Growing up, whenever I felt sick, my abuela would whip up two dishes to help me feel better: rice and milk, and chicken noodle soup. While rice and milk isn't exactly a mainstream American dish, many of my childhood friends also sipped on chicken soup when their health took a hit. But does chicken soup actually help a cold, or is it just a common comfort food? If you swear by the remedy, it turns out you may be on to something.
Linda Cuda, registered dietitian with Copeman Healthcare Centre, says there really is something to the magic of chicken soup. "There are even several research studies that suggest that this age-old remedy fights colds by helping to clear nasal congestion and thin mucus so you can better cough it up," she tells Elite Daily over email.
However, according to Cate Brennan, a registered dietitian currently based in Bolivia, when you're feeling under the weather, it's sometimes best to simply eat whatever you can stomach or whatever you're craving. "When we are sick, oftentimes we don't feel like eating," she tells Elite Daily. "This can actually make us more sick, as put simply, calories equal energy, and more energy means our body can run its normal processes and help us fight off infections."
In other words, chicken soup or not, your main goal is to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to fight off whatever bug you've caught. Having said that, acupuncture physician Dr. Elizabeth Trattner tells Elite Daily that sipping on bone broth, while definitely a hot health trend at the moment, is actually pretty legit, as it's full of good-for-you ingredients. "Bone broth contains all five of the major electrolytes: calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous, and potassium," she tells Elite Daily in an email. "Bone broth also contains glucosamine, proline, glycine, arginine, in addition to easily digestible gelatin and collagen." All of these things, according to Trattner, can help your body fight off an infection when you're feeling under the weather.
Aside from broth itself, though, whether it's chicken or bone, Christy Brissette, MS, RD, of 80 Twenty Nutrition, says the ingredients you add to your soup can also give you a boost when you're not feeling well. "Other ingredients that could help you feel better when you have a cold include garlic and onions," Brissette tells Elite Daily. "Garlic contains allicin, a phytochemical that has antibacterial properties. It's been used for centuries by many cultures as an immune system-booster." And if you can stomach raw garlic, that might be even better, as a study published in the The Journal of Nutrition found that eating raw crushed garlic can improve the function of genes associated with immune health.
In addition to broth, brewing up a mug of hot tea can also work wonders for a cold, says Cuda, because it thins out mucus and helps hydrate you at the same time. "Green and black teas are filled with flavonoids," she explains, which are "well known for their beneficial effects on health," as per research published in the Journal of Nutritional Science.
Now, you may have heard that eating dairy when you have a cold can cause your body to create more mucus and therefore worsen your illness, but according to Brennan, this is total BS. "There is no evidence to support this," she explains, "and if you think ice cream will help your sore throat, go for it!"
Whatever you do to soothe your sickness, make sure not to follow the old adage that prompts you to "starve a cold," says Cuda. "Food gives you the energy and nutrition to help fight infections and can help prevent you from getting sicker," she tells Elite Daily. Avoiding food will only keep you sick longer, she explains, and it can make you more likely to get sick in the future, she adds, so make sure you're treating your body to plenty of nutrient-rich foods.