How Chicken Noodle Soup Became The Ultimate Comfort Food

Anyone who's had a bowl of chicken soup when they're sick knows the broth is something special — and people as far back as ancient times knew it, too. Chinese medical texts from more than 2,000 years ago declare chicken soup to be warming and therapeutic, and the Greek physician Galen claimed the broth could cure a variety of diseases. With such a longstanding association between chicken soup and health, it's no surprise the food became associated with seeking comfort and strength in tough times. As it turns out, this isn't just an old wives' tale — a good chicken soup recipe can actually help you fight off those nasty colds.

A landmark 2000 study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha — using the researcher's grandmother-in-law's recipe — found that chicken soup could affect neutrophils, an infection-fighting white blood cell, and keeps them active in the upper respiratory system rather than moving elsewhere. Plus, the high calcium content can help reduce inflammation, according to Business Insider.

In truth, the simple fact that it's comforting might be the real reason it's so powerful. When you're feeling bad and eating is difficult, soup can be a much-needed source of hydration. The chicken's vitamins and minerals help you recover more quickly, and the carbs in the noodles can give your body a little energy — in a way that's easy to consume.

Here's how chicken noodle soup became popular

For as long as humans have boiled water, they've made soup. For just as long, they've written about its potential to help heal you when you're sick

For chicken noodle soup's modern popularity as one of the best comfort foods out there, we might have the Jewish community in Eastern Europe to thank. One ritual just before Yom Kippur, the solemn Jewish day of atonement, involved waving a chicken over observers' heads. Community members then made pots of chicken soup to feed the hungry before the daylong fast began.

As Jews immigrated to the U.S., they brought their chicken soup recipes with them, most often featuring matzah balls. But one company really brought this cultural food to the mainstream – Campbell's. They were among the first to commercialize chicken noodle soup when "Condensed Noodle with Chicken" soup debuted in 1934. True, it may not be as good as grandma's — though there are plenty of hacks you can use to upgrade boxed broth — but canned soup companies like Campbell's truly made chicken soup cheap and accessible for every time we need it.