Chicken soup: Is it actually Jewish penicillin, or did your grandmother lie to you?
Is chicken soup healthy?
At a time when most people attributed sickness to superstition and the wrath of the gods, Hippocrates taught that all forms of illness had a natural cause.
Medical historians generally look to Hippocrates as the founder of medicine as a rational science. Hippocrates and his followers were the first to describe many diseases and medical conditions.
One of Hippocrates often-quoted statements is,
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
Despite his credibility, there are doubters. Using food as disease prevention and treatment became regarded as old wives tales, myths or pseudo-science.
You know good ol' chicken soup, aka "Jewish Penicillin"? Science backs its medicinal value.
It comes down to your immune system and the nutrients that support it - and Mr. Hippocrates.
Basically, chicken soup is a bone broth with meat and vegetables.
Bone broth has re-emerged as a preferred medicinal food. Many "paleo" and "primal" experts promote bone broth as a "superfood". Nearly a decade ago, health bloggers suggested that bone broth was the new “green juice”. The trend that began in the early 2010s is still going strong and for good reasons.
What's in bone broth and (chicken) soup that's so healing?
We’re animals made up of the same stuff as other animals. They have muscle; we have muscle. They have flesh; we have flesh. Animals have collagen and calcium in their bones, and collagen and calcium are beneficial to our bones.
Among the mélange of nutrients in soup: Minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulphur and zinc, and an amino acid called cysteine.
Calcium does the body good
Studies demonstrate that calcium helps trigger the immune system. T cells move fast so that they can find antigens (the bad stuff). Calcium enhances T cell proliferation. Calcium's effect on the immune system helps heal tissue.
Magnesium - no laughing matter
Magnesium is essential in regulating other nutrients, such as calcium, zinc, potassium and vitamin D, which is also an immune booster.
Magnesium deficiency impairs immune function and causes an inflammatory response in the body, making the body more susceptible to infection.
Research suggests that magnesium is involved in immune system function, both innate and acquired immune response. Studies have linked higher intake of magnesium with lower rates of respiratory problems.
Magnesium works with your cellular immune system and your humoural immune system. Cellular immunity occurs inside infected cells. Humoural immunity deals with pathogens outside infected cells and includes antibodies.
Hence the joke: Humoural immunity is no laughing matter.
Phosphorus - the most abundant mineral
Next to calcium, phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in the body. It’s needed to help balance and use other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, iodine, magnesium, and zinc. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient required for proper cell functioning and for making ATP, a molecule that provides energy to our cells.
A phosphorus deficiency can lead to a weakened immune system.
Selenium - an antioxidant
Selenium is essential for optimum immune response. Selenium influences both the innate, “nonadaptive,” and the acquired, “adaptive” immune systems. As an antioxidant, selenium helps lower oxidative stress in your body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity.
Studies have reported that increased blood levels of selenium are associated with improved immune response and that selenium deficiency harms immune cell function and may lead to a slower immune response.
Sulphur - stinky but important
Sulphur stinks, but it’s the third most abundant mineral in the body after calcium and phosphorus.
Nails and hair primarily consist of a tough protein with a high sulphur content, known as keratin. Sulphur explains the odour you smell when you accidentally light your hair on fire.
Deficiencies in biological sulphur can result in the less optimal functioning of each cell, tissue and organ in the body. MSM, an organic form of sulphur found in plants, animals and humans, aids the natural defence mechanisms in the body and regulates the formation of antibodies and immune complexes.
Researchers have experimented with a phytochemical called sulforaphane for all sorts of health properties. Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are sources of sulforaphane.
Also, sulforaphane is fun to say out loud.
Zinc doesn’t stink
Zinc is the second-most-abundant trace mineral in your body, second to iron. Zinc is critical for the development and function of immune cells. Zinc deficiency affects T cells and other immune cells’ ability to function as they should, fighting pathogens, healing wounds.
Several scientific studies showed that zinc might help shorten a cold’s duration, perhaps by as much as 50%. However, too much zinc can hinder the function of the immune system.
Cysteine for inflammation
Cysteine is one of two sulphur-containing amino acids. It is abundant in chicken and other protein-rich foods.
Cysteine alleviates flu symptoms, treats inflammation and inflammatory diseases and helps thin mucus so you can expel it more easily. Inflammation is at the root of illness and disease.
So what about chicken soup?
What about it? Can chicken soup cure a cold?
You can add so much to chicken soup to increase its cold-fighting powers. Start with the basics, and add on.
When fighting a cold, make a chicken broth with added spices or peppers to make it spicy to help keep the mucus moving.
Black pepper is antibacterial. It provides relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion. Its expectorant property helps to break up mucus and phlegm, and because it’s a natural irritant, black pepper helps to expel that stuff through sneezing or coughing. These body functions help you heal from infection or illness.
Ginger acts as an antihistamine and decongestant. Chinese medicine practitioners commonly recommend ginger to treat symptoms of colds and flu.
Add lots of garlic, which fights infections, viruses and parasites and stimulates the immune system. Add ginseng. And, of course, the nutrients from vegetables and chicken. The protein will help.
So, with all the nutrients in chicken soup, its ability to reduce inflammation for nasal congestion and upper respiratory issues and its capability to thin mucous, it is safe to say that chicken soup is good for a cold.
Soup is comfortThe amounts of nutrients in a bowl of soup are not therapeutic doses, but that doesn’t matter. You can't expect miracles from one bowl of soup. Or maybe you can. Toronto Soup Co. soup is pretty magical. Scientifically-backed and magical.
A bowl of soup with the right ingredients will make you feel a lot better. You will feel the love. No one ever overdosed on soup.
Warm chicken soup is comforting in itself.
A good-quality chicken soup - with or without noodles or matzoh balls - might take you back to a time in childhood when your primary caregiver took care of you while you were sick and tucked you in.
We won’t tuck you in, but we do deliver.
Bottom line: Your grandmother would never lie.
We love making soup that is both super tasty and healthy for your body soul. We use less salt than traditional restaurants do and focus on clean products and nutritional balance. Most of our soups are designed to be eaten as a meal, with a grain, a veggie, and protein in each soup.