You’ve probably experienced a sore throat many times in your life. That itchy, painful, dry feeling you get from a sore throat is hard to forget.
When you feel a sore throat coming on, you’ll want to know what caused it, how to treat it, and whether you need to see a doctor. But you’ll also want to know the best foods for your sore throat as well as which foods to avoid.
What causes sore throat?
You may not know it, but a sore throat is an upper respiratory tract infection.1 When this type of infection is present, the lining of your throat becomes irritated, leading to the uncomfortable symptoms (painful swallowing, dryness, scratchy feeling, etc.) you’re familiar with.
An acute sore throat is one of the most common infections seen by family doctors annually, accounting for 2-4% of all visits.2 Most of these sore throat complaints are caused by a viral infection, like the common cold or the flu. However, some sore throats (about one in 10) are due to bacterial infection, such as group A Streptococcus, better known as strep throat.3
Besides viruses and bacteria, a sore throat can also be caused by seasonal allergies, smoking, muscle strains, or even some types of surgeries where a breathing tube was used.
When should you see a doctor?
There is good news when it comes to most sore throats. The common type of sore throat caused by a virus often resolves on its own over a relatively short period of time. You often don’t need to use any medication for a viral sore throat.
However, if your sore throat appears to be due to strep throat, you’ll want to see a doctor so you can treat it properly. Strep throat symptoms to watch out for include headache, fever, chills, and, of course, throat pain.4
It’s important to know what is causing your sore throat for your doctor to determine the best treatment options.
When you have strep throat, your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics. But despite the fact that antibiotics are sometimes erroneously prescribed for a viral sore throat, these drugs won’t work in this case.5 Antibiotics can only help heal a sore throat caused by bacteria and could cause harm if you have a viral infection and don’t really need to be taking this type of drug.
If you find yourself with a sore throat caused by a virus or other factor besides group A Streptococcus, there are still some at-home treatments you can use to feel better. These include using lozenges, keeping your home moist with a humidifier, drinking warm beverages, using pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and choosing foods for sore throat that will be both soothing and nourishing.6
What are the best foods for sore throat?
While food can be powerful in many ways, the best foods for sore throat won’t necessarily be a cure. You’ll want to focus on foods that are soothing and won’t cause additional irritation to an already painful situation.
Let’s look at the 10 best foods for sore throat. You can choose these foods no matter the cause of your sore throat.
1 – Soup
This one probably isn’t surprising, but there’s a reason why many people turn to soup when they have a sore throat. Hot soup feels great on a scratchy, dry throat. And those made with broth will give you some extra electrolytes to help you stay hydrated, an important part of getting over a sore throat or any illness.
Look for soups that include ingredients like garlic and turmeric that may help decrease inflammation in your throat.7
2 – Yogurt
Yogurt is not only soft but also immune boosting. Yogurt contains probiotics that are thought to improve immunity and decrease inflammation, two things you’ll want as you get over a sore throat.8 Look for plain yogurt, Greek yogurt, or yogurt with soft fruit mixed in instead of yogurt that contains rough granola or nuts.
3 – Well-cooked pasta
Pasta is a tasty dish that can be cooked in ways that will soothe your sore throat. Well-cooked, soft pasta will be easy to chew and swallow and will provide important carbohydrates your body needs for energy. You may want to avoid acidic tomato sauce when you have a sore throat, so opt for olive oil, butter, or another non-acidic sauce to pair with your pasta.
4 – Oatmeal
There’s no rule that oatmeal can only be eaten in the morning. Warm oatmeal makes a great meal any time of day and won’t feel rough on a sore throat. Oatmeal is a comfort food for many people and may be just what you need when feeling under the weather. To top it off, oats contain antioxidants, like polyphenols, that your body can use to ward off free radicals and keep you healthy.9
5 – Certain soft fruits
Fruits that don’t have rough skin, like bananas, plums, melons, peaches, and apple sauce should feel good on a sore throat. Plus, they’ll give you some extra nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B6, that will help keep your immune system running.10 Just watch out for acidic citrus fruits as these might sting an irritated throat.
|Learn how ZYTO can help you make the best food choices based on the body’s unique energetic responses.|
6 – Soft veggies
Like soft fruits, soft veggies are easy for sore throat sufferers to chew and swallow. When you’re sick, you want to do your best to get in some nutrient-dense foods like vegetables. This is because you want to give your body the best chance of getting over your illness quickly so you can get back on your feet. Plus, eating more vegetables has been associated with better immunity and lower inflammation markers.11
7 – Scrambled eggs
You can quickly whip up scrambled eggs any time of day, even when you’re sick with a sore throat. Their super soft texture and crumbly nature will make eating scrambled eggs a simple task.
Eggs are a great source of protein, which you need plenty of when you’re sick. As a complete protein, eggs will give your body all the essential amino acids needed to stay healthy. And eggs contain selenium and zinc, which are both linked to a better response to viral infections.12
8 – Smoothies
Smoothies are cold and easy to swallow, making them a soothing option when you have a sore throat. If your appetite is low like it often is when sick, you can add extra calories to your smoothie so that you don’t miss out on important nutrition. You could do this by adding vitamin E-rich avocado (which has a potential protective effect against upper respiratory infections)13 to your smoothie, or by using whole milk instead of fat-free milk, for example.
9 – Ice cream
Ice cream is another cold, smooth food for a sore throat. It’s also a popular comfort food that could help you feel a little better. And the extra cold temperature of ice cream could help reduce inflammation present in your throat, which means you’ll be doing something good for yourself as you enjoy a bowl.
10 – Pudding
Pudding is easy to eat since it’s extra creamy. It would make for a great snack when you’re stuck at home with a sore throat.
And even though pudding is mostly a dessert food, it does have a few health benefits. It contains calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium, among other vitamins and minerals that your body needs every day.
|Drinking tea is another great way to soothe a sore throat. Learn about the best tea for sore throat here.|
Foods to avoid with sore throat
Of course, when talking about the best foods for sore throat, you also need to know which foods to avoid.
Certain foods may cause more irritation to your sore throat and could even make inflammation worse. Therefore, you’ll want to steer clear of these foods at least until you feel better:
- Crispy, crunchy crackers and chips – These can have sharp, pointy edges that could nick your throat on the way down.
- Dry bread – Bread that is too dry could get caught in your throat or have a hard time getting through an inflamed throat.
- Raw vegetables – Like crackers and chips, raw veggies are a bit rough and could scratch your sore throat.
- Acidic fruits – The acidity in citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit, could cause further irritation to your throat.
- Spicy foods – Anything too spicy could aggravate your irritated throat and make things worse.
Certain foods can help your sore throat
A sore throat is no fun. Most of the time, it’s caused by a viral infection and will clear on its own. However, sometimes a sore throat is caused by bacteria like group A Streptococcus that requires medical attention.
Regardless of the cause, it’ll be important for you to choose foods for your sore throat that will be soothing and help you feel better. On the flip side, you’ll want to avoid a few foods that could make your sore throat worse.
About Brittany Lubeck
Brittany Lubeck is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. She has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition, and began her career as a clinical dietitian. Brittany has always enjoyed research and loves that she can help people learn more about nutrition through her writing.
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