While it comes in many different forms – from Vietnamese Pho to “Jewish Penicillin”, chicken soup might just be the universal comfort food. It is the perfect solution to a chilly winter day, and no food is as soothing when you have a cold or the flu. Speaking of which, I just caught my first cold of the year. Hence the inspiration for this post.
But did you know that there are actually some scientific studies that confirm the validity of eating chicken soup to help soothe a cold1,2? It appears that this soup is good at inhibiting neutrophil migration in upper respiratory viruses2, which in layman’s terms means that it reduces inflammation in the air passage ways, making it easier for you to breathe. What remains a mystery though, is the identification of the exact protein or compound that causes this beneficial reaction. Is it a component found in chicken3, lipids (fat) from chicken or chicken bones, antioxidants from the vegetables used to make the broth, or a combination of several yet unknown food compounds that work together? Science doesn’t exactly know the why yet, but we know it is a remedy that works. But stay tuned – science WILL one day determine what causes the magic to happen!
Other beneficial features of chicken soup is actually the sodium content and fluid. While we Americans are typically overachievers with sodium under normal circumstances, those that are sick often don’t eat much or drink enough fluids. This can lead to dehydration, which will only make you feel worse, and can also lead to hospitalization. So in this scenario, sodium-rich soup is desirable to help promote normal hydration.
Now back to my inspiration for this post. Being an under-the-weather foodie dietitian, I was lucky that I had a stocked kitchen with all of the essentials I needed to whip up my own homemade soup. Ironically, I did not have a single can of pre-made chicken soup on hand. But I had lots of chicken stock. I don’t state this to give myself some sort of culinary or nutritional badge of honor – at the time I really just wanted to microwave a can of soup. But since I was too lazy to go to the store, I decided to work with what I had. And now I’m going to brag – this soup was awesome.
Why orzo noodles? Because that is what I had on hand. But now that I’ve tried it this way, I don’t think I’ll go back to spaghetti or egg noodles. These little noodles fit neatly on your spoon, so you don’t have those awkward noodle slurps that end up on the side of your cheek. Maybe that only matters (or happens) to me, but I’d rather not deal with that. Ha!
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 4-5 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic,
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 quarts Kitchen Basics Original Chicken Stock
- 1 pound chicken thighs (boneless & skinless)
- 1 cup dry orzo pasta
- Fresh parsley, as desired
- In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil on medium and add onions, garlic, carrots and celery to the pan. Cook for several minutes, until caramelized.
- Trim visible fat from chicken thighs with kitchen shears. (You can use either boneless or bone-in skinless chicken thighs.) Place chicken thighs on top of vegetables and cover with chicken stock. Add bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Once chicken is fully cooked, remove from pot and place on a cutting board. Chop or shred with a fork. (Remove bones if using bone-in chicken thighs).
- While chicken is out of the pot, bring soup back up to a boil, then add orzo and cook for 8-10 minutes. Once orzo is cooked, reduce heat to low/warm.
- Return chicken back to soup and keep on low/warm for 5-10 minutes (long enough to warm chicken back to soup temperature). Remove bay leaves. Serve soup in a bowl and top with fresh parsley and fresh ground pepper as desired.
Nutrition Facts per Serving (Makes 8 servings)
260 Calories; 9g Fat; 2g Saturated Fat; 50mg Cholesterol; 800mg Sodium; 850mg Potassium; 20g Carbohydrates; 2g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 25g Protein.
Note: Nutrition analysis performed with Nutrihand, and is an estimate based on the ingredients and brands specifically listed in this recipe.
Besides being delicious, this soup is also a good source of protein. One serving of this soup (~2 cups worth) provides 25g of protein! Besides the obvious chicken, the brand of stock that I used also contributes to the protein content. I used Kitchen Basics Original Chicken Stock, and I highly recommend it for your version too. It has that real “homemade” taste, and it packs 5g of protein per cup. Here is the package so you can easily find it in your local grocery store.
In summary, I hope you take a chance on this soup on a cold day. I think you’ll find that it is more of a meal than just a brothy soup, which is extra satisfying when you are under the weather. While I certainly hope that you don’t get sick anytime soon, maybe this can be your secret weapon for the common cold or flu in the future. Stay well!
- Saketkhoo K, Januszkiewicz A, Sackner MA. Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance. Chest. 1978 Oct;74(4):408-10.
- Rennard B et al. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. 2000;118:1150-1157.
- Babizhayev MA, Deyev AI, Yegorov YE. Non-hydrolyzed in digestive tract and blood natural L-carnosine peptide (“bioactivated Jewish penicillin”) as a panacea of tomorrow for various flu ailments: signaling activity attenuating nitric oxide (NO) production, cytostasis, and NO-dependent inhibition of influenza virus replication in macrophages in the human body infected with the virulent swine influenza A (H1N1) virus. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2013;24(1):1-26. doi: 10.1515/jbcpp-2012-0037.
Disclosure: I did not receive any sponsorship or funding for this post. I specifically mentioned Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock due to my personal & professional opinion only.