Making a comeback: what to eat when recovering from a cold or flu

We humans can fly to the moon, but we still get felled by the common cold or flu virus!

Doesn’t it surprise you every time how down and out you feel? No appetite, no energy, no brainpower -- weak as a kitten. A dear friend of mine, Waz Thomas, co-founder and former director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, was sooo sick for a month. We did a tag team, bringing in Magic Mineral Broth for him, keeping up a steady stream. His fever finally broke. And do you know what he wanted, when at last he could eat? This major healthy, vegetarian, anti-cancer guy? A potato chip! Salty, crunchy, crispy, fat… all those deep taste and texture factors… and no wonder, after weeks of soups and broths!

You never know what’s going to be your connection back to food. Broths and soups can help revive you, but when your appetite returns and you’re ready for solid food, you may have a craving -- an itch that needs to be scratched. And that’s ok! Greet it like a friend. Not that I want you to eat bags and bags of potato chips! But you may really want that salt, for example.

Ease your way back.

Ideally, you can ease your way back. When you’re hit with a cold or flu virus, your appetite center gets turned off. One of the most important things for you to keep up for self-care during the illness is hydration, hydration, hydration. Sip on broth. When you’re kind of on the other side, you can start eating again, because your body needs it. That’s when you want to go to soups.

Chicken Soup is the classic! And there’s actually science. Can you believe they had to do a study on chicken soup? What every Jewish and Latin grandmother has known for generations? Oh well, if it makes them feel better.

Here’s a nice little post from Tara Parker-Pope on the New York Times Well blog, entitled The Science of Chicken Soup. Researchers in several studies she mentioned couldn’t find exactly what causes the healing effect -- maybe the combo of chicken and vegetables, they speculated? -- but they were convinced it has more than just a placebo effect. And they specifically ascertained that chicken soup did a better job improving air flow and mucus than hot water. So there. Anecdotal evidence has also proved convincingly that a lot of love + chicken soup does the trick AND tastes wonderful!

May I direct your attention to my Robust Chicken Soup from The Healthy Mind Cookbook?

I’m not sure what I should call this dish. It’s more than a soup, but not quite a stew. Maybe it’s a stoup (you’re laughing now, but just wait till “stoup” makes its way into the Oxford English Dictionary—take that, mochaccino). Well, no matter what you call it, this is an instance where putting everything into a simmering broth rather than onto a plate lets some culinary alchemy take place. The result is a feast for the mouth and a source of soothing warmth for the body. This is one of my favorite soups to make when I have leftover chicken in the fridge. And of course, it’s the perfect step on your path to recovery.

An important note: your stomach has shrunk! So when you’re starting to ease your way back to the table, it’s better to eat small meals frequently rather than one big one.

For more on gently reconnecting with food after an illness of any kind, visit You are not being chased by a saber tooth tiger.