The Chicken or the Soup?

Ugh. Cold and flu season has hit, a time of year no one relishes. But hope is on the horizon with Gene Stone’s The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick, which offers a peek inside the habits of incredibly healthy people. One chapter is devoted to chicken soup and its restorative powers, which leads me to wonder: is the chicken or all the other ingredients in the broth that make the difference?  Or is it all in our heads?  You can make up your own mind, but Gene Stone gives us the science behind the soup:

  • Some spices such as curry, pepper, and garlic can help ease a cough by thinning mucus; these flavorings have been used for centuries to treat respiratory diseases due their antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
  • When chicken soup contains vegetables, such as onions, turnips, celery and parsley, it ups the ante even further.
  • Onions contain protein, calcium, sulfur and several vitamins including C, E, and the B complex, and A, which helps fight off infections by enhancing the actions of white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.
  • Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.
  • Turnips are also rich in beta-carotene and protect mucous membranes (especially in the lungs and intestinal tract) from cancer cells and free-radical damage.
  • Celery has long been used to promote restfulness and sleep, and also has high iron and magnesium content, which is beneficial for lung conditions.
  • Parsley contains two components that seem to provide health benefits: volatile oils and flavinoids, a type of polyphenol.
  • Chicken releases an amino acid during cooking that chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.
  • Steam from chicken soup opens up congested noses and chests, which is why doctors recommend hot liquids to alleviate cold symptoms.

Ultimately, there is no absolute proof that chicken soup can prevent a cold, but there is plenty of evidence that it can alleviate its symptoms.  Next time a cold strikes, I know what’s on the menu…

Check back tomorrow for a chicken soup recipe from Andrea Chesman’s Recipes from the Root Cellar

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