For cold, flu relief, secret's in the soup
Does chicken soup deserve its reputation as a disease fighter and cure for whatever ails you?
Well, first let's talk about the soup's overall health benefits, which include significant amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, manganese, antioxidants, a tremendous amount of fiber and — if you happen to be watching your weight — the ability to fill you up. Because soups have a water base, they tend to make you feel less hungry, and you eat less as a result.
As for chicken soup's reputation as a cold and flu remedy, Moses Maimonides, a Jewish philosopher and physician, wrote about its healing properties as far back as the 12th century. In modern times, Dr. Stephen Rennard, a researcher at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, found that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce the symptoms of upper-respiratory infections (including colds).
While Rennard and his team were not able to find the exact ingredients that created the effect of the chicken soup, they did find that the movement of neutrophils — white blood cells — was reduced, and, as a result, inflammation in the upper-respiratory tract that causes the symptoms of a cold was reduced. Of course, other researchers have theorized that merely inhaling steam while eating soup raises the temperature of the airways and helps relax secretions. And drinking liquids also increases hydration, which in turn eases cold symptoms.
Parsnips: They're sweet, low in calories and loaded with fiber and folate, which can help prevent artery damage. Parsnips are also a good source of vitamins C, E and potassium.
Italian parsley: Loaded with vitamin K, and an excellent source of vitamin A (for eye health) and vitamin C. Parsley has been shown to inhibit tumor formation, particularly in the lungs, and is a top source of an antioxidant said to protect the prostate.
Carrots: Packed with the antioxidant beta carotene, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer and promote better vision.
Dill: Has calcium, iron and anti-bacterial properties. Dill also contains monoterpenes, which are said to have anti-tumor properties.
Celery: It's a good source of fiber and supplies modest amounts of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Celery promotes prostate and brain health.
Garlic: Garlic is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamins B6 and C and a good source of selenium. It is also said to have strong anti-cancer properties.
Onion: Onions contain more quercetin than any other common fruit or vegetable. This potent antioxidant has been linked to a reduction in the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's and a variety of cancers.
Turnip: It has calcium, iron, fiber and is high in vitamin C.
Leeks: They contain manganese, which aids in the formation and maintenance of bone and connective tissue. Like onions, leeks can improve the proportion of good bacteria in the colon that help to create a physical barrier to infection. Leeks also protect against degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cataracts.
Broccoli: One of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. High intakes of broccoli are linked to a lower risk of lung, prostate and colorectal cancer.
Here's a recipe for a healing chicken soup.
1 bunch Italian parsley
6 large carrots
1 bunch fresh dill
10 large stalks celery
4 large onions
1 bunch broccoli
8 cloves garlic
2 whole chicken breasts with skin and bones
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium, no-MSG chicken broth
1 ounce garlic powder
1 ounce onion powder
3 tablespoons pepper
3 tablespoons salt
Wash and clean all vegetables. Peel and cut off the tops and bottoms of the carrots, parsnips and turnips. Peel the garlic and onions. Cut all the vegetables into 3 or 4 pieces. Wash the chicken breasts.
Fill a 12-quart, lidded cooking pot with 101/2 to 11 quarts of water. Add all the ingredients except salt and pepper to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer about 3 hours. After about 2 hours, carefully remove the chicken breasts. Place the breasts on a large plate and remove and discard the skin and bones. Return the chicken to the pot.
After 3 hours, turn off the burner and let the soup sit, covered for 2 to 3 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate. The soup is best served the next day, so it has time to thicken and settle.
• Per serving (2 cups): 129 calories, 1 g fat, 20 g carbs, 834 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 11 g protein.