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Prairie Fare: Chicken Soup Good for Colds

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
According to a study, chicken soup can help clear mucus from nasal passages and relieve congestion better than other hot liquids.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service “Can I get you anything?” my husband asked.

I was sitting on the couch shivering. I decided to lie down, because I felt dizzy when I was upright.

“I’m really cold, so can you bring me a blanket? I’d like a Tylenol, too. I have a bad headache,” I said as he went upstairs. I don’t think he heard the second request.

“Here you go,” he said, draping the blanket over me. “Do you need anything else?” he asked.

“What about the Tylenol? Can you bring a glass of water and a warm washcloth to put over my eyes? Can you hand me the remote control, too?” I asked.

“You haven’t eaten anything in almost 24 hours. Are you hungry? Do you want some crackers?” he asked as he handed me the remote control.

“Yes, I’d like some soda crackers, not the flavored snack crackers, though,” I noted.

Despite feeling lousy, I was kind of enjoying this attention.

“Do we have any 7 up?” I asked.

I was thinking some home-made chicken soup would be really good, but I didn’t press my luck.

“I’ll get some pop at the store. Would you like me to chew your food, too?” he asked with a grin.

“That’s very funny. I don’t feel good!” I exclaimed with a groan.

Like so many people, I was recently bitten by the flu bug. Fortunately, I bounced back fairly quickly. My husband was glad, too.

I had my flu shot, and I’ve been washing my hands faithfully as all the public health campaigns remind us to do. I recently spent part of a day helping with a program for kids, and lots of kids were coughing on me. I think that’s when the bug bit.

When you’re sick, you might remember what mom or grandma used to tell you: “Wash your hands!” and “Have some chicken soup so you’ll feel better.”

Researchers have shown that regular hand washing can help keep us healthy. “Operation Stop Cough” was a study conducted with Navy recruits. The recruits washed their hands at least five times daily. The researchers kept track of the number of trips to a medical clinic for two years. With the hand-washing program in place, there were 45 percent fewer respiratory illness cases.

Chicken soup may make a difference, too. According to a study, chicken soup can help clear mucus from nasal passages and relieve congestion better than other hot liquids. Actually, any hot liquid helps clear stuffy heads more than cold liquid, but chicken soup “worked better” than hot water. Maybe it’s the protein, vitamins, minerals or some unknown factor that makes it work.

My kids always say there are hearts floating out of the simmering pot when we make them the food they like when they are sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these tips for preventing colds and flu.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with a flulike illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

If you’re feeling a cold coming on, you might want to follow the standard advice: “Drink plenty of liquids and get plenty of rest.” For your liquids, you might enjoy this chicken soup recipe. And, in the words of moms everywhere: “Wash your hands before you eat.”

I guess I’ll have to make this recipe for my husband. Now he’s sick.

Chicken Soup

2 15-ounce cans fat-free chicken broth (or use homemade)

2 15-ounce cans water (or more depending on preference)

1/4 c. chopped celery

1/4 c. chopped carrots

1 Tbsp. onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. dried parsley

1/8 tsp. poultry seasoning (optional)

1/8 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed

2 c. chicken, cooked and diced

1 c. medium egg noodles

In 3-quart saucepan, combine broth, water, celery, carrots, onion, parsley, poultry seasoning and thyme. Over medium heat, heat to boiling while stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and noodles; heat through, stirring occasionally until noodles are tender.

Makes four main dish servings. Each serving has about 180 calories, 3.5 grams (g) of fat and 9 g of carbohydrate.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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