Viral infections, like the flu, colds and COVID-19, can affect your smell and taste temporarily (anosmia). They do this by damaging the cells that detect odors and cause swelling in the nose, limiting airflow to the smell receptors. When smell is lost, taste generally follows. If your nose is blocked from a virus, the odors can’t reach the sensory cells in your nose and food ends up tasting bland.

Luckily, losing taste and smell from a viral infection is usually temporary. Eating the right foods can help bring your taste back and support a full recovery. Below are the best foods to eat as you recover from being sick - and recharge your taste buds!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken soup isn’t just for when you’re sick - it’s a great meal to eat when you’re recovering from a cold or flu. Studies show that hot liquids improve mucus congestion and clear nasal cavities. And since it can take up to 10 days for nasal congestion to go away, you definitely want something that’s going to speed up this process. Plus, hot chicken noodle soup keeps you hydrated and replenishes your body with essential vitamins and nutrients.

Fruit Smoothies

Smoothies are another great food to add to your list, as they’re packed with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will help your body recover. There are dozens of recipes you can try that use fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Plus, smoothies taste like ice cream (a great comfort food!) but contain far less sugar. Too much sugar can inflame your stomach and force your immune system to work harder.

Macaroni and Cheese

Perhaps one of the best comfort foods on the planet is macaroni and cheese. Even research backs this up! According to one study, comfort foods like mac and cheese tie into memories of our childhood. We don’t just eat this food because it tastes good - we eat it because it reminds us of being a kid. To make this comfort food healthier, try a cauliflower-based version or pick an add-in like shredded chicken or broccoli.

Chicken Pot Pie

Last on our list is chicken pot pie, another quintessential comfort food that will have your taste buds dancing! No one knows why chicken pot pie tastes so good. Is it the rich gravy? Flaky crust? Tender, rotisserie chicken? Crunchy, flavorful veggies? Either way, this meal will give you everything your taste buds desire, while also delivering the essential nutrients your body needs to recover.

Being sick is an unfortunate part of the winter season. But as you recover and look to better days, be sure to treat yourself to a healthy comfort food that will give your body what it needs to bounce back!

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