It’s here again! Runny noses, colds, flu, kids back in school with a healthy (or not so healthy) dose of new germs coming your way, into your house. It can be challenging enough to try and eat healthy and plan good meals and snacks on a good day, what do we do when someone in the house is sick?
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates. He may have been onto something. Probably not meant to be taken literately, meaning, you shouldn’t think a pill can replace a food or meal. But, in many ways, food can enhance or mimic what a medicine can do. Take chicken soup for example, often known as the end-all, miracle cure for colds, flu etc. Why? Well, since I was awake with a sick child this past weekend, I found out why.
Chicken soup has amazing properties! First off, the warmness of the broth can be soothing to an irritated throat and nasal passages, and thin out the secretions that are making your nose stuffy. It can be physically comforting when you are shivering, especially if you are holding the bowl or mug in your hands. But it is what is in there that really tells the tale of this long known miracle cure.
Chicken, when cooked, releases an amino acid called cysteine, an amino acid similar to a compound found in anti inflammatory medications. When your body is fighting a cold, it goes through an inflammatory process that makes you feel achy, swollen, and just terrible. The soup can help!
The onions in the broth have a compound known as quercetin, known as an anti-inflammatory and an antihistamine. Carrots add the beta carotene to Vitamin A connection that fights infections. The sodium in the broth is also essential for fluid and electrolyte replacement, and probably is why it tastes so much better when you are sick. I find the same effect with Gatorade type products. When I am well hydrated, they taste kind of sour/sweet/salty, but if I just worked out or when I am sick, they taste great, and give back the nutrients lost.
Speaking of beverages, tea can be another weapon on your road to recovery. black and green tea are loaded with antioxidants that won’t cure colds, but will fight them back and hopefully lessen your recovery time. Add some honey and or lemon, and you triple the effect.
Another old fashioned favorite, easy on the stomach, is toast-with cinnamon, honey, jelly, peanut butter, or fill-in-your-favorite-spread. Bread is light on the stomach, and gives you some carbohydrates for energy.
Don’t worry so much about when or what to eat, just try and remember to hydrate often and provide lots of TLC. The last and most important ingredient in chicken soup, cinnamon toast, hot tea, or whatever you are having or providing, whether it is made from scratch, a can or pouch, is comfort and a whole lot of love for your sick one (feel free to pass this on to your spouse if needed!
My quick recipe for chicken soup:
prechopped celery-carrot-onion mix from Trader Joe’s, Wegmans or several other supermarkets
chicken stock (I prefer over broth)
cooked chicken breast usually 1 breast per 2 servings
noodles, rice, barley, lentils
fresh ground sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper and pepper corns, remove whole pepper corns before serving
lots of love
Laura Zurita is a registered dietitian and Montgomery County mom of a 6 year old. She and her family like to read, hike, and watch baseball.