When a cold or the flu strikes, conventional wisdom has long given a treatment nod to chicken soup. As it turns out, the healing powers of chicken soup actually are steeped in science. And when it’s just plain cold outside, hot soup not only warms you, but it also serves up health benefits. Here are some facts on soup and a tasty recipe.
Soup and Science
A widely cited study was conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Dr. Stephen Rennard. Based on blood samples from study participants, Rennard demonstrated that chicken soup inhibits the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. Rennard theorized that – by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells – chicken soup helps reduce upper-respiratory-cold symptoms.
Another study by Mount Sinai Medical Center researchers analyzed how consuming liquids affect nasal airflow. Study participants were given either cold water, hot water, or chicken soup. While it was found that both hot water and chicken soup increased the movement of nasal mucus, the soup was superior. Scientists have additionally concluded that chicken soup improves the function of cilia – the nose’s hair-like projections that help prevent contagions from entering the body. Additionally, when chicken is cooked, it releases an amino acid called cysteine – which breaks up mucus in the lungs.
The vegetables in chicken soup – and in other varieties of soup – also can provide powerful health benefits. For example, carrots contain beta-carotene, which is thought to fight off infections as well as destroy bacteria and viruses. Tomatoes are a source of lycopene – an antioxidant that has been linked to the prevention of some cancers, as has the phytonutrients in spinach. For its part, cabbage is considered a natural anti-inflammatory that can ward off infection.
Spicing up your soup can deliver further health benefits. Turmeric, for instance, is associated with improved circulation, while garlic has been characterized as having antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties – in addition to lowering cholesterol. Adding black pepper to soup can work to stimulate circulation, reduce infection, and drain sinuses.
Try this Chunky Turkey-Vegetable Soup
This soup is not only brimming with hearty good taste, but it also is chock-full of healthy ingredients. You can easily make this soup vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth and tofu in place of the chicken broth and turkey. Or make your own twist on it by trying different vegetables!
• Prep Time 15 minutes
• Total Time 40 minutes
• Serves 4
- One tablespoon olive oil;
- One medium onion, finely chopped;
- Two garlic cloves, minced;
- Two tablespoons tomato paste;
- One large sweet potato (about 12 ounces), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced;
- One can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice;
- One can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth;
- One-half teaspoon dried, crushed rosemary;
- Coarse salt and ground pepper;
- One pound cooked turkey breast, cut into bite-sized pieces;
- One small head escarole (about 8 ounces), trimmed, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces and washed well.
1. In a large saucepan with a lid, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Stir in tomato paste.
2. Add sweet potato, tomatoes and their juice, broth, one cup water, and rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover; cook until potato is tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
3. Stir in turkey; add escarole in two batches, waiting for the first batch to wilt before adding the second. Cover, and simmer just until turkey is heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
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