One of the most comforting, soothing things I can think of is inhaling the steam off of a bowl of chicken noodle soup. I'm a huge soup fan no matter what, but it is especially comforting when I'm sick. And now that I'm a parent, I'm ready to serve up chicken noodle soup for any sickness in my house. It's like becoming a mom somehow flips a switch in you to double down on the comfort, nutrition, and healing that a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup brings. But is there science to it, or are we just destined to pull out cans of Campbell's the minute someone sneezes?
"It probably won’t surprise you that your mother knows best, and chicken soup can be helpful when you have a cold. In addition to being a comfort food and reminding you of the warm feelings you had growing up, there is some evidence that it can also be helpful physically," Dr. Miriam Alexander, Medical Director of Employee Health and Wellness at LifeBridge Health in Maryland, tells Romper. "The steam from the soup can assist if you are congested by helping to clear your nasal passages so you can breathe easier more quickly. Chicken soup can also be nutritious, and it can keep you hydrated. Dehydration can be a problem when your body is fighting a cold or the flu." But Alexander says you don't have to stick with chicken noodle soup specifically. "Not to take anything away from mom, but any hot, clear liquid can also be beneficial as well."
When I wake up to my kid's hacking cough in the early morning hours, my first instinct is to stick them in a steamy bathroom to loosen up the mucous that seems to be hanging out inside their nasal passages. The same premise applies when I heat up a giant bowl of chicken noodle soup for them. They'll breathe in that delicious, phlegm-loosening steam and maybe, if I'm lucky, they'll consume a few nutritious calories to help bring them back from the brink of all-consuming illness.
As it turns out, there are a number of ways to add immune-boosting foods to your classic chicken noodle soup recipe or to pump up the canned variety, according to Angie Weiss, RDN, LDN, and nutrition services director at Wichita Falls Area Food Bank. "Chicken contains the mineral zinc, which is good for your immune system," Weiss tells Romper. She also notes that "Electrolytes and fluids may need to be replenished," and that "chicken noodle soup will contain sodium and lots of broth" which works to add nourishment back into the body.
To give your soup an extra vitamin A boost, Weiss recommends adding carrots which "helps with skin repair after irritability from excess tissue use on your red, irritated nose." She says that water soluble vitamins B and C are important to replenish during sickness, so try adding whole grain noodles for vitamin B and leafy greens like kale for vitamin C to your chicken noodle soup.
"Consuming warm chicken noodle soup is soothing for a sore throat. When I was little, I used to think it was better to consume cold foods like ice cream when I had a sore throat. I have learned that warm is better," Weiss tells Romper. "Chicken noodle soup is also very plain, which is good when you are sick because smells and tastes may be temporarily altered."
Chicken noodle soup might help soothe and comfort your kids when they're sick, but it is not going to zap the sickness out of your child, so it's also important to note that preventing the spread of illness is key to keeping the rest of your family healthy when one is down for the count. "Two of the most important things you can do to prevent the spread of germs is to cover your cough/sneeze and to keep hand sanitizer handy. If you are suffering from colds, coughs, and sneezes use a tissue or your sleeve to prevent the spray of germs that come from your mouth and nose during these episodes," Dr. Jarret Patton, pediatrician tells Romper. "The people around you will thank you. Furthermore, keeping hand sanitizer 'handy' will allow you to kill those germs that might be sticking to your hands from touching objects like door knobs, elevator buttons, and other common surfaces where germs linger."
Dr. Miriam Alexander, Medical Director of Employee Health and Wellness at LifeBridge Health in Maryland
Dr. Jarret Patton 'Doctor Jarret', pediatrician
Angie Weiss, RDN, LDN, nutrition services director, Wichita Falls Area Food Bank