Is chicken noodle soup good for you? For generations, moms and grandmas have been touting the benefits of drinking chicken broth when sick. And it turns out Dr. Mom is right. Chicken noodle soup benefits your body—and your soul—when you’re feeling under the weather. So let’s uncover Mom’s secret: why is chicken soup healthy?
Why is Chicken Soup Good for a Cold?
Chicken noodle soup has a list of cold-fighting effects built right in to its recipe. While we’ll look up-close at the ingredients in a minute, there are some general principles that answer the question: Why is chicken noodle soup good for you?
It comes down to the perfect treatment of temperature, liquidity, and nutrients. If that sounds a bit scientific, it is.
Turn Up the Heat: How Chicken Soup Fights Cold Symptoms
For starters, bet you’ve never heard of eating chicken soup leftovers cold. (Yuck, right?) The inherent heat in this culinary cure-all is an important factor for why chicken soup can help a cold.
Steam that emerges from hot soup has the ability to open up your airways which often get blocked when sick. Just breathing in the steam while sipping chicken soup (or simply smelling it while it simmers) can improve airflow and reduce congestion. Inhaling steam helps cilia, the tiny hairs inside your nose, function better as they prevent contagions from getting into your body.
The steam from chicken noodle soup also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect. Heat relaxes the muscles, it soothes discomfort in sore throats, it dilates blood vessels to increase blood flow.
When you’re sick with a cold, white blood cells called neutrophils go straight to your throat, causing it to be inflamed. Although the neutrophils are doing their job, the resulting swelling can feel painful and result in coughing. Hot temperatures slow the migration of neutrophils in your upper respiratory tracts so you can breathe and swallow better.
Sip That Soup: Why Your Immune System Loves Liquids
Hydration is one of the most important components of treating a cold. Drinking 64 ounces a day is considered a standard when you’re healthy. When you’re sick, that amount of liquid and more is essential to manage the body’s temperature when you have a fever and to support blood flow as your body works overtime to get well. Chicken broth is a clear liquid that counts towards your hydration goals!
No-nonsense Nutrients: Another Reason Chicken Soup Is Good for You
Chicken noodle soup is a great source of vitamins, minerals and provides a healthy amount of carbohydrates and fat, too. Each of the ingredients plays a unique role, answering how does chicken soup helps a cold. We’ll break them down one by one in the next section.
Chicken Noodle Soup Benefits
To understand why chicken soup is good for you, it helps to know the benefits of each ingredient.
We covered two benefits of chicken broth—its heat and that it’s hydrating—in the section above. But there’s more this magical soup component has to offer.
Traditional chicken broth is made by simmering a whole chicken, including its bones. Bone broth includes several healthy nutrients that directly relate to healing. Gelatine and Glucosamine, a primary building block in the digestive system, both protect and heal the lining of the digestive tract—a factor that can be important when flu symptoms upset the GI system. Combined with another nutrient, chondroitin, these broth components help repair the body’s connective tissue while reducing inflammation.
To double down on the hydration message, chicken broth not only hydrates the body, but it includes salt and electrolytes that help with fluid retention. And, a 1978 study in the journal Chest found that soup cleared airways more effectively than cold or hot water alone.
Chicken gets top billing in the recipe’s name, and for good reason. Yes, it is a good source of protein, the building block supporting muscle repair and growth. But poultry plays many parts in the healthy qualities of chicken soup.
You may be familiar with tryptophan, frequently linked to the “turkey coma” you experience after Thanksgiving dinner. As it does with turkey, the body uses tryptophan from chicken to make melatonin—which can help you rest—and serotonin, the chemical that signals your nerves and makes you feel happy and at ease. Both of these are reasons chicken soup is associated with comfort food: you literally feel a physiological sense of comfort.
Tryptophan is also used in the liver for producing vitamin B3 (niacin) that you need for metabolizing energy. But we’re not stopping there. Cysteine, a natural amino acid is chemically similar to a prescribed medicine for treating bronchitis and respiratory infections. Zinc, found in chicken, is a key immunity ingredient. And Carnosine is a compound in chicken that minimizes inflammation to help reduce that stuffy, congested feeling.
Veggies in Chicken Soup
Quality chicken soup doesn’t skimp on vegetables. Traditional recipes call for onions, carrots, and celery, while some variations branch out into dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli. All of these add flavor with their phytonutrients which are essential to a well-functioning immune system. Vitamins C, K, antioxidants, and minerals help the body fight off viruses and assist the recovery process.
Noodles in Chicken Soup
Tradition calls again for noodles in chicken soup, but we also applause variations with rice, potatoes, quinoa, and more. All of these provide carbohydrates, the body’s preferred source of energy. Carbs help you feel full and satisfied (another reason chicken noodle soup is comfort food). Being cooked in broth also makes them more digestible, helping your body focus its energy instead on fighting infection.
Chicken Soup Seasonings
There’s a reason you don’t feel like eating when you’re sick. Partial loss of taste is a common symptom you might not think about. Eating chicken soup when you’re sick can help. The salt and seasonings in soup are flavor enhancers that tantalize your taste buds more than plain water can. That may be one of the reasons soup is effective—you’re likely to keep eating it.
What’s more, seasonings provide medicinal value as well. Salt has electrolytes to help your body balance and maintain fluids, something important when you’re running a fever. Herbs like parsley and basil add an extra dose of antioxidants.
Interestingly, spices can help break up congestion, too. Pungent flavors like black pepper, garlic, hot curry powder, ginger, cayenne, and other hot peppers can break through to help you breathe better.
Even toppings can add to why chicken soup is good for you. Cheese crisps and crunchy interest and a bit of extra protein. Crusty bread or rolls have the carbs to settle your stomach and feel comfortably full.
The Benefits of Chicken Soup Can Go to Your Head
The soup science is clear when answering why is chicken noodle soup good for you. There’s psychology involved, too.
The placebo effect is a well-documented phenomenon where something with little or no therapeutic value is able to produce significant physiological benefits. In drug trials, people who think they’re getting medicine when they’re really only receiving sugar pills often experience the same healing effects as patients getting the real dosage.
In chicken soup terms, the ingredients above offer measurable nutritional and health value. Their effect can be even more powerful by the associations your mind makes. If you’ve got memories of mom tucking you up, setting out a bowl of soup, and promising you’ll feel better, those words long ago might just be working today! Because if you ask us, care and comfort are the best medicine of all.
Get Well Chicken Soup Packages from Spoonful of Comfort
There’s a reason people talk about “chicken soup for the soul.” Chicken noodle soup helps you feel better. Brings comfort. Says “get well.” And just feels like home.
Now you can get chicken soup delivered in a care package to someone you know.
Spoonful of Comfort cooks up homestyle soups—including our top-selling Chicken Noodle Soup—just like mom would make. Then we ship soup in a care package as part of a heat-and-eat meal. It’s not just delivering homemade soup. It’s delivering care. And that’s what chicken noodle soup benefits are all about.