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Chicken Soup for the Sick: Mother Knows Best

July 29, 2014       Health & Healing

Chicken Soup Is More than just Soul Food

Soup Kitchens are special places in western countries where the homeless and the poor can visit to get a healthy and filling meal to tide themselves over especially during colder climes. Soup makes not only for a really delicious and satisfying meal for anyone, but it is also easy to make and not as costly as other alternatives for a full meal. For those with ailments, a bowl of soup replenishes a lot of nutrients that you need and hydrates you at the same time.

Chicken soup in particular is a homemade favorite remedy for all ailments and is a complete meal by itself. Everyone has fond memories as a child of being swaddled in blankets, sleeping away the nasty cold of flu, with a steady diet of chicken soup, lugaw, and calamansi juice prepared by mom or lola.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken soup does many things to heal you of your ailments:

Anti-bacterial. Chicken soup is fairly salty and even if made with herbs and peppers instead of salt, it works the same as a gargle of warm salt water, the herbal phytochemicals and the alkalinity kills bacteria in the throat, mouth, and tonsils.

The soup clears sinuses. Like other warm liquids (for example, tea), it can help to clear the sinuses by melting clogged mucus.

Detoxifying. When your body is full of attacking allergens (like a flu virus) and antibodies need to be flushed out in order to get healthy, the soup broth helps in washing away some of the poisonous toxins, along with your regular intake of water or calamansi juice.

Chicken Tinola Soup

Nutrient replenishment. The lean protein in chicken and nutrients from added vegetables (vitamin C, beta-carotene) work to repair your cells, provide energy and feed cells of lost nutrients, and powers up your immune system. The fluids also help you from getting dehydrated if you have a fever and are sweating off the infection.

Chicken, as a meal of its own, also contains contains cysteine, an amino acid that helps thin mucus in the lungs, making it easier to expel. This helps asthma sufferers and cures colds and flu faster. Chicken soup inhibits the production of neutrophils, white blood cells that eat bacteria and cause inflammation and mucus production (i.e. stuffy nose, sore throat, phlegm, etc.). This is important because while neutrophils kill pathogens, their antimicrobial products can also damage your own tissues.  Onions in your chicken soup are a natural remedy for colds and astha, providing antioxidants that reduce inflammation and also act as an antihistamine.

What Makes Chicken Soup a Potent Healing Food?

The difference between canned soup and those made with real stock lies in the chicken bones, which are a very rich source of the vitamins and minerals. Canned soup has mostly artificial flavors and synthetic vitamins.

Chicken soup's potency as a healing food lies in the soup stock. Soup stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals.  These minerals along with the gelatin found in stock help to boost the immune system, aid in digestion, and enhance the way our bodies use of protein.

Vietnamese Chicken PHO Soup

Eating chicken noodle soup increases your micro-nutrient intake, boosting both your vitamin A and selenium consumption. Both of these nutrients support proper thyroid gland function. Selenium also activates cancer-fighting enzymes.

Load up your soup with fresh veggies. The classic recipe uses a mix of sliced carrots, celery and onion, or go for an Asian-inspired chicken noodle soup by using sliced bok choy (Chinese pechay) and shiitake mushrooms. Use a mixture of dried herbs and spices, such as oregano, parsley and chili pepper flakes, instead of rock salt.

If you do cook chicken soup, make one from scratch using bones and fresh vegetables, the homemade stock is a better source of nutrients than canned chicken soup. You get a healthier meal and your soup tastes so much better.

Homemade Soupstock Recipe

1 whole chicken (4 pounds)

4 stalks celery with leaves

4 carrots, peeled

2 whole radishes, peeled and chopped

2 onions, peeled and halved

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 bay leaves

2 cups of malunggay leaves

1 tablespoon of chopped ginger root

6 sprigs fresh parsley (kinchay)

Salt and pepper to taste (or a pinch of oregano, rosemary, thyme, tarragon among other herbs as a sodium replacement)

4 quarts water

Place chicken in a large stock pot. Add celery, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, bay leaves, malunggay leaves and parsley, salt (or herbs) and pepper.

Add water. Bring to a boil, reduce head to a simmer and cook, covered, for 2 hours.

Skim any foam that has formed on top of soup. Remove chicken from soup and cool. Remove skin and bones from chicken; shred meat, cover, and reserve.

Strain the soup, discard the vegetables and return liquid to the pot. Add minced garlic and adjust seasonings. Bring to a boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes to intensify flavors.

Add pasta noodles (elbow macaroni or cut up short spaghetti noodles)

Before serving, bring chicken broth to a gentle boil. Add noodles and cook soup for 4 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Gently stir in reserved shredded chicken, chopped dill, and parsley. Heat through and serve.


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