I cannot count the number of times that, three-minutes into suffering a sore throat, I vow to never undervalue pain-free swallowing again. Just imagine being able to eat anything you want without excruciating pain, I think to myself after every miserable attempt at gargling warm salt water. And you’ve done that, your whole life, without taking a minute to reflect on the absolute privilege of having a healthy throat.
Unfortunately, when you have a sore throat, refusing to swallow until it feels better isn’t really an option. So since you have to painfully gulp down something, what should you actually eat with a sore throat?
First and foremost, it’s good to know what foods you should avoid. As simple as it might sound, you mostly want to skip anything that could further aggravate your throat. That includes obvious things like jagged chips and dry pretzels, but medical professionals also advise against anything acidic, such as orange juice. Drinking warm milk, or chamomile tea with milk, is often offered as a soothing fix, but the dairy might lead to a buildup of mucus, which isn’t exactly ideal.
Beyond those suggestions, Amy Lippert, a functional nutritionist in Minnesota, says you can mostly eat whatever you feel most comfortable eating, so long as it’s soft and easy on the throat. So while that gives you the green light to go nuts on some warm pasta, mashed potatoes, Cool-Whip, ice cream and Jell-O, Lippert recommends focusing on warm oatmeal, yogurt or a fruit smoothie. These are of similar texture to a big ol’ bowl of mashed potatoes, for instance, but pack in more nutrients that your body needs for healing.
Essentially, Lippert says, you want to consume anything that has the goods to help your body hydrate, reduce inflammation, support your gut health and generally boost your overall immune function. “That way you can help to soothe your throat while still nourishing the body with what it needs to combat the virus or bacterial infection it’s fighting,” she explains.
Lippert’s top recommendation for what to eat with a sore throat is bone broth. “Bone broth is full of vitamins, minerals and protein,” she says. “Plus, it’s inexpensive and yields a super rich and nutritious broth that helps to soothe a sore throat while providing lots of nutrients to the body in an easily absorbable form.”
If you want to eat something with a little more heft to it than what’s essentially hot salty water, you can’t go wrong with eating actual soup. But again, keep your poor, battered throat in mind before throwing some Campbell’s Chunky in the microwave. To that end, Lippert recommends looking for healthier options, such as a ginger turmeric soup. “Fresh ginger and turmeric are great for your gut health and anti-inflammatory,” she tells me. “Make it with bone broth, and this soup won’t only soothe a sore throat, but it’ll taste amazing and support the healing process.”
It may come as no surprise that this list of slurpable health foods ends with the ultimate slurpable health food: green juice. Avoid the ones that contain a ton of sugar and aren’t very healthy at all, of course, but the right green juice is a quick and easy way to get some nutrients in your body with minimal pain. “They’re an excellent way of getting in a bioavailable form of vitamins, minerals and water from fresh produce that’s normally eaten,” Lippert explains.
To be sure, green juices and bone broth aren’t long-term solutions to actually eating vegetables or being healthy, but most veggies aren’t easy to swallow and you’re just trying to get through the next few days. Cram enough nutrients down your tender little gullet, and you’ll be on the fast track to pain-free swallowing in no time. Then you can eat all the chips and chug all the orange juice you want.