Eat right to fight flu

It is flu season and you may not have the appetite to eat or drink when you are having a cold. However, in addition to taking medication, you should know that some foods can help speed up your recovery and boost your immune system.

Ms Teo Kiok Seng, a nutritionist at Nutrition Network Services, and Ms Jaclyn Reutens, a dietician at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants, shed light on some of these foods.

Hot porridge or soup

Have a bowl of hot porridge with shredded chicken or turkey.

'The liquid from the hot porridge helps loosen mucus that can cause congestion and helps prevent dehydration,' said Ms Teo.

Adequate fluid intake is important to replace the fluid that is lost from diarrhoea or vomiting.

It is not enough just to have a bowl of porridge. By adding some lean meat like turkey and chicken, you can improve your immune system as these meats contain iron and zinc.

Turkey is even more beneficial as it also contains selenium and the amino acid tryptophan that helps to promote a healthy immune system.

An alternative to this would be to make a bowl of soup with chicken or turkey.

Garlic and Ginger


Garlic is touted as a natural antibiotic.

'It contains allicin, an antibiotic that can help defend your body from bacteria and viral infections,' said Ms Reutens.

You can eat it chopped up, roasted whole or have it with your porridge in place of oily condiments.


You can make yourself a cup of ginger tea with the following recipe, said Ms Teo:

1. Grate one tablespoon of raw ginger.

2. Add one cup of boiling water to the ginger and leave it for five to 10 minutes.

3. Strain the ginger and add honey.

Ginger is commonly used in certain areas of China when people feel the onset of a cold. It helps induce sweating, which the Chinese believe helps cure a cold as sweating removes toxins.

In addition to drinking ginger tea, it can be added to your soup or porridge.

Teas and fruit

Hot tea

Drinking cups of hot tea throughout the day can help strengthen your immune system said Ms Teo.

A 2003 study by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University showed that theanine, an ingredient found in tea, helps to strengthen the immune system.

Tea also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.

Ms Reutens advice is to drink tea with a low caffeine content like green tea or chamomile tea, as caffeine dehydrates you.


If your flu symptoms include diarrhoea, try eating bananas. 'Bananas contain pectin, a soluble fibre, that helps gel watery stools,' said Ms Teo.

In addition, it is rich in vitamins A, C, B6 and zinc, which help boost immunity.


'When you have stomach flu, your intestines are removed of probiotics or good bacteria,' said Ms Teo.

Probiotics are essential as they help our body digest food more easily by eliminating unhealthy bacteria that causes gas, constipation and bloating

To replenish it, eat yogurt as it is rich in probiotics.

What to avoid

What to avoid

Deep fried chicken wings - 'Oily food takes a longer time to digest. When you have a cold, what you need is food that is easily digestible so that your body can absorb the nutrients faster for recovery,' Ms Reutens said.

Coffee - According to Ms Reutens, coffee causes dehydration because of its caffeine content. When you have flu, it is important to ensure that you are hydrated.

Sugary food - Food that is high in sugar can impair your immune system. They are also filled with empty calories and have no protein, vitamins or minerals.

According to health website WebMD, too much sugar suppresses the cells in your immune system that are responsible for attacking bacteria.

Drinking just two cans of a carbonated drink can reduce the ability of your white blood cells to fight bacteria.


This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times