by Jolene Adams
For the last month or so I’ve avoided the dreaded cold and flu bug. Throughout the holidays my friends and family battled the bug, and now it seems as though it is my turn. I sat down to compose this article without a topic in mind. In my ill state I tried to gather my foggy thoughts and come up with something, anything. I gave up and decided to have lunch, regroup and try again. Then the light went on, or maybe the medicine kicked in, I’m not sure which. It happened as I was having lunch, a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup. I was already feeling better and decided to research why chicken soup has been insisted upon by mothers for generations. As it turns out, a handful of scientific studies show that chicken soup really could have medicinal value.
The most widely cited of these studies, published in the medical journal Chest in 2000, is by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He conducted laboratory tests to determine why chicken soup might help colds, beginning with his wife’s homemade recipe, handed down by her Lithuanian grandmother. Using blood samples from volunteers, he showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. Dr. Rennard theorizes that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.
The researchers couldn’t identify the exact ingredient or ingredients in the soup that made it effective against colds but say it may be the combination of vegetables and chicken that work together. The tested soup contained chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery stems, parsley, salt and pepper. The full recipe, as well as the scientific article, are available on the university’s Chicken Soup Web site http://www.unmc.edu/publicrelations/media/press-kits/chicken-soup/. The researchers also compared commercial soups and found many of them also had a similar inhibitory effect.
Another study by Dr. Keri Peterson, of Lenox Hill Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, explained that soup can help open up congested sinuses.
“All liquid broth soups will speed up the movement of mucous in your nose simply because it’s a hot fluid and that causes dilation of blood vessels which causes increased blood flow and allows the mucous to flush everything out. And that will help alleviate congestion.”
Soups are also hydrating, which is particularly important when fighting off an infection. “Clear broth soups are hydrating because they typically contain not only water but also salt and so those two together are good properties for hydration,” Peterson said.
Although there is no definitive answer to why chicken soup makes us feel better, it has vegetables containing lots of healthy nutrients, increases hydration and it tastes good too. The sun is finally shining for the first time in weeks. That combined with my bowl of soup, the above research and the fact that I have almost finished my article have me feeling better already. Here are a few chicken soup recipes to enjoy even if you haven’t caught the cold or flu.
Chicken Soup with Loads of Veggies
Adapted from Jewish Cooking in America
Yield: about 10 servings
*4 quarts water
*1 large cut-up chicken, preferably stewing or large roaster
*Marrow bones (optional)
*2 whole onions, unpeeled
*4 parsnips, peeled and left whole
*1/2 cup chopped celery leaves plus 2 stalks celery and their leaves
*2 stalks celery and their leaves
*1 rutabaga, peeled and quartered
*1 large turnip, peeled and quartered
*1 kohlrabi, quartered (optional)
*6 carrots, peeled and left whole
*6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
*6 tablespoons snipped dill
*1 tablespoon salt
*1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Put the water and the chicken in a large pot and bring the water to a boil. Skim off the froth.
- Add the marrow bones, onions, parsnips, celery, 3/4 of the rutabaga, turnip, kohlrabi, 4 of the carrots, the parsley, 4 tablespoons of the dill, and the salt and pepper. Cover and simmer of 2 1/2 hours, adjusting the seasoning to taste.
- Strain, remove the chicken, discard the vegetables and refrigerate the liquid to solidify. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and cut the meat into bite-size chunks. Refrigerate. Remove the fat from the soup.
- Just before serving, reheat the soup. Bring to a boil. Cut the zucchini and the remaining 2 carrots into thin strips and add to the soup along with the remaining rutabaga cut into thin strips as well as a few pieces of chicken. Simmer about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked, but still firm. Serve with the remaining snipped dill. You can also add noodles, marrow, or matzah balls.
Chicken and Spinach Tortellini Soup
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Yield: 5 Servings
*1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
*1/3 cup chopped green onions (about 5 medium)
*1/3 cup julienne carrots
*1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
*6 cups chicken broth
*2 cups shredded deli rotisserie chicken (from 2- to 2 1/2-lb chicken)
*1 cup frozen small cheese-filled tortellini
*1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, if desired
*1/8 teaspoon pepper
*3 cups chopped fresh spinach
In 4 1/2- to 5-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onions, carrots and garlic in oil 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are softened.
Stir in broth and chicken. Heat to boiling. Stir in tortellini; reduce heat to medium. Cover; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until tortellini are tender.
Stir in nutmeg, pepper and spinach. Cover; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until spinach is hot.
Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from allrecipes
Yield: 8 servings
*1/4 cup water, or as needed
*1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
*salt and ground black pepper to taste
*4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
*1 (10.75 ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth, divided
*1 large onion, finely diced
*3 carrots, chopped
*4 stalks celery, chopped
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
*1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
*1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
*1 (10 ounce) package refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces
Whisk water, poultry seasoning, salt, and black pepper together in a bowl; add chicken to bowl and turn to coat.
Pour 1/2 of the chicken broth into a slow cooker; add chicken and poultry seasoning mixture. Layer onion, carrots, and celery, respectively, over chicken. Dot butter over vegetables; pour celery soup and chicken soup over vegetables and sprinkle rosemary on top.
Cook on High for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred with two forks; return chicken to slow cooker. Add biscuit dough pieces to chicken mixture. Cook on High for 1 1/2 hours.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.