You may remember a loved one making you a bowl of chicken noodle soup whenever you were feeling under the weather as a child. Just how healthy is this culinary cure-all?
“Studies have shown that a hearty bowl of chicken noodle soup may help clear nasal congestion and ease cold symptoms,” says BIDMC clinical dietitian Sandy Allonen, RD. “It’s all about the ingredients.”
So let’s break it down – what’s in your soup?
If you’re fighting a cold, your doctor will tell you it’s important to stay hydrated. “A clear broth is warm and soothing, making it a great source of hydration while you’re sick, especially if you have a sore throat,” Allonen says.
Whether it’s vegetable or chicken broth – Allonen says the benefits are similar. “You may think added salt and other seasonings aren’t great for you, but in moderation, these spices can help combat the feeling of dull taste buds,” she says. “A loss of taste is common in a cold, but as with any flavor enhancer, salt is great for getting you to eat more.”
Allonen notes, however, that if your doctor has recommended you limit your sodium intake (whether this be for hypertension, kidney disease, congestive heart failure or another medical condition), then you will want to look for a broth that is low sodium or has no added salt.
Chicken is full of protein that helps support the immune system. It’s also a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, which boost immunity and help regulate digestion.
“Chicken is also high in tryptophan, which helps your body produce serotonin that can enhance your mood and give you the feeling of ‘comfort’ that helps make chicken noodle soup a true comfort food,” Allonen says.
The noodles in chicken noodle soup aren’t just for show. They’re packed with carbohydrates that help you feel full and satisfied.
“Carbs are the preferred source of energy for your body, so getting in a good dose through soup can help you feel less sluggish,” Allonen says.
All those bits of carrot, celery, and onion commonly found in chicken noodle soup are a great source of vitamins C and K, as well as other antioxidants and minerals. “Not only does this help build a healthy immune system to fight off viruses, it also helps your body recover from illness more quickly,” Allonen says.
Vegetables like carrots are also high in beta-carotene, and can help reduce symptoms due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
While steam isn’t an ingredient you’ve mixed in, it’s important to serve your soup warm. Hot steam that comes from your cup of soup can be helpful in reducing nasal congestion.
“Steam can open up airways, making it easier to breathe. It also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect that can help relax your muscles and soothe the discomforts of cold symptoms,” Allonen says.
While soup won’t cure your cold completely, it’s a delicious way to load up on nutrients and increase hydration. Make an appointment with your primary care physician if you’re feeling under the weather this winter.