By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
The cold weather is upon us and with that comes the cold and flu season. Doesn’t it seem like everyone is either coughing or sneezing around you? Rather than hibernate this winter, try to boost your immune system!
One great way to boost your immune system is through diet. Probably the most well-known meal idea to prevent and treat a cold is a hearty bowl of chicken soup. It actually makes you feel better! What is it about chicken soup that does the work? Is it the warm broth? The chicken? Or the combination of ingredients?
Let’s deconstruct the following “Classic Chicken Soup” recipe to figure out just what makes it so good for our immunity!
Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
(for full recipe click here)
1 whole chicken (or 3 lb/1.3 kg bone-in, skin on chicken pieces)
16 cups (4 L) water
2 onion(s), quartered
2 carrot(s), large, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 parsnip(s), large, peeled and cut into large pieces
4 cloves garlic, large
1 Tbsp (15 mL) salt
2 tsp (10 mL) thyme, dried
4 bay leaves
3 oz (85 g) fettuccine or egg noodles
fresh herbs of your choice, for garnish
Chicken is a great source of protein, B-vitamins, iron, and zinc 1. All of these nutrients are important for keeping your body strong. Zinc is a nutrient that helps strengthen the immune system and helps the body fight viruses1,21.. Chicken legs and thighs (dark meat) contain more zinc than white meat.
Garlic and Herbs
When avoiding a cold, don’t worry about your breath! Besides adding flavour to your food, garlic is loaded with antioxidants. These antioxidants have antimicrobial effects, which help fight bacteria 3. Some research suggests that eating garlic may prevent colds 4. Like garlic, herbs such as oregano and thyme contain antioxidants that can strengthen the immune system 5. More of a reason to add them to your soups!
Beta-carotene is a “phytochemical” (chemical found in plants). It converts to Vitamin A, acts as an antioxidant, and may help increase the number of immune cells in the body 6,7. These actions all help support the immune system. Look for orange and dark green vegetables to add some beta-carotene to your chicken soup!
Don’t ignore water just because it doesn’t taste like much! Water is so important to your overall health. It promotes digestion and helps you absorb water-soluble nutrients, like B-vitamins, that strengthen the immune system 8. If you do get sick, stay hydrated so your symptoms don’t get worse 9. The nutrients from the ingredients in the chicken soup will be in the broth – so drink up!
Although it would be great to have one meal that could prevent and cure the common cold, it is not likely to happen. The best thing to do is eat a healthy balanced diet to help keep your immune system working its best. Chicken soup is a great example of a combination of healthy ingredients that can help support your immunity, at any time.
Have fun testing these healthy chicken soup recipes that will keep you warm and energized throughout the winter months!
Chicken Soup Your Way
- Dietitians of Canada. (2012). Making the Most of Meat and Alternatives. Retrieved December 11, 2012
- Dietitians of Canada. (2012). Food Sources of Zinc. Retrieved December 11, 2012
- Ankri, S. & Mirelman, D. (1999). Antimicrobial Properties of Allicin from Garlic. 2, 125-129. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Garlic. Retrieved December 11, 2012
- Dragland, S., Senoo, H., Wake, K., Holte, K. & Blomhoff, R. (2003). Several Culinary and Medicinal Herbs Are Important Sources of Dietary Antioxidants. 133(5):1286-90. Retrieved December 11, 2012
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Beta-carotene. Retrieved December 11, 2012
- Nutrition MD. (n.d). Strengthening Immune Function: Choose Immune-Boosting Foods. Retrieved December 11, 2012
- Picco, M. (2012). Does drinking water during or after a meal disturb digestion? Retrived December 11, 2012
- Mayo Clinic. (2012). Cold Remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt. Retrieved December 11, 2012