Whether you're getting a cold, staying at home with a fever, or recovering from the stomach flu, it can be tough to want to have an appetite when you're not feeling well. However, it's important to support your immune system and provide your body with the energy it needs to heal. Here's a guide on the best and worst foods to eat when sick.

Foods to Avoid When Sick

When you're sick, it's even more important to avoid unhealthy foods because your body needs all available resources and energy to get back to normal. Eating unhealthy foods could compromise your immune system even more and delay recovery. Here are a few types of foods to avoid when you're not well.

High-Glycemic Foods

Foods, such as white bread, rice, and pasta, as well as sweets and fruit juices, not only spike your blood sugar, but also promote inflammation.

Sugary Foods

Sugar in foods, such as desserts, cakes, and even soda, depresses your immune system and feeds bad gut bacteria.

Processed and Packaged Foods

Processed foods also tend to be high on the glycemic index, are full of heavily processed fats, sodium, and preservatives, and don't provide enough nutrients to help your body recover.


Alcohol dehydrates your body and requires your liver to work harder to detoxify your body, which takes resources away from fighting the illness.

Caffeinated Drinks

Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea, are very stimulating and might prevent you from being able to rest.

Foods to Eat When Sick

So which foods should you eat when you are sick? This depends on what type of illness you have. In general, eating healthy whole foods will nourish your cells and support your immune system. Make sure to eat balanced meals that consist of healthy sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Fresh vegetables, leafy greens, herbs, and fruits will provide you with vitamins and minerals that are much needed for your recovery. It's also important to get plenty of fluids by drinking water and herbal teas. If you don't feel like eating a full meal, divide it into smaller portions and eat more frequently.

Here are some examples of the best foods to eat when recovering from three common illnesses.

When You Have a Cold

When you're having nasal congestion, a sore throat, cough, or fever, eating is usually the last thing on your mind. Comforting soups and broths will help you get some food down and are easy on digestion. Miso soup is especially great because it provides beneficial probiotics. Add foods with antibacterial and antiviral properties, such as garlic and ginger, to your meals. A chopped clove of garlic can be added into a bowl of soup or sprinkled on steamed veggies. To make a fresh ginger tea, pour hot water over one tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, and then add a slice of lemon and a teaspoon of honey. You can also drink herbal teas that feature chamomile and peppermint.

When You Have Back Pain

There are many causes for back pain, but strained muscles and inflammation are the most common reasons. Foods high in mineral content, as well as anti-inflammatory foods, can help relax the muscles, strengthen connective tissues, and reduce inflammation. Recommended foods for back pain include green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables, nuts, seeds, salmon, and beans. Dehydration can also aggravate back pain, so make sure to drink a glass of water every couple hours. If plain water seems boring to you, infuse it with lemon or cucumber slices, or add some herbs such as mint or basil.

When You Have a Bladder Infection

A bladder infection, which is also known as cystitis, is the inflammation of the interior walls of the bladder. Usually, bladder infections can be treated at home, but you should still see a doctor to make sure the infection doesn't spread to the kidneys. Cranberry juice is a traditional remedy for bladder infections. Buy unsweetened cranberry juice or make homemade cranberry punch from fresh or frozen cranberries. Drinking lots of clean water and eating foods with natural diuretic properties, such as watermelon, celery, and parsley, can help clear out the infection by increasing urine output.

As you can see, there are many foods that are healthy and delicious, and have therapeutic properties for particular illnesses. There are also certain foods that your body is better off without when you're not feeling your best. Keep these ideas in mind, and your body will thank you as you support it on its way to recovery.