Both your doctor and your grandmother concur – there is something to be said for the remedial, comforting power of homemade chicken soup when your immune system is in need of a boost. Although many believe the benefits of chicken soup are psychosomatic (perhaps it elicits consoling memories of your childhood), modern research shows that there is scientific proof that this stuff is the ultimate comfort food and is super healthy.
Chicken soup contains a compound called carnosine, which helps to prevent inflammation that occurs at the onset of a viral infection. In addition, the hot fluid helps to soothe sore throats and eases congestion. Chicken also has an amino acid in it called cysteine, which helps to thin that yucky mucus that can congest your lungs. Homemade broth, which aids digestion, is very rich in calcium, magnesium, and other easily absorbed, replenishing minerals.
Add some celery, carrots, leeks, parsnips, rutabaga, and sweet potatoes into your chicken soup, and you will get the added antioxidant benefits of these nutrition-packed veggies that will help fight infections. Sue Smith, of Prime Health Style, highlights that “root veggies have natural sweetness, and are very satisfying, grounding and warming.”
What other ingredients should you turn to at this time of year?
Sue Smith and Health Coach, Amie Guyette Hall, also specified that pungent and spicy ginger root is another must have for immune strengthening, and given its high concentration, you need only a little bit to reap its many benefits. Not only does it help to alleviate gastro intestinal discomfort, it is also a super antioxidant, has extensive anti-inflammatory effects and helps heal dizziness and nausea.
Simply add fresh ginger to a mug of hot water for a quick, homemade ginger tea, and you will soon have a settled stomach. Catch A Healthy Habit’s 2 oz. ginger shot is another great way to enjoy the healing benefits of ginger. You gotta be brave though: it packs a hot punch!
Tynne, at Catch A Healthy Habit, highlights cinnamon as well: “Cinnamon strengthens the cardiovascular system and acts as a blood-thinning agent, which increases circulation and in turn acts to warm the body.”
Turmeric is another healing remedy to check out, according to both Smith and Guyette Hall. Used in Asia for medicinal purposes, turmeric is a potent antioxidant and contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory effects. It also has been proven to reduce pain and fever, and aid digestion.
Guyette Hall has some great resources on her website for warming drinks, including a Creamy Turmeric Tea.
She also mentioned that cayenne pepper is a key spice to include in warming dishes this winter. Not only is it an anti-cold and flu agent, cayenne has also been proven to ease upset stomach, sore throats, coughs, and to stimulate circulation.
The Stand in Fairfield and Norwalk clearly understands the health benefits of this spice; they incorporate cayenne in their nutrient-packed juices and avocado toast sandwich.
If you’re seeking a traditional Chicken Soup recipe, see Liz’s below. “I’ve made chicken soup for my family forever. What’s changed is the range of ingredients I add to it. Traditional Jewish chicken soup is simply chicken, carrots, celery, onion and parsnips. After watching my Israeli mother-in-law add other veggies like zucchini and cauliflower, I began to add them in also, but in the last half hour of cooking. I add tomatoes for a little extra hit of vitamin C and for the beautiful golden color they add to the broth.”
” I was honored to be asked for my chicken soup recipe by my daughter-in-law! I never gave a thought to how I make it, other than to try to load it with tons of veggies, always organic. It was fun to pause and actually think through it.”
Liz eliminated the messy straining by tying up the aromatics, garlic and onion and whatever else she doesn’t want floating in the bowl, in cheesecloth. Before cooling the soup, simply lift out the pouch and allow it to drain over a colander so none of the golden broth is lost. What’s left in the pot is the magical broth, plenty of chicken and the veggies she and her family wants to eat.
This chicken soup is a basic Jewish chicken soup recipe with a few additions and one great improvement that eliminates straining.
Tie up aromatics and any veggies you don't want in your soup bowl, in a Soup Sock or cheesecloth. When the soup is finished, pull out the cheesecloth, drain well so that no broth is lost, and discard.
I was honored to be asked for this recipe by my new daughter-in- law during this long, cold winter. Her husband (my son) has been known to eat this for breakfast with a healthy helping of thin noodles or orzo floating around in this rich, golden broth.
Enjoy! xo Liz
- One chicken, cut in 1/8th's, rinsed and trimmed of extra fat and skin.
- 1 onion, quartered (I remove them at the end)
- 4-5 carrots, scraped and sliced into bite size pieces
- 1 turnip, scraped and cut into big chunks (I remove it at the end)
- 4 stalks celery, washed and cut into bite size pieces
- 3-5 cloves garlic, chunked (optional)
- 1 zucchini, washed and cut into bite size pieces (optional)
- 1 handful fresh dill, washed and rough chopped
- 1-2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)
- 1 heaping tablespoon soup enhancer, like Osem chicken or vegetable powder
- Place all ingredients, except dill and zucchini, in a large pot.
- Add cold water to a level about 2 inches above the ingredients. DO NOT add too much water or the soup will not be rich enough. This is the trick!
- Slowly, bring liquid to boil and immediately turn it to simmer. Keep an eye on the simmer, making sure it is low and slow (boiling will toughen the chicken). Leave the lid cracked open a bit so it doesn't overflow.
- After about 10 min, skim the surface of the soup of any gunk. Continue simmering with the lid cracked, for about 1.5 hours.
- In the last 30 mins. of cooking, add the fresh dill and zucchini. Bring the soup back to simmer for 30-45 mins.
- Remove from heat, uncover and allow to cool. Pull out the chicken and cool separately so it doesn't continue cooking.
- Refrigerate over night and remove any accumulated fat before serving.
Boil orzo, alphabet noodles (we call them ABCD's) or thin noodles to serve with this broth. Keep noodles in a separate container.
I'm a big believer in always having at least one container of chicken soup in my freezer at all times. Ya just never know who will need it and when!