“Staying hydrated is the most important thing when you have the flu, especially if you’re running a fever and sweating, or you’re having trouble keeping food down,” says Denver-based nutritionist Jessica Crandall, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Making sure you’re drinking water is the simplest solution, she says, but adding an electrolyte-rich sports drink or coconut water to your rotation can help guarantee you’re replenishing sodium and potassium as well as fluids.
A flavored beverage may be more appealing than plain water as well, and it might encourage you to drink more. Nutritionists often advise against sugary sports drinks for people who aren’t expending a lot of energy while working out—but if you’re not feeling up to eating solid foods, this may be the easiest way to get in some much-needed calories.
Another way to stay hydrated is to sip on hot tea. “The flu usually involves upper respiratory symptoms, and drinking warm or hot liquids can help open airways,” says Rena Zelig, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University. “It may also feel better to drink than room-temperature water.”
Chicken noodle soup
Chicken noodle soup’s reputation as a go-to cold-and-flu food is more than just clever marketing: Its salty broth can help hydrate and replace lost sodium, says Zelig, while the vegetables provide vitamins and minerals. The chicken itself provides protein, “which is important for healing and for getting your strength back when you’ve been sick,” she says.
Some scientists even suggest that the aromatic properties of chicken noodle soup can loosen up mucus and clear nasal passages, says Zelig; other research has found that chicken soup helps infection-fighting white blood cells work more efficiently.