Food & Nutrition

10 Foods That Could Make Your Cold or Flu Worse

We know the foods that make a cold or flu better—like a steaming bowl of chicken soup, or a mug of ginger tea. But what about the foods that make a cold or flu worse? Avoid these when you’re feeling under the weather.


iStock/Peter de Kievith

Sugar can cause inflammation, which weakens your body’s white blood cells, which are key to fighting off infections. Try to avoid comforting yourself with too many sweet treats (and yes, that includes sweetened juice) until you feel better. Here are 9 other ways you could be making your cold or flu worse.

Simple carbs

iStock/john shepherd

Thinking of grabbing saltines, buttered toast, or a heaping bowl of pasta? Think again. Refined carbohydrates are broken down quickly into sugar, triggering the same blood sugar rise as sugary drinks and snacks, with the same inflammatory effects. If you can’t get through an illness without toast, try reaching for whole grain instead; it’s digested more slowly, so it doesn’t spike blood sugar. Here are 15 surprising ways to prevent colds and the flu.



Like sugar, alcohol causes inflammation and weakens white blood cells. Alcohol also has the double whammy effect of contributing to dehydration. Hydration is key when you’re sick, because the mucous membranes in your nasal cavities are better at flushing out a virus when they are moist. Being dehydrated while sick is also likely to make those muscle aches that much worse. You may also find that if you’re already mildly dehydrated from your illness, drinking alcohol can hit you harder than usual. Opt for water and tea until you’re feeling well.

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