Omicron numbers are still spiking—and a lot of people are getting sick. Thankfully, for those who are vaccinated and boosted, symptoms for this variant are relatively mild. World Health Organization officials say that Omicron causes “milder symptoms” compared to previous variants—symptoms living in the upper part of the body versus sitting in the lungs, which causes a higher risk of death. However, while symptoms are milder, one of the more common symptoms Omicron patients tend to have includes an extremely sore throat, making it nearly impossible to desire any kind of food.
“With Omicron the throat is so sore, it’s as though you have strep throat,” says Robert G. Lahita MD, Ph.D. (“Dr. Bob”), Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health and author of Immunity Strong. “Even liquids hurt.”
With an extremely sore throat, it seems only natural to want to reach for soft foods and liquids that go down easy. Broths and protein shakes are healthy recommendations to reach for and, according to Dr. Bob, you can also add ice cream to the list.
“If you don’t have diabetes, [eat] ice cream,” says Dr. Bob. “Something that will go past your [your throat] in an easy way.”
While it may sound unconventional for a doctor to be recommending a sweet dessert for you to eat, Dr. Bob’s advice is backed with very specific reasons that can actually keep your body healthy during your bout of sickness.
“[It] provides you with glucose and also protein, so you will be able to at least keep some weight on,” says Dr. Bob.
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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ice cream does provide your body with a good amount of protein in each bowl. If you were to eat one cup of plain vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream, you’ll get between 4 to 5 grams of protein. Given that this is a double portion (a typical serving is 1/2 cup), you’ll consume around 28 to 32 grams of sugar.
But according to Dr. Bob, this isn’t an issue to worry about with Omicron. One of his main reasons for recommending a high-sugar item is all related to one specific unhealthy side effect he sees from his Omicron patients—severe weight loss.
“A lot of people who get Omicron or certainly Delta lose sometimes 20 to 30 pounds, and it’s a big issue,” he says, which can be due to a prolonged lack of appetite. “So if you can eat regular food, go for it.”
While the doctor is by no means saying that ice cream is a healthy superfood, it can help solve a few of the problems that Omicron patients are currently facing.
First, ice cream is higher in sugar and fat, which can help with keeping weight on for COVID patients that are severely losing weight.
Second, unlike many other desserts, ice cream does have some protein due to the milk content of the item. Protein can help with satiety, at least leaving you feeling somewhat full after enjoying a bowl.
Third, ice cream is comforting. It is cold on the throat and is known to be a “feel good” when you’re not feeling so good at the moment.
Not an ice cream fan? Reach for yogurt.
If you don’t have a sweet tooth and prefer something tarter that will still give you that protein and fat recommended, Dr. Bob also says that yogurt is a great choice when you’re sick with Omicron.
“I’ve been suggesting that the best thing to do is to probably eat yogurt and maybe put some granola on the yogurt,” says Dr. Bob. “Yogurt is very good as a probiotic for your bowel to ensure that stays stable.”
If you’re up for it, Dr. Bob also recommends topping your yogurt with small bite-sized pieces of banana as well. Which, to be honest with you, also sounds like a great topping for ice cream, don’t you think?
Along with ice cream and yogurt, here are a few of the other Best Foods to Eat for Omicron Symptoms Dr. Bob recommends.