The Chicken Soup Cure

This is part of 2009’s series The Traditional Foods Primer. January focused on sweeteners, and February’s focus is on the nutritive power of bone broths.   Earlier this month we addressed the Benefits of Bone Broth.

Chicken soup is known for its curative properties.   And anyone who has ever been tucked away in bed, miserable with a stuffy nose knows the comfort and power of the golden broth, dotted with tender vegetables and soft noodles.   While it’s a folk remedy for the ages, researchers are beginning to discover just why and how chicken soup heals.

Chicken soup’s curative properties have been documented for several centuries.   In the 10th century, the Persian physician Avicenna referenced the healing powers of chicken soup.   Again, in the 12th century Egyptian Jewish physician Maimonides recommended chicken soup to aid in the recovery from respiratory illnesses drawing his sources from classical Greek text.   However, Maimonides and Avicenna weren’t the only healers to recommend chicken soup to convalescents; rather, chicken soup seems to pop up as a healing food across the globe.

Bottom line: stick to good, old-fashioned and traditional chicken soup.   It’s inexpensive to make, delicious and healthy with its anti-inflammatory properties.

North Americans serve the soup with vegetables and soft noodles.   The French serve it flavored with garlic and fresh herbs.   Germans enjoy chicken soup served with dumplings or spätzle.   Chinese chicken-based soups are often served with ginger, scallions and anise.

Recently, chicken soup’s success in improving symptoms of respiratory illness has been tried in scientific circles.   Researchers at the Univeristy of Nebraska Medical Center have studied chicken soup’s ability to inhibit neutrophil migration and thus mitigate the symptoms of the common cold and other respiratory tract infections.   Indeed, their research indicates that homemade, old-fashioned chicken soup due to its highly anti-inflammatory properties holds significant promise in managing the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections like colds.   Unsurprisingly, the study’s results indicated that commercially produced chicken soups varied wildly in their effects.   Bottom line: stick to good, old-fashioned and traditional chicken soup.   It’s inexpensive to make, delicious and healthy with its anti-inflammatory properties. [1. Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro.   Rennard et al. ]

Yet, chicken soup’s healing properties extends beyond mitigating the symptoms of the common cold.   Other research indicates that chicken soup, particularly the collagen found therein, may help to lower blood pressure.[2. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Feb 7.]A good bone broth that gels is rich in collagen, but that gelatin is often lacking in commercially prepared soups.

Japanese researchers went so far as to state[3. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Oct 22;56(20):9586-91]:   “By incorporating these foods into meals, normalization of blood pressure will be achieved without compromising the quality of life of those who need such foods.”

Sadly, the excessive promotion of the low-fat diet may mean that consumers in search of a healthy, heart-friendly diet are actually missing the mark by choosing the much-acclaimed chicken breast which is virtually fat-less and also lacking in collagen.   The parts of the chicken that are often considered waste seem to be the most rich sources of collagen.   Using the the carcass, legs and chicken feet in particular will lend the most collagen to your broth.

By preparing chicken stock and bone broth at home and making it a regular part of your diet, you and your family will reap greater benefits than by choosing commercially prepared soups and using them only infrequently at best.   Chicken soup has been used throughout the world for its curative properties, and it’s interesting to learn that researchers are just beginning to understand the scientific mechanisms by which the food heals.

Interested in more information about the the curative properties of soup?   Check out the last post in the Traditional Foods Series: The Benefits of Bone Broth.

Also, see these recipes from the Nourished Kitchen’s recipe archives:

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