Coronavirus: Must-Know Info

11 Foods and Drinks to Help Soothe COVID-19 Symptoms

Even with vaccination, you might come down with a breakthrough case. Here’s what to turn to as you recover.

Medically Reviewed

When it comes to preventing COVID-19, vaccination, boosters, and other health measures like wearing a mask in public places remain crucial. But even with those protections, you could be faced with a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

According to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness and hospitalization. Still, breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to happen, the agency notes.

The CDC also notes that COVID-19 symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, congestion, shortness of breath, and loss of taste or smell. If you have symptoms of a severe COVID-19 case — including bluish lips, trouble breathing, or chest pressure — seek medical attention immediately.

For those more mild cases of COVID-19 that you can recover from at home, your kitchen may offer some relief. In general, some research suggests that healthy eating habits may help you recover from illnesses such as COVID-19, along with any regimen your healthcare team has prescribed. Yet importantly, your diet choices aren’t a replacement for said regimen — and research linking certain foods to COVID-19 relief is currently limited.

With that in mind, here’s a list of foods and drinks that may help support your immune system as your immune system fights off COVID-19.


Chicken Soup

chicken soup

This sick-day food is an old standby for a reason, says Julie Miller Jones, PhD, emeritus professor of nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. More than other hot liquids, this soup has been shown to increase mucus flow and that helps flush out viruses, she says.

“This may be due to a certain amino acid, called cysteine, in chicken soup that can affect mucus flow, and we see this especially in homemade versions,” Dr. Jones says.




While you’re whipping up your chicken noodle soup, toss in potatoes! These starchy veggies can help regulate fluid balance, as MedlinePlus notes, thanks to their potassium. Fluid balance is crucial when you’re fighting COVID-19 because it's a respiratory illness and dehydration can thicken respiratory secretions and make them hard to clear from your lungs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each medium spud offers 906 milligrams (mg) of potassium, making it a good source of the mineral.

Not a fan of potatoes in your soup? Separately consider snacking on bananas, avocado, and apricots, which are other food sources of potassium, notes Harvard University.

RELATED: 7 Potato Recipes That Are Actually Good for You


Sugar-Free, Fruit-Based Popsicles

Fruit Popsicles

These frozen treats can provide hydration and some nutrition, as well as soothe a sore throat if that’s one of your COVID-19 symptoms, says Eric Ascher, MD, family medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Keeping hydration levels high will help with immune system function, he explains.

According to a report about dehydration and COVID-19, the Healthcare Infection Society notes that hydration and infection operate in a vicious cycle: Not having enough fluids predisposes you to infection, which then speeds your fluid loss. The report adds that a fluid deficit seems to develop slowly in COVID-19, so make sure to keep your hydration levels high even when you're not thirsty.


Coconut Water

coconut water

Dealing with diarrhea? Time to replenish your electrolytes. As Cedars-Sinai notes, electrolytes are those minerals like potassium, sodium and calcium that your body needs to thrive. “When you have diarrhea, the body flushes out a lot of electrolytes that need to be replaced so you can heal and not feel weak,” he says. “Often, people go to sports drinks, but I prefer coconut water since it’s an excellent way to hydrate with natural electrolytes and no sugar.” To avoid consuming added sugar, which can hamper immunity, opt for plain, unsweetened coconut water.


Oats, Popcorn, and Other Whole Grains

plain Popcorn

COVID-19 causes inflammation in the body much like any virus, Jones says. So when you’re infected, including foods that have anti-inflammatory properties may be helpful. One easily accessible food group can allow you to reap the benefits: whole grains. In a review of nine randomized controlled trials, which was published in October 2018 in Medicine, researchers found whole grain intake was associated with lowered inflammation markers in 838 people across nine different studies and populations studied.

Oats, plain popcorn, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread are all options, according to Mayo Clinic.

RELATED: 11 High-Fiber Foods to Add to Your Diet


Whole Fruits and Veggies

whole fruits and vegetables

Eating naturally vitamin-rich produce is important for health regardless of whether you’ve been exposed to the novel coronavirus. But these whole, anti-inflammatory foods have promising benefits for accelerating your recovery. A study published in September 2021 in the journal Gut found that a plant-based diet (which can take many forms, such as a vegan or vegetarian diet) not only lowered risk of developing COVID-19, but also reduced symptom severity for those who contracted the virus. You already know potatoes are beneficial, but try opting, too, for other choices, like watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers, and iceberg lettuce, which shine due to their high water content, as the Cleveland Clinic notes.


Soft Foods Like Applesauce and Smoothies

apple sauce

If upset stomach is one of your symptoms, Jones suggests having anti-inflammatory foods in an easily digestible form, such as applesauce or a smoothie. Consider adding some of those whole anti-inflammatory fruits and veggies to the latter.


Plant-Based Protein

plant based proteins nuts and nut butter

As mentioned, a plant-based diet may aid recovery from COVID-19. In your eating plan, be sure to feature protein from sources like nuts, seeds, and nut butter, for example, suggests Nicole Roach, RD, who works at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Noshing on foods high in protein is important for keeping muscle mass intact during the time that you’re likely cutting way back on physical activity, Roach says. Also, COVID-19 is a hypermetabolic state, which means your body is burning more fuel to speed you toward recovery, and if you don’t replace that fuel, it can lead to more fatigue.

“Often, we see those affected with COVID decrease their consumption due to shortness of breath or overall lack of appetite,” she adds. “If you are struggling to maintain your normal appetite during a COVID diagnosis, focus on protein.”

Animal sources are also an option, Roach says. However, a study published in May 2019 in Current Developments in Nutrition found that plant-based protein may be a better squelcher of inflammation than animal protein.

“Another good staple is a protein shake, which will be easier to consume if you’re too tired to cook a meal,” Roach says.

RELATED: 10 of the Best Plant-Based Sources of Protein


Fatty Fish

fatty fish salmon and vegetables

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids including fish (like salmon, cod, and sardines, per the Mayo Clinic) may help lower the inflammation that comes with COVID-19, according to a research review published in December 2020 in infection & Chemotherapy.

Those researchers suggest that omega-3 fatty acids have been shown through previous research to be incorporated throughout the body into a certain layer of your cell membranes. This process can help mitigate inflammation, they note, and that may have an antiviral effect. That said, more studies on omega-3s and COVID-19 are necessary.


Greek Yogurt

plain greek yogurt

Another source of protein, albeit one that is not plant-based: Greek yogurt. A typical 5.3-ounce container, such as from Chobani, offers a whopping 14 grams of protein. Greek yogurt is also a fermented food, which they theorized may help diminish the severity or duration of a COVID-19 episode, according to commentary in the October 2020 issue of the journal Food Research International.

Researchers note that fermented foods and probiotics may deliver beneficial microbes to the digestive system, which has a direct impact on immunity, as well as lung function.


Warm Tea With Honey

warm tea with honey

Like chicken soup, warm tea can help break down mucus and get it flushed — or coughed out — from the body, taking bits of virus with it, Dr. Ascher says.

Instead of sugar, add honey to your tea, he suggests. “Honey before bed may improve your sleep when you have COVID, and it also has antimicrobial properties that help improve the immune response,” he says.

A study published in December 2018 in Clinical Nutrition of patients admitted for acute heart attack with sleep issues in Iran consumed mixture of honey and milk consumed twice a day for three days. Researchers observed they had significantly improved sleep compared with a control group that didn’t receive this mixture.

Regarding its antimicrobial activity, previous research has noted that honey — and particularly a kind called manuka honey — has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. A research review published in December 2020 in the journal Heliyon theorized that being able to tamp down acute inflammation, like the kind seen with COVID-19, could lead to an enhanced immune response, but studies are needed to prove this effect.

RELATED: 8 Teas to Drink for a Healthier Body and Mind

What to Avoid When Recovering From COVID-19

Eating whole, healthy foods is preferable to relying on herbal remedies, vitamins, and supplements that have been touted for their ability to treat COVID-19, says David Cutler, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Same goes for so-called treatments like ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin, which are not conclusively proven to help with COVID-19 recovery and instead can be seriously dangerous to your health.

And again, know that no one food will make COVID-19 go away, nor will a single dietary approach. Pay attention to your symptoms, and if you have signs like trouble breathing, persistent chest pressure or pain, or new confusion, call 911, the CDC urges.