When winter chills get to your bones and seasonal colds set in, we turn to our heavy blankets, our wool socks, and of course, the most healing thing of all: a big bowl of chicken soup. We respect the fact that cold medications, fluids, rest, and the like have (ahem, a lot) more to maintain one’s health when ill, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that a warm bowl of chicken soup is restorative. And while you might assume that it’s simply the comforting nature and delicious taste of chicken soup that can help cure what ails you, it turns out that there are actually some science-backed reasons why eating chicken soup for colds and other winter ailments. it helps you feel better.
To better understand the nutritional value of this crowd favorite, we spoke with Lon Ben AsherMS, RD, LDN, nutritionist in Pritikin Longevity Center. “Chicken soup has long been thought of as a remedy for a cold or a respiratory virus,” says Ben-Asher. “Many would classify it as extremely comforting due to its warmth, ease of consumption, and the ingredients used to make it.”
According to Ben-Asher, the ingredients used in chicken soup combined with the steam released from the warm broth help clear your sinuses, boost your immune system, and generally make you feel more cheerful. Food is energy, after all. “Homemade chicken soup is typically produced using a mirepoix consisting of carrots, celery, and onions, along with chicken, water, and garlic,” notes Ben-Asher. “Each of these foods provides your body with a wealth of nutrients.” Read on for more details on the health benefits you get from all of the above.
Why is chicken soup for colds *really* effective? It’s all in the ingredients.
Chicken, a lean white meat, comes with lots of nutritional benefits. “Chicken is an excellent source of protein, iron, zinc, and certain B vitamins,” says Ben-Asher. “Specifically, zinc is a mineral that plays a very important role in our immune system that helps fight colds, viruses and other invaders.” Protein also helps repair and make cells.which is why it is so crucial for muscle growth and cell development.
There’s a good reason your parents always forced you to eat vegetables as a child, especially carrots. “These tubers are an excellent source of photochemical beta-carotene. When they become their active form of vitamin Abeta-carotene acts as an antioxidant that strengthens and supports our immunity,” explains Ben-Asher.
The celery juice madness is more than a health booster endorsed by Instagram influencers. Rather, celery has a number of unique properties that are good for the human body. One of them, says Ben-Asher, is in celery’s provision of “an endogenous source of sodium, which helps keep our electrolytes at normal levels to prevent dehydration.” This is especially important when you feel bad.
The antioxidants in garlic they far outweigh the possible bad breath you (or your loved ones) may have to suffer from after eating a meal with garlic. These antioxidants, Ben-Asher notes, are key to improving your immune response, both before and during illness.
Of course, few soups can be made without this crucial ingredient, and no body can function without it. “It is imperative to consume water to keep the body hydrated and it helps transport vitamins and minerals throughout the body to be used in support of our immune system,” says Ben-Asher.
Taken together, these ingredients can provide a line of defense against colds and viruses that may be more effective than over-the-counter medications alone, says Ben-Asher. However, there are certainly caveats that need to be considered. “For one thing, the health-enhancing effect may not be as valuable with commercially available packaged, highly processed chicken soup. Many of these products are very high in sodium and contain a high amount of saturated fat which can produce a more pro-inflammatory response and therefore weaken the immune system,” he says.
As such, if you’re hoping to boost your immune system with chicken soup, make sure it’s homemade. “Chicken soup made from scratch is low in sodium, low in fat, and rich in nutrients that are essential for our immunity,” notes Ben-Asher. “Get the comfort of warmth and delicious natural flavors, stay hydrated with fluids, and receive all the nutritional benefits of the ingredients that make up the soup. The only side effect is potentially happiness and well-being.” Were sold.
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