Feed a cold and starve a fever? Or is it feed a fever and starve a cold? The old adage dates back to the 1500s when it was believed that feeding helped warm a body up, and therefore beat a cold; and starving deprived the body of energy, therefore helping it cool and stop a fever. It’s bunk. The truth is you need to feed them both. Whether it’s a cold or a fever, your body needs strength to fight. So eat.
Simply taking in calories is important, but choosing your food carefully can help you mitigate the symptoms and reduce the duration of the common cold.
Research out of the University of Nebraska Medical Center conducted way back in 1993, before vitamin packed powdered drink mixes and echinacea pills hit the grocery store shelves, suggested that the mixture of chicken, vegetables, and hot fluids work together to provide measurable relief.
Chicken, along with other white meats, is an excellent source of protein. Lower in fat than its red meat rivals, it provides quality calories and helps you feel full, without unnecessarily contributing to your waistline. It also contains tryptophan and vitamin B5, both known to help to relieve stress and promote positive feelings. Heck, it even helps maintain healthy hair, so you can still look great even when you’re feeling lousy.
Vegetarians can swap in textured vegetable protein to get many of the same benefits.
The Secret is Reduced Inflammation
That University of Nebraska research showed that chicken soup works to limit the production of neutrophils, the white blood cells that eat bacteria and ultimately cause inflammation and mucus production. It’s this anti-inflammation power that seems to be the most important. Sure, we need white blood cells to fight off infection. But it’s too much inflammation, rather than the actual virus, that causes the sniffling, sneezing, and congestion that makes us feel so miserable.
Add the nutritional value of carrots, parsley, and celery, along with the superfood power of sweet potato, and you get an impressive immune system boost and a feel good meal all in one. As an added bonus, the steam helps relieve congestion, and the broth coats a sore throat. And the sodium (salt) works to help remove bacteria.
Great for the Whole Family
Parents of young children hate to see them suffering with cold symptoms. But many medications, even over-the-counter options, can be risky for little ones. A warm bowl of soup, with a side of crackers and water or diluted juice, may give them desired relief, without the dangers associated with some medications. It’ll make them much more pleasant to be around, especially important if you’ve taken a day off work to stay home and watch cartoons with them bundled up on the couch.
So Does Chicken Soup Cure the Cold?
No research to date has been able to conclusively prove that chicken soup cures anything. But whether the ingredients have medicinal value or just a placebo effect, studies continue to report people feeling better after a big ol’ bowl of grandma’s homemade miracle meal. And if you lost grandma’s recipe, don’t worry, the store-bought versions have shown the same results (although they often come with more sodium than you need).
Here’s the recipe from that 1993 research study. We won’t tell if you decide to pass it off as your own.