Soup isn't just good for the soul; it is good for your body. Picture supplied.

Chicken soup is the ideal comfort food which nourishes the body as well as the soul, but do you know how and why?  

Speaking to dietitian, nutritionist and spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Isabel Maples she gives some clarity on the benefits of chicken soup. 

“Chicken soup may be good for the soul. More importantly, it may very well be what Dr Mom orders when we’re sick. Will it cure a cold or shorten the flu? No. Still, it might make us feel a little better while we’re recuperating” says Maples.

Maples explains

  • Warm soup, like other hot liquids, causes blood vessels to open up, increasing blood flow to that area. The steam thins congestion, which allows mucus to drain, relieving some stuffiness.    
  • Even if our appetites are diminished when we’re under the weather, we still need fluids. The broth in chicken soup supplies liquid, lessening congestion.
  • Chicken soup, especially store-bought varieties, tends to be salty. The high sodium liquid can bathe the throat the way a salt water gargle does. Salt can kill germs, dry out mucus and flush the sinuses.
  • Chicken soup may relieve inflammation that makes us feel so stuffy when we have a cold or flu. One researcher showed that chicken soup can inhibit a certain type of white blood cell, neutrophils. Neutrophils gobble up bacteria and stimulate mucus production. However, since most colds and flu are caused by viruses, not bacteria, the white blood cells don’t work as well and may bring more inflammation than relief. Chicken soup can mitigate the movement of the neutrophils, which means less stuffiness. The same research showed that chicken soup did a better job than hot water in improving the function of cilia- tiny hair-like processes that line the inside of the nose to sweep out infection in the first place.
  • Chicken soup, even when chock full of veggies, is usually rather bland and easy to digest. Simple can feel so good when we’re sick. And if it appeals to us, and then we actually eat it, we can benefit from its goodness. The noodles can help our bellies feel satisfied. The veggies usually offer vitamins A and C, plus antioxidants, and the chicken offers a little protein- all of which can help boost the immune system.
  • Perhaps just as important, usually behind that bowl of soup is someone caring for us- or memories of someone doing that. And that certainly makes chicken soup good for the soul.