By Lori Meszaros, Recent Arizona State University Student
Ever wonder why we turn to chicken soup when we get sick? Well, the ingredients in chicken soup just happen to contain the nutrients we need to boost our immune systems and give our bodies what they need to help us fight off the common cold or seasonal flu!
We’ve all been there, someone around us starts coughing or sneezing and we think, ‘No I can’t get sick now!’ Hand sanitizer becomes our new lotion and we stock up on antibacterial soap. While these things are helpful in preventing the spread of germs, they’re the not only thing you can do to help prevent yourself from getting this seasons dreaded cold or flu.
On average, people get two or three colds a year. However, with a strong immune system your body can fight off the common cold or flu. Research supports exercise has positive effects in boosting your immune system, but foods such as homemade chicken soup can boost your immune system, too!
Your immune system is your bodies defense that helps protect you against viruses and bacterial infections. The stronger your immune system, the better you can fight off illness and your body recovers faster.
Exercise and your immune system
Exercise has shown to not only improve your physical fitness, but also boost your immune system. A 2014 study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity demonstrated that moderate activity, like a brisk walk or easy jog as opposed to intense physical activity can increases a person’s immunity and reduce the risk of illness. The study further demonstrated that individuals who add moderate levels of activity to their daily routines from a young age and continued activity through life had higher levels of leukocytes, the white blood cells responsible for protecting our bodies against infectious diseases and foreign invaders.
Chicken soup and your immune system
Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported foods containing high amounts of antioxidants, like vitamins A, C and E, along with beta carotene and selenium increased the bodies immunes response. This helps prevent infectious diseases such as the common cold and seasonal flu. Vitamin B6, unsaturated fatty acids, like Omega 3 and zinc have also shown to boost the immune system and reduce the severity and length of colds and flu.
Using soup to heal the body isn’t anything new. Soup dates back to 4000 B.C, and was widely used for its restorative or healing powers. Even before the age of modern medicine, soup was used as a remedy and has continued to be used for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). So it makes sense that we turn to chicken soup when we are sick to ease our symptoms.
I love making soups from scratch, and here’s my homemade version of chicken soup I make when my kids start sniffling and sneezing.
Chicken Orzo Soup
4-6 pieces, chicken thighs
½ brown onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small potatoes, small diced
1 carrot, small diced
2 tbsp veggie stock concentrate* + water
1 cup orzo (pasta shaped like rice)
½ cup peas
- Season chicken with ground coriander and cumin then sauté in sauce pan over medium high heat until browned on both sides, remove chicken from pan.
- Sauté onion and celery in chicken fat for about 2 minutes
- Add garlic and sauté another 20 seconds, then add potatoes, carrot and veggie stock concentrate* and sauté for 3 minutes (see note below)
- Add chicken back to pan, along with orzo, peas and enough water to cover everything
- Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes covered, stirring occasionally, checking water to make sure everything stays covered
- Garnish with green onions if desired
Serve with crusty bread or crackers
- You can substitute veggie stock concentrate with store bought vegetable stock, just use enough to cover veggies and chicken with at least 1” of stock.
- If using stock instead of concentrate when sautéing potato and carrot, use 2-4 tbsp stock instead of veggie stock concentrate.
- Bouillon cube equivalents 1 cubes = 2 tbsp veggie stock concentrate
Fill Your Plate has loads of yummy soup recipes you can try, and if you happen to get sick check out What to Consume When the Flu Comes On.
Epping J. Multiple roles played by vitamin A in the immune system. 2011. Medical News Today.
Kirschmann JD. Nutrition almanac, 6th ed. 2007. McGraw Hill, New York.
Moro-Garcia MA, et al. Frequent participation in high volume exercise throughout life is associated with a more differentiated adaptive immune response. Brain, Behavior and Immunity. 2014; 39:61-74.
Varela SL, et al. Functional foods and the immune system: a review. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012; 56(3):29-33.