There is perhaps no more comforting food than a warm bowl of chicken soup, but the benefits are not only to your psyche. Chicken soup has been used as a remedy for the common cold since at least the 12th century.
The fluids it provides can help your body fight infection, while the steam might help ease your congestion. But beyond this, chicken soup contains beneficial compounds that might alleviate inflammation.
When you’re sick with a cold, part of your body’s inflammatory response is to send white blood cells to your upper respiratory tract to help fend off the invaders. This, however, may stimulate many of the symptoms of the common cold, including mucous production, cough, and sneezing.
One study showed that chicken soup helped to stop the migration of the cells, which could potentially help to stop some cold symptoms from developing. According to the study:
“Chicken soup significantly inhibited neutrophil migration and did so in a concentration-dependent manner… chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity.
A mild anti-inflammatory effect could be one mechanism by which the soup could result in the mitigation of symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections.”
Chicken Soup: More Than a Placebo Effect?
Other studies looking into the health benefits of chicken soup also suggest it has more than just a “placebo effect.” As reported in the New York Times, one study found that eating hot chicken soup helped increase the movement of nasal mucus more than simply drinking hot water.
Separate research also showed chicken soup improved the function of cilia, which are hair-like structures in your nose that help keep pathogens from entering your body. The New York Times reported:
“None of the research is conclusive, and it’s not known whether the changes measured in the laboratory really have a meaningful effect on people with cold symptoms. However, at the very least, chicken soup with vegetables contains lots of healthy nutrients, increases hydration and tastes good, too.”
What Else Makes Chicken Soup So Healthy?
Beyond the potential anti-inflammatory activity, there’s good reason to eat chicken soup – it’s full of healthy vegetables and other nutritious ingredients.
Chicken is an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, and choline. It provides all B vitamins along with a surprisingly varied number of additional nutrients.
Chicken also contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily. As reported by the George Mateljan Foundation:
“Chicken is perhaps best known for its high protein content, but it is a food that actually provides broad nutrient support… Included… are plentiful amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine and methionine, as well as branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that are important for support of cardiac and skeletal muscle.
All B vitamins are present in chicken meat… In terms of minerals, chicken is richest in selenium… Zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron are also provided by this food.”
I encourage you to make your own homemade bone broth to use as a base for your chicken soup. Bone broth contains valuable minerals in a form your body can easily absorb and use, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, and a variety of trace minerals.
The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion. You can find a recipe to make chicken bone broth here.
Cabbage, which is part of the chicken soup recipe below, contains powerful antioxidants like vitamins A and C and phytonutrients such as thiocyanates, lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which stimulate detoxifying enzymes and may protect against breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
Cabbage also contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check. Among them are anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol that’s particularly plentiful in red cabbage, although all types of cabbage contain anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
Studies have demonstrated more than 150 beneficial health effects of garlic, including reducing your risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and various cancers such as brain, lung, and prostate cancer.
Garlic also has immune-boosting properties and is a triple threat against infections, offering antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
A New Twist on Chicken Soup: Chicken Soup with Yellow Lentils
The recipe below comes from my Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type cookbook. It’s simple to prepare and takes a new spin on ordinary chicken soup, with the addition of two varieties of vinegar, cabbage, and yellow lentils.
*Image of “soup” vis Shutterstock