8 Foods to Eat When You Have a Sore Throat
They can ease the pain—and boost your immune system, too.
You may not feel like eating much of anything when your throat is on fire—but certain foods can actually ease your pain, while also lowering inflammation and bolstering your body's immune system, too.
Below you'll find the eight best foods to eat with a sore throat: They're all soothing, easy to swallow, and rich in nutrients. If you don’t feel well enough to trek to the store, place a grocery delivery order online, or ask a friend to pick up what you need. Prioritizing good nutrition when you’re under the weather is one of the best ways to help yourself heal.
Icy pops can offer immediate relief. But many pre-made options are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or other added sugars, as well as unwanted additives, like artificial colors and flavors. Look for brands made with pureed fruit or fruit juice (and nothing else). Or you can make your own pops in BPA-free molds, with antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries, pomegranate juice, and cherries. You could even include veggies, by blending leafy greens or spinach with a green fruit, like kiwi. Tart cherry juice is another smart ingredient: In addition to quelling inflammation, it may help you get some rest. Cherries are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin.
Veggie broth with garlic, turmeric, and black pepper
Warm broth is comforting, and the steam can help loosen congestion if you’re also stuffed up. Plus, veggie broth can provide nutrients and antioxidants, and become a vehicle for delivering other beneficial ingredients, such as garlic. Its sulfur compounds fight inflammation. And garlic contains antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal compounds, which can boost immunity.
Make sure you add some turmeric to your broth, too. The spice has long been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that the root's active component, curcumin, helps lower levels of enzymes in the body that fuel inflammation. However, curcumin is not well utilized without the addition of piperine, a substance found in black pepper, so be sure to add pepper too!
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Mashed sweet potato with cinnamon
Sweet potatoes provide two key immune-supporting nutrients: vitamins A and C. They’re also chock-full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and the mashed texture is soothing for a sore throat. Cinnamon adds flavor, but is also a potent source of antioxidants and supports immunity by helping to fend off viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Mix the spice with a little maple syrup or honey, and fold into the mash, or blend both with a few water soaked dates, almond flour, and maple syrup to make a nutritious “pudding.”
Chamomile tea with lemon
In addition to providing anti-inflammatory compounds, chamomile has been shown to help people fall asleep faster; and sleep is especially vital when you’re sick. If you also have a cough, the antispasmodic benefit of chamomile may help. Add fresh lemon for a vitamin C boost and bonus antioxidants.
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Fresh ginger root is a potent anti-inflammatory. It also fights nausea, supports immunity, and has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Peel, finely grate, and add to your homemade fruit pops, tea with honey, oatmeal, mashed sweet potato, or smoothies.
If your sore throat is accompanied by a cough, honey can help with that too. The sweet stuff not only has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, it's been shown to be as effective as cough suppressant medication. Look for organic, raw honey or Manuka honey, a type that hails from New Zealand with especially potent antibiotic qualities. (One lab study found that Manuka honey inhibited replication of the flu virus.) Add honey to your tea or oatmeal, drizzle over mashed sweet potato, whip into smoothies—or just lick it right off the spoon.
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Oatmeal with mashed banana
The antioxidants and magnesium in oats help curb inflammation, while zinc supports immunity and healing. What's more, the grain is filing, and easy to digest. Like broth, oats also offer a base that can be blended with other healthful ingredients. In this case, mashed banana is a terrific add-in, due to its mushy texture, vitamin C, and antioxidants. You can also stir in a bit of honey, ginger, and cinnamon. Enjoy oats warm, mixed with hot water, or soak overnight in almond milk with pureed fruit and spices and eat chilled.
A smoothie can easily become a complete meal, and provide healthy protein, good fat, and nutrient-rich carbs, in addition to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If your appetite is poor, a smoothie or two per day can help you meet overall nutrient needs, and simultaneously soothe a sore throat: Blend a handful of greens with plant protein powder, nut butter or avocado, nut milk or water, frozen fruit, fresh ginger root, turmeric, and black pepper.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.
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