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Chicken Soup for the Cold

November 8, 2011 by Kenton Delisle

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Chicken Soup for the Cold

I was sent home from school, sick, when I was 12 and camped out with grandma until my mom could pick me up. A family friend stopped in and upon learning I was down with the flu, gave me some advice: “Feed a cold, starve a fever” she croaked. The flu (influenza) might have made me a little delusional, but I immediately had visions of a frail form of my current self unable to get off the couch from hunger.   Later, when my mom was driving me home, I asked her if she was going to starve me. She laughed and said that as long as I could keep food down with a fever or flu, it was best to try and eat.

After I recovered with the help of unlimited bowls of homemade chicken soup (there are some perks to being ill), I thought more about the phrase “feed a cold, starve a fever”. If I have either a cold or flu I feel miserable and weak. Shouldn’t eating something help me feel better? The answer is, quite possibly, yes. Eating well not only helps us achieve and maintain good health; it is also important when managing disease or fighting off infections. Current recommendations for the treatment of flu do emphasize getting plenty of fluids, but not in place of food, as many assume. Following such advice may result in limiting nourishing foods that are well tolerated when sick While chicken soup is not a magical elixir to ward off colds and flu, it may have had a role in helping me feel a little better (not to mention the comfort food factor):

What I got from mom’s soup and how it might have helped:

Healthful ingredients

  • An easy way to get some much needed nourishment (three Food Groups in one bowl!) in a sick body that might not have much of an appetite for much else
  • For you, soup might not be your go-to food, it might be something else – find what works  best for you


  • Steam from the soup can help to loosen congestion and the warm liquid might even soothe the throat


  • The fluids from the soup help keep you hydrated

Love (I know, I know, sounds cliché, but works for me)

  • An important ingredient in my Mom’s  soup – can’t help make one feel a little better!

A great way to check whether the food or nutrition remedy you have heard about helps, is to call Dietitian Services and speak to a Registered Dietitian to get the facts. You, or the one you’re taking care of, will be grateful. Good luck this cold and flu season. I hope you stay healthy and get some homemade chicken soup this winter.

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Comments (3)


Posted on Tuesday November 8, 2011 a 10:10pm

This article just reminded me of when I was a kid and sick and my mom taking the time to make me soup to feel better, and now out of habit I am doing the same for my own children. My takeaway though is the nourishment piece and I really need to make sure I am adding the right food/nutrients they need in order to recover faster!


Posted on Monday November 14, 2011 a 2:38pm

It's interesting to hear that soup can actually help with a cold. I didn't think about how steam can loosen congestion and some of the other benefits. Please keep writing these blogs. I find them helpful.


Posted on Thursday December 1, 2011 a 10:32am

I agree that one of the most important and powerful “medicines” we can keep on hand in the freezer during the flu season is homemade stock. I learned to make stock only a few years ago since I grew up with a “modern mom” that did not do such things. I have experienced that stock boosts the immune system sufficiently when you start to feel run down thereby preventing actually developing a full blown cold, as well as speeds recovery and eases symptoms when you fail to nip the germ in the bud. There is no question that making stock is a time consuming process and indeed a labour of love (love for your family, love for good health) but of the many traditions that we have lost to modern convenience, I believe this is the most important one to reclaim. Alternately, if you absolutely cannot find the time, or do not have the confidence to make your own, and can afford to do so, you can purchase homemade stock at most quality butcher shops and some high end delicatessens (for example Ottavios in Victoria). Thank-you for your thoughtful article.


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