Cold sores suck. There is nothing worse than a painful lip irritation when you're already stressed or sick. And as gross as it is or as much as I want to deny it (although over 60% of Americans are infected by childhood) these stupid things totally sneak up on me a few times a year when I am stressed beyond belief. Always at the worst times. I knew there had to be SOMETHING from a food and nutrition point of view that would help me, and my brides, reduce the appearance of cold sores. And there is! 

What to Eat to Reduce Cold Sores

Lysine: Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning it's really important to eat because your body can't make it. Lysine has been shown to help suppress the virus that causes cold sores. A few studies show marked improvement with lysine supplements and an average of 2 fewer cold sores per year...on the other hand another study (admittedly with a much smaller dose) saw no improvement. 

Eat More:

  • Papaya

  • Beets

  • Avocado

  • Tomato products

  • Mango

  • Apricots

  • Pears

  • Apples

  • Figs

  • Meat 

  • Dairy

what to eat to avoid a cold sore: wedding wellness

Reduce the arginine in your diet: Arginine is also an amino acid, but can be made by the body so it's okay to reduce the foods containing arginine that you're eating. Some research shows that arginine can promote the occurrence of that pesky virus. Since many foods contain arginine AND lysine at the same time, our goal is to find those foods that contain less arginine than lysine.

Hold back on: 

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Chocolate

Quercetin: Quercetin is best defined as an anti-histimine and anti-inflammatory. What it comes down to though is this powerful flavonoid inhibits the virus replication.

Eat more:

  • Capers

  • Apples

  • Broccoli 

  • Red grapes 

  • Cherries 

  • Berries 

Vitamin C and vitamin E : Vitamin C in things like peppers, citrus and melon is helpful against several viruses and when paired with vitamin E, it's even more effective! Teamwork.

Eat more:

  • Wheat germ

  • Spinach 

  • Broccoli 

  • Tomato

  • Mango

  • Kiwi

  • Peppers

  • Citrus

Zinc: Hello every cold medicine. Zinc helps your immune system while topical zinc oxide treatments can be extremely helpful in reducing the appearance of the sore.

Eat more:

  • Oats

  • Red meat

  • Oysters (Why the heck not?)

  • Poultry

Other tips: My number one downfall with these is stress. When I'm stressed, cold sores can happen. Try to keep calm and relaxed throughout wedding planning! Instead of freaking over a situation, isolate exactly what the problem is and what action it takes to fix it.  I also find drinking lots of water is helpful as is taking Traumeel (european OTC homeopathic medication). This is totally personal experience speaking and not a medical claim but the Traumeel has the active ingredient Arnica montana which is used for pain and swelling. 


Cold sores are frustrating and stressful (ugh the irony)! If you're prone to cold sores or feel one coming on, switch your eating habits and have a zen moment. There's no easy automatic fix that will make cold sores go away forever, but small changes like these nutrition tips could be a start!

Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.