The curative powers of chicken noodle soup are held in high regard by doctors, nurses and parents alike. Just ask any congested, bed-ridden friend or family member this holiday season what you can do to help. Between coughs and sneezes you’ll hear the one word answer: “chikinoodloup.” But what exactly are the health benefits of this deliciously soothing culinary cure-all? Let’s break it down.
Broth: When it comes to cold and flu season, fluids are the frontline of defense. Broth is the key ingredient that helps make chicken noodle soup such a powerful weapon. From that first comforting sip, broth hydrates your body and delivers soothing warmth to irritated tissues. “Its salt and electrolytes help with fluid retention, and its warmth and steam reduce inflammation that causes coughing and sore throats,” says Julie Robarts, MS, MPH, RD, LDN at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Salt and Seasoning: A raw throat, congestion, and a loss of taste are common symptoms of the equally common cold. That’s where chicken noodle soup’s salt and seasonings come into play. “When a cold deadens your taste buds, salt is sometimes the only flavor that can break through and encourage you to take in more nourishment,” says Robarts. “That’s important because salt helps sooth your symptoms by drawing excess fluids away from the irritated tissues in your throat and helping reduce pain.” Salt also helps by breaking up mucus and flushing away irritating bacteria. Spices are also beneficial for clearing up sinuses. And the dried leaves of oregano and rosemary have helpful antioxidants that help your body fight off whatever is ailing you.
Steam: The steam from a hot cup of chicken noodle soup helps thin mucus and increases blood flow, all of which is great for reducing nasal congestion and helping you breathe easier. Steam also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect that can help relax your muscles and sooth the coughs and discomforts of cold and flu symptoms.
Noodles: The noodles in chicken noodle soup aren’t just for show. They’re packed with carbs 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 and run down by your cold or flu,” says Robarts.
Veggies: All those bits of carrot, celery, and onion commonly found in chicken noodle soup area 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. Robarts adds that “Vegetables like carrots are also high in beta-carotene, and can help with symptom relief due to their anti-inflammatory properties.”
Chicken: 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,” says Robarts.
It’s important to remember that soup won’t cure your cold or flu and that you should make an appointment to see your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve. But at the very least, chicken noodle soup is a delicious way to load up on nutrients, increase hydration and get some warmth in your tummy this winter.