You Wanted to Know: Chicken Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

Stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, fatigue, cough – even the most health-conscious of us can fall prey to these dreaded symptoms during cold and flu season. Practicing good hand washing, avoiding touching your face, eating healthy and exercising can all help keep germs at bay. But if cold germs manage to sneak past your defenses, a good bowl of chicken soup can do wonders to soothe your symptoms – and there are even studies to back it up.

Mothers everywhere have known for years what studies are now showing: Chicken soup (plus or minus the noodles) really does make you feel better when you have a cold. Michael sought us out on Twitter to ask why:


I’ve talked about the benefits of chicken soup on my show before, but until now I haven’t gotten into all the fascinating details about why it’s so good for you.

It’s thought that many of the symptoms of a cold, including that runny nose and cough, are related to your body’s inflammatory immune response to fighting off the invading virus. A study in the journal Chest actually looked at what effect chicken soup has on the immune cells that cause these symptoms.

The researchers found that chicken soup appears to inhibit neutrophil chemotaxis, or the movement of certain immune cells to mucous membrane surfaces. The migration of these cells to surface cells in the airways may be partially responsible for mucous production. The scientists concluded that chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory properties that help dampen cold symptoms.

Chicken soup also helps you to stay hydrated, which is key to recovery. Though people watching their sodium intake might want to be wary of having too much since the broth is often salty, chicken soup is packed with electrolytes that may help people drink and retain even more fluids than water or commercial electrolyte drinks. The soup’s salt, steam and heat can also help thin mucus, making it easier to expel, and soothe irritated passageways in your nose and throat.

The researchers’ soup recipe included onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, parsley and chicken – ingredients that also contain many immunity-boosting antioxidants. However, the researchers also tested 13 varieties of commercially available soups and found that the vast majority of them similarly inhibited immune cell migration. If you’re looking for a dose of chicken soup, try my family’s favorite recipe, which includes immunity-boosting ginger.

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