Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children. Now scientists have put chicken soup to the test, discovering that it does have effects that might help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, possibly helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining.
The National Institute of Whole Health supports this integrative approach to nutrition. In addition to supporting the body, food has the ability to stimulate and aid healing. When it comes to chicken soup, the healing qualities come from the ingredients. Let’s break down the components to identify the source of the immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory agents in chicken soup.
Considering that chicken is one of the most popular ingredients in the stock used to prepare chicken soup, it makes sense to understand what exactly it is that chicken has to offer. Chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, a substance released when you make the soup. This amino acid is similar to the drug acetylcysteine, which is prescribed by doctors to patients with bronchitis due to its ability to breakdown proteins found in mucous that settles in the lungs.
Cysteine can be found in proteins throughout the body and when used as a supplement it is usually in the form is N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). The cool part about this is, cysteine, whether taken in supplement form or not, converts to glutathione. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant, protecting fatty tissues from the damaging effects of free radicals. The antioxidant activity of glutathione is attributed specifically to the presence of cysteine in the compound.
In addition, glutathione also plays a vital role in the detoxification of harmful substances by the liver and can chelate (attach to) heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. It is also believed that glutathione carries nutrients to lymphocytes and phagocytes, important immune system cells.
Next, we have the carrots. Carrots, one of the routine vegetable ingredients found in chicken soup, are the best natural source of beta-carotene. The body takes that beta-carotene and converts it to vitamin A. Vitamin A helps prevent and fight off infections by enhancing the actions of white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.
In addition to their antioxidant and immune-enhancing activity, carotenoids have shown the ability to stimulate cell to cell communication. Researchers now believe that poor communication between cells may be one of the causes of the overgrowth of cells, a condition which eventually leads to cancer. By promoting proper communication between cells, carotenoids may play a role in cancer prevention.
Onions, another chicken soup regular, contain quercetin, another powerful anti-oxidant. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that is found naturally present in teas — both green and black — apples, onions, and beans. It offers many benefits including maintaining the health of collagen. which is responsible for the firmness and health of our skin. Quercetin also improves the health of capillary and connective tissue (alleviating bruising, edema, varicose veins, etc.). Other benefits include its ability to inhibit histamine, acting as a natural anti-histamine in many bronchial related conditions, such as allergies and asthma. In addition, quercetin has been ascribed anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties. For individuals who live in high pollen count areas, quercetin is extremely advantageous as it limits allergic reactions due to pollen.
To top it off, stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken-down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.
I could probably keep going but I will let you learn more by giving it a try. As any of you reading this probably would assume, it is best to use only organic, free range protein, organic veggies and filtered water to get the best results from your broth.
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