It’s quite natural to fall mildly sick once in a while. Common cough and cold can catch any one of us, but by paying attention to our diet and eliminating certain foods, it’s possible to fight the attack and get back to good health.

Most of us are affected by the seasonal flu once in a while with a series of sneezing sessions, and prefer staying in bed with a blanket wrapped around us. During this time, we may have a list of varying symptoms ranging from congested chest, blocked nose, cold and cough. Many immunity-boosting foods can help in treating the condition, including probiotic (helpful microorganisms) containing foods, dietary fibre, hot beverages, fruits and vegetables. However, while paying attention to the foods to consume, it’s equally essential to be aware of the foods to eliminate from the diet during the flu. Read on to understand the impact of certain foods on cough and cold and why you are better off not consuming them when you’re feeling under the weather.

Foods to avoid during cough and cold

While you may already know that foods like ice cream, frozen yoghurt, cold beverages, and milk-based coolers are detrimental for your cough, there are many other types of foods that you should be wary of when you have a cold. In case of severe cold and cough, the recommendations of a healthcare professional should be followed. Below, we have compiled a list of foods that you may want to avoid having in uncontrolled amounts, specially when you’re not feeling well:

  1. Sugar: Increased amounts of sugar in the blood is associated with a decrease in immunity. High sugar levels in the diet can also negatively impact the healthy microorganisms in our gut and lead to inflammation. Since cough and cold hint at a weakened immune system, it is wise to prevent further burden on the body by including sugary foods and drinks. Thus, cakes, cookies, and carbonated beverages high in sugar are some of the foods to avoid during cough and cold to support the body in recovery.
  2. Fried food: These foods are high in compounds that can lead to inflammation in our body and correspondingly decrease the activity of our immune system. Cutting back on fried stuff like chips, french fries, and fried chicken may be helpful and these are some foods to avoid during cough and cold.
  3. Caffeine: Caffeine is considered to have a diuretic effect, and can lead to excessive water loss from the body. Due to its dehydrating nature, it’s best to stay away from caffeine when one’s down with the flu. Besides, coffee is acidic, which may further intensify the condition of cough.
  4. Milk and dairy products: While some studies have established that consumption of milk and dairy products does not increase mucous secretion in people suffering from respiratory tract infections like cough and cold, other studies have reported that excessive milk consumption has a long association with increased mucus production. Thus based on the body’s tolerance and symptoms, one may take an individual call on the quantity of milk and dairy products that could come under foods to avoid during cough and cold.
  5. Starchy foods: Foods that are rich in starch include rice and potato. These foods can increase blood sugar levels and over time lead to impaired function of the insulin hormone that works to stabilise glucose levels. Some studies have found a correlation that the increased blood sugar levels and diseases related to congestion can both lead to cough and are eventually linked to lungs, which may in turn have something to do with the high consumption of starch over a period of time. Thus sources high in starch may be considered foods to avoid during cold and to prevent the condition in the long term.
  6. Dietary sodium: Sodium is an important mineral in our body and has a role in water balance, however too much of it has dire consequences. Although a single nutrient cannot be held responsible for the cause or treatment of a condition like cough and cold, it has been observed that high sodium is linked to the narrowing of our airways. Table salt is a major contributor of sodium in our diet, and heavily salted curries, soups, and sauces are thus some of the foods to avoid during cough and cold.
  7. Preserved meat: It is observed that a high meat diet, especially preserved meat that is also high in sodium can aggravate cough and phlegm. Besides, meat contains greater amounts of saturated fats and nitrosamine, a compound that can cause cancer, and both these factors may be relevant in establishing this relationship.

Fruits to avoid during cough and cold

Since fruits are generally needed in all diets to stay healthy, there are not many on the list of fruits to avoid during cough and cold. However, it is best to not consume refrigerated fruits in such cases and others that may potentially worsen the condition, including:

  1. Custard apple:
    It is one of the fruits to avoid during cough and cold as it has an extremely cooling effect on the body and can worsen the cold. Though some people view orange, lime and grapefruit as fruits to avoid during cough and cold, they are actually a boon to the immune system. It is found that consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C, even at a low level of intake, may reduce wheezing symptoms. Only if a person suffers from acidity, he may want to avoid these citrus fruits as they can cause a reflux of acid from the stomach, further causing irritation and aggravating the condition of cold and cough. So while based on cautionary measures, some may feel these are fruits to avoid during cough and cold and during the period of recovery as well, they may have several health promoting benefits for others during cough and cold.
  2. Vegetables to avoid during cough:
    There are only a few vegetables to avoid during cough, especially those that can increase the production of histamine. Histamine is a chemical found in our cells and can cause several allergic reactions. It plays a role in blocking the airway by causing the contraction of muscles and the production of mucus. The histamine-rich vegetables to avoid during cough are:
    • Brinjal
    • Spinach


Like all aspects of health and disease, diet is just as important when one is suffering from cough and cold. Not only is it essential to eat healthy during this time and stay hydrated as the body goes into recuperation mode, but by also being aware of the foods to avoid during cold and cough, the road to recovery can be made all the more easy.