If you always seem to feel better after downing a bowl of chicken noodle soup when you’re under the weather, it’s not just a placebo treatment. The reasons the hearty mix can help you shake off seasonal sickness in record time are actually backed by science.
Aside from instantly making you feel warm and cozy, each part of the sick-day go-to has cold-fighting powers. Rena Zelig, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University, told Time that it all starts with the salty broth, which can help hydrate your body.
Additionally, the veggies provide crucial vitamins and minerals, and the chicken provides protein—something Zelig says is “important for healing and for getting your strength back when you’ve been sick.” And there’s another (super important) factor: Science suggests the warm broth helps to clear out your nasal passages and might even assist your white blood cells in fighting off the infection.
Besides making you feel warm and cozy, the soup replaces lost sodium, gives you strength-boosting protein, and even clears out nasal passages.
And vegetarians and vegans can still reap the benefits of the soup. Registered dietician Amy Gorin, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in New York City, has the perfect method to get the immune system-boosting combo of protein, veggies, and salty broth sans meat.
“Heat low-sodium vegetable broth on the stove, and add veggies like sliced bell peppers, diced onions, halved grape or cherry tomatoes, and sliced mushrooms. Then toss in diced firm tofu for protein,” Gorin told me. “You can add any seasonings you like, such as black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. The low-sodium broth will still contain plenty of sodium, and I suggest looking for a broth that also offers potassium, another electrolyte.”
So whether you’re sick or not, a bowl of soup during the cold-and-flu season is definitely a pro move.