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Can Chicken Soup Help Fight Off a Cold?

Chicken soup, colds, congestion

There is hardly a person that hasn’t been told to eat a bowl of hot chicken soup when sick. But did you know that the old wives’ tale that soup will make you feel better may actually have some research to back up the claim? Whether it actually is Grandma’s secret recipe or simply a placebo effect, there seems to be some truth to the healing properties of chicken soup. A commonly cited resource supporting the benefits of chicken soup on curing illness comes from a 1978 study published in CHEST, a peer-reviewed medical journal that reports on diseases related to, you guessed it, the chest. In this study, researchers compared the resulting “nasal mucus velocity” from drinking cold water, hot water and chicken soup. The consumption of chicken soup produced the greatest movement of mucus, which shows that chicken soup has the power to break up nasal congestion. Chicken soup also seems to increase the functionality of the nasal passages’ cilia, or the tiny hair-like projections that shield the admittance of foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. This study supports the belief that chicken soup is not only a common cold cure-all, but also a great preventative practice during cold and flu season. Now, what is it about chicken soup that is so powerfully healing? That we do not know for sure, but we do know that some of its main ingredients contain anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.

  • Carrots: contain beta-carotene, a plant-based precursor to vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant.

  • Onions: both anti-bacterial, which may be able to kill off the germs that are infecting your body during a cold, and a rich source of vitamin C antioxidants.

  • Celery: contains anti-inflammatory properties that may relieve nasal stuffiness and sinus pressure.

  • Chicken: a rich source of protein that can help support the immune system by fighting bacterial and viral infections as well as building up antibodies.

  • Broth: when served hot, the nutrients found in carrots, onions, and celery can help rehydrate the body, break up nasal congestion and move mucus out of the body.

Chicken soup, it turns out, is not just an old wives’ tale—there’s actually research to back up its health claims. And while it may not be the instant cure you are looking for, know that beating the common cold is a process, and anything that helps bring some relief while tasting great is worth trying. So, the next time you're feeling under the weather, heat up a mug of hot chicken soup and feel its healing properties take effect. Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness programs offerings by downloading our brochure. Written by: Bianca Heilman, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern.


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