Why Is Chicken Soup So Good for Us?

We all know that chicken soup is good for what ails us. Partly it’s because it makes us remember our childhood, when Mom brought in a tray with a cup of soup, some Saltine crackers, maybe a cookie – with a smile and a kiss. But it turns out there’s genuine science to explain just why it works.

Many of the ingredients we put into chicken soup without giving it much thought have valuable medicinal properties. Modern medicine has duplicated many of those properties in the laboratory, but with soup we can get them from the source: vegetables, herbs and spices.

  • Ginger is anti-inflammatory, so it helps soothe sore throats.
  • So is oregano.
  • Rosemary is both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
  • Black pepper helps break up phlegm.
  • And garlic is a real powerhouse: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antifungal.
  • Mint, among its many virtues, is an antispasmodic, very helpful if you’re nauseated.
  • Bell peppers give us vitamin C.
  • Carrots are full of betacarotene, an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A.
  • Onions contain phytochemicals that help with chest congestion.
  • Chili peppers open up sinuses.

So, think of your soup stock as a medicine cabinet. Start with chicken or vegetable broth (either homemade or commercial), and add some or all of these: Whole peppercorns, smashed. Garlic by the handful:no need to peel, just separate into cloves, smash lightly. Ginger, no need to peel, just slice into rounds and smash. Oregano or rosemary, either dried or fresh, as your pantry permits. Mint: if you don’t have any in the spice cabinet, throw in a teabag. Simmer all this for 15-20 minutes, then cover and let everything steep for another 15 minutes or so.

Strain out and discard all the botanicals, and your stock is ready. Now add the rest of the goodies: chicken, noodles, carrots, onions, bell peppers, and celery. You may prefer to poach the chicken separately, or use a roasted bird from the supermarket.

Print Friendly
Sign up for my e-newsletter "Sunday Salmagundi":