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Krishna: Feed a cold, starve a fever. This maxim typically dates back many years, and has been traced to a 1574 dictionary by John Withals, which noted that “fasting is a great remedy of fever.” Wherever it came from, it has become firmly entrenched in popular culture, and is still a popular piece of advice today.

It’s not unusual to lose your appetite when you’re sick. At times, not eating seems to help, but sometimes it can make you feel that much weaker. So, should you really starve a fever?

Not according to the medical experts at Cedars-Sinai, who call it fiction. Cold or flu, your immune system needs energy and nutrients to do its job, so eating and getting enough fluids is essential.

Harvard Medical School agrees, saying that there’s no need to eat more or less than usual if you have a cold or flu. Both institutions stress the importance of fluids.

So recent medical science says the old saw is wrong. It should be “feed a cold, feed a fever well.”

Colds and flu are usually caused by a viral infection, but a fever can happen for many reasons, including:

  • a bacterial infection
  • inflammatory conditions
  • side effect of some medications and vaccines
  • dehydration or heatstroke

It is correct you don't feel like eating when you have fever. But you need nutrients to fight infection.

When you have a fever, your body needs all the protein it can get to recover from it at a much faster rate. Some of the best sources of protein are poultry and fish but make sure that they are thoroughly cooked for easy digestion. Fish, oily ones in particular, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help strengthen the immune system.

Indian non-veg contains lots of spices and oils. You can cook them lightly without adding these things you can consume them during fever.

Don't some vegetarian foods contain lots of fibre and complex starches that can't be digested easily?

What you should actually avoid during a fever is consuming caffeinated drinks, alcohol, greasy foods, hard to digest grains.

You can eat well and non-spicy non-veg especially soups prepared from them.

When you are eating non-veg during fever, make sure you choose lean sources, such as skinless chicken or turkey and fish.

The reasons to eat for fever are more interesting. Fever is part of the immune system’s attempt to beat the bugs. It raises body temperature, which increases metabolism and results in more calories burned; for each degree of temperature rise, the energy demand increases further. So taking in calories becomes important.(1)

Footnotes:

1. Fact or Fiction?: Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

The answer is simmering in a bowl of chicken soup

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