Is chicken soup really good for the flu?

A researcher says yes, and he's been studying the stuff for over 18 years.

Let’s be frank. A lot of home remedies that are passed down from previous generations just don’t work, and some can actually make your condition even worse.

Like applying butter on a burn, for example. Many health experts suggest there is no scientific proof that smearing butter on your burn lessens the pain or helps prevent scarring. In fact, sticking your burned arm into a tub of Land O’ Lakes let’s say, can cause bacteria to get into the wound and increase the risk of infection.

But some home remedies actually do work and not just because they’ve existed for a long time, but because they’ve been medically proven to be effective through extensive research.

Chicken soup

Chicken soup is one of those tested home remedies, and it's been proven to help fight off the beginning stages of the flu or the common cold. 

PhotoDr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center has been researching chicken soup since the early 90s, and his most recent research suggests chicken soup really is able to boost the immune system and lessen one’s chances of getting the flu.

“Grandma said it was good for people who have colds; I suggested it might be because it has an anti-inflammatory effect,” said Rennard in a video he made about the study.

And that small conversation he had with his grandmother led the medical researcher to find out more about chicken soup and its healing effects.

“The first thing we did is we tested the soup in a standard measurement that we do in the laboratory, an assay, where we measure the ability of one of the kinds of white cells in the blood to move,” said Rennard.

“The cell that we study is a cell called the neutrophil and it’s the most important cell for defending the body against bacteria. It’s the most common white cell that’s in the blood and of course they do their job by moving one place to another, and there’s ways to study that in the laboratory and we do that as a routine.”

“What we showed was that grandma’s chicken soup had some very modest but clearly measurable ability to reduce the ability of those cells to move. Which you could interpret as a kind of an anti-inflammatory activity, if it resulted in fewer cells for example in your throat when you got a virus, you could speculate that leads to less symptoms,” he said.

Exact ingredients

Although Rennard and his team couldn’t pinpoint the exact ingredients in chicken soup that makes it good for the immune system, he said once it leaves your body it loses its healthful effect, which suggests that eating the soup continuously while you’re feeling the onslaught of a cold or flu is the best way to maximize its treatment potential.

The soup that was tested by Rennard contained onions, parsnips, salt and pepper, celery stems, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsley and of course chicken, which is a family recipe that was made by his wife during the informational video.

While Mrs. Rennard was making the huge pot of chicken soup and suggesting the recipe to viewers, it seemed that a tremendous amount of salt was added, which I thought couldn’t be good--especially for those who are on low sodium diets.

In fact, many soups that are supposed to be good for you or at least provide soothing comfort on a cold day are plagued with enough salt to take away any health benefits.

Sodium levels

Whether you’re following a recipe or purchasing soup from a store, the levels of sodium that are sometimes used are ridiculously high, which is why a separate study was conducted by an Irish research team to determine if consumers would still purchase their favorite brand of soup if it contained less salt.

The research team removed up to 48 percent of the salt in popular soup brands by either adding 0.15 percent of rosemary or 0.1 percent of lactoferrin hydrolysate, and for the most part it was determined that consumers still really liked the soups.

“Addition of either ingredient into the reduced sodium soups allowed for salt reductions of approximately 48 percent to be achieved without adversely affecting the sensory acceptability of the meals,” said the research team in a statement.

“However, if food manufacturers are to pursue this sodium reduction strategy they may need to accept minor insignificant reductions in consumer acceptability as a result,”

"These results highlight the importance of acceptable taste characteristics on the decision to purchase or repurchase a food.”

“The inclusion of the consumer in the reformulation process of reduced salt foods was also shown to be a very effective service available to manufacturers in order to retain sensory scores.”

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