ways to help fight off major symptoms of the virus. Medicines are advised by doctors and health professionals in the case of certain diseases, and foods are only an added bonus on helping with decreasing symptoms that make your body feel run down.
So what types of foods can help boost your immunity and make you feel better when your body is out of sorts? Dr. Cedrina Calder, MD, a preventative medicine doctor and a member of our medical expert board, shares four different foods to turn to when you need an immunity boost during your bout of sickness. Here are the few foods you can turn to;
1. Chicken soup
“Chicken is a good source of vitamin B6 which is necessary for healthy immune function,” says Calder.
According to a study in the Journal of Immunology Research, a deficiency in vitamin B6 has been linked to a weakened immune system, making it an important micronutrient for your health. Lean chicken breast is known as one of the top foods for vitamin B6 with up to 30% of your Daily Value in just one cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Another added bonus of chicken soup is the warm liquid soothing a sore throat, which is a major symptom many are experiencing with the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
“Drinking warm liquids like a soup can help soothe a sore throat,” says Calder.
2. Fresh ginger tea with honey
A warm cup of soup isn’t the only soothing liquid for your sore throat. A cup of this soothing tea includes quite a few ingredients that can help with your immunity and for your symptoms.
“Ginger helps with reducing inflammation,” says Calder. “Ginger can also relieve nausea which can be a symptom of COVID-19 and other viral illnesses.”
Along with reducing inflammation and relieving nausea, ginger is helpful with gastrointestinal function, pain, metabolic syndrome, and other symptoms, according to a review in Nutrients.
Calder also notes to stir in some honey, another easy way to soothe your sore throat.
3. Chili peppers
According to Calder, adding certain foods—like chili peppers—to the meals you’re already eating can actually help with sickness as well.
“Capsaicin in hot peppers like chili peppers can help with congestion when you’re sick,” says Calder. “It can relieve a stuffy nose and congested sinuses.”
Previous studies have also shown the ways capsaicin can produce anti-inflammatory effects in a previous study from African Health Sciences.
Capsaicin is a chemical compound found in chili peppers such as jalapeños, habaneros, and shishito peppers. You can also benefit from this compound by using cayenne pepper in recipes.
Along with chili peppers, garlic is another easy additive to your meals that can help with your immunity.
“Garlic stimulates immune cells and may help with fighting infection,” says Calder.
Another review in the Journal of Immunology Research concluded that garlic modulates cytokine secretion—a response from cells in the body that can help with injury and infection, meaning eating garlic can work as an anti-inflammatory and improve your immune system.
You can simply add garlic to your favorite comforting dishes when you’re sick—like a bowl of pasta or soup.