The Real Reason Chicken Soup Helps When You're Sick

Chicken soup has been known and loved throughout the world for centuries. Israeli newspaper Haaretz explains that this dish may have its origins in ancient Greece or perhaps in China (the Chinese being the first to think of adding noodles), but that it is also practically synonymous with traditional Jewish cooking and an essential part of the Yom Kippur celebration.

Besides being tasty and comforting, chicken soup is also known for the curative properties that have earned it the nickname of "Jewish penicillin," although its restorative powers work for goys as well. And chicken soup's health benefits aren't just another folktale Bubbe told to get you to clean your plate (or rather, bowl). Science Daily says that researchers from the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Section of the Nebraska Medical Center studied how chicken soup interacted with blood samples and found that it did seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect that could possibly work to inhibit respiratory problems.

What makes chicken soup medicinal?

While researchers couldn't determine exactly what ingredient in chicken soup was working to reduce inflammation, clinical dietitian Sandy Allonen wrote in a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center news release (via HealthDay) about her take on just how chicken soup works its magic. She calls its clear broth "warm and soothing," something that makes it "a great source of hydration while you're sick, especially if you have a sore throat." She also notes that even the salt, as well as the other seasonings, "can help combat the feeling of dull taste buds," while the veggies have vitamins and minerals that can "help build a healthy immune system to fight off viruses [and] help...your body recover from illness more quickly."

The carbs in the noodles will help fill you up, satisfy, and re-energize you, while the chicken is not only packed with immune-boosting protein as well as vitamins and minerals of its own but also contains high levels of tryptophan, a substance that Allonen says "helps your body produce serotonin that can enhance your mood." Even the steam can help, if you serve your soup piping hot, by "open[ing] up airways, making it easier to breathe" and producing a "mild anti-inflammatory effect that can help relax your muscles and soothe the discomforts of cold symptoms." Whether you make homemade chicken soup or open up a can, better stock up before cold and flu season hits. It may not be a miracle cure, but it sure might help.