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When you have a sore throat, sometimes the last thing you want to do is eat. (Ugh, the pain!!) But when your body is in the throes of infection, it’s more important than ever to stay well-fed. “Nutrient-dense foods are a low-risk, high potential gain prescription,” says Cynthia Li, MD, author of Brave New Medicine. Basically, if you can muster up an appetite, definitely try to squeeze in as many nutrients as you can.
I’m going to level with you, though. These foods won’t cure your sore throat, per se: “The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection,” says Nate Favini, MD, chief medical officer at Forward. “The virus and your immune response to the virus cause the lining of your throat to become inflamed, which causes pain.”
There’s not a whole lot you can do about a viral infection, except ride it out and continue to stay hydrated. That being said, the foods you eat can definitely fast-track your healing. So, bonus points for soft, cooling snacks that could quell inflammation.
What kinds of food and drink should I have with a sore throat?
The first thing you should do is to always stay hydrated, says Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino, DO. “Water can thin any sort of mucus secretions that might be occurring, and it can also help with the hydration of the throat and keep it moist,” she explains.
Other than water, Tolentino also recommends warm liquids like broths and teas—they’re easy to swallow and soothing. You should also try to eat mostly soft foods when you have a sore throat, so as to not aggravate the delicate throat lining, so think blander options like yogurt, oatmeal, and Jell-O.
What foods and drinks should you avoid when you have a sore throat?
“You should stay away from crunchy and acidic foods when you have a sore throat because these can create tenderness around the throat area, which is already painful to begin with,” says Tolentino. “So things like crackers, coffee, and alcohol are all off-limits.”
Oftentimes, these types of foods can also cause acid reflux, which can aggravate already sore throats. Spicy foods like specific sauces and seasonings with chilies and cayenne will also be irritating to the throat since they can affect the throat lining. “For people with specific allergies or acid reflux, certain foods like dairy can also increase mucus production and even tomatoes for some,” adds Tolentino. So she recommends determining the cause of your throat pain early, ideally with the help of a doctor.
How should I treat a sore throat?
There are several natural and over-the-counter remedies available to help heal a sore throat, but not all of them are the healthiest, according to Tolentino. “I don’t particularly love over-the-counter cough syrups and tablets because I think they sometimes add other ingredients, like artificial colors and sweeteners, that aren’t the best and could cause other issues,” says Tolentino. Instead, she recommends the below home remedies and natural options:
- A saltwater gargle: A teaspoon of table salt in lukewarm water, gargled twice a day at minimum, is one of Tolentino’s favorite options for a sore throat. “I find them helpful to calm down the throat because of the properties they have that draw out bacteria and viruses from the back of the throat. You’re submerging the cells in water and drawing out the infections through osmosis,” she explains.
- Low-sugar lozenges: “A lot of lozenges have too much sugar, but I love the low-sugar ones from Nature’s Way and Thieves,” she says. They help to numb the pain in your throat temporarily, which can provide relief.
- Throat sprays: Throat sprays work similarly to lozenges in that they usually contain numbing agents that help prevent pain, and Tolentino uses them interchangeably with lozenges. The two brands she recommends are B. Immune and Urban Moonshine.
- Lemon, ginger, and honey tea: “I love this remedy because the tea provides a winning combination of vitamin C, as well as analgesic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and microbial properties,” says Tolentino.
But first things first, make sure you fuel up. Try these 10 doctor-approved foods next time you’re laid up in bed wondering what to eat with a sore throat.