This staple of Jewish and many other world cuisines could be much more than a comfort food. The great medieval rabbi, physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides recommended chicken soup for treating respiratory tract disorders in a 12th-century treatise and its healing potential was known centuries earlier. Today, science suggests that a warming bowl of chicken soup may be the ultimate nurturing food for convalescents, providing good nutrition and even hastening recovery. Modern research has confirmed that chicken-and-vegetable soup can help control cold symptoms, while a compound within the mix may also combat flu.
How Chicken Soup Heals:
U.S. researchers from the Nebraska Medical Center tested a traditional chicken soup recipe, which was cooked and liquidized for the laboratory experiment. It was also tested at different preparation stages to determine the individual actions of its ingredients and how they relieve cold symptoms.
The study, reported in Chest, showed that by inhibiting the movement of immune system cells called neutrophils, the soup helps suppress the body’s natural inflammatory response to an infection, including the streaming flow of mucus that normally accompanies a cold. Each of the ingredients showed the same effect, suggesting that vegetarians could get similar effects from vegetable soup.
Later research, in 2012, pointed to the effects of chicken, which is rich in a compound called carnosine. According to researchers, carnosine influences the body’s immune response and could further help fight off viruses. A variety of phytochemicals within the vegetables have medicinal properties, too. And, while simply drinking hot liquids is known to relieve congestion by loosening secretions, research shows that chicken soup does this much more effectively than mere hot water.
How to Use Chicken Soup:
Here are the basics of the traditional recipe used, though other versions can work just as well, according to the Nebraska researchers who tested commercial brands as a comparison.
5 pounds chicken
2 pounds chicken wings
3 large onions
1 large sweet potato
2 large carrots
5 celery sticks
Parsley, salt, and pepper to taste
Place the chicken in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Add all other vegetables except the celery and parsley and cook for 90 minutes. Add the celery and parsley, cook for another 45 minutes, then remove the chicken (which can be used in another dish). Purée the soup in a food processor; season to taste.
Safety First: No adverse effects of chicken soup are known, except when whole chicken bones or bone fragments have been swallowed.
Reader's Digest Association
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