Colds are the worst, especially in the winter. And with COVID-19 still a risk, staying healthy is more important than ever. A hot bowl of soup can go a long way toward fortifying both body and mind. Many ingredient carry nutrients that help boost immunity, alleviate symptoms, and even shorten the common cold. There is also the psychological comfort of a hot cup of delicious soup when you aren’t feeling your best. Whether you need some help to get out the door or are snuggled at home to heal up, these seven soups have real, science-supported benefits that will help get you back to your old self.
For this list, we have included soups from around the world. Each has real medicinal properties. These qualities come primarily from the vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and calories from the soup ingredients. For example, carrots are high in both beta-keratin (which protects your eyes from damage) and vitamin A (which is a natural antiviral). It is important to note off the bat that no soup or vitamin can replace a visit to the doctor. If you are running a fever, or your symptoms have persisted for more than three days, it is best to make an appointment.
These seven recipes represent comfort food-style soups from different parts of the world, for a variety of pallets, and with a wide range of easily-obtainable ingredients. A lot of them provide vegetarian or vegan variations. And remember, you can always alter ingredients to suit your taste should you find your “porridge” isn’t just right. Links to the recipes can be found by clicking on the name of the soup.
This one, found at Happy Healthy Mama’s blog, is a great variation on chicken and vegetable soup. It uses a bone broth, which is loaded with calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin A, and helps us fight viruses. Along with these nutrients, there is evidence that bone broth reduces inflammation and enhances digestive health. This soup also contains super-healthy cayenne pepper to clear the sinuses, help with pain, and further aid digestion. Rounded off with cold-fighting garlic, sweet potatoes, and antioxidant and vitamin C-loaded kale, this recipe should help get you back on your feet in no time.
No sick day recipe list would be complete without classic chicken and noddle soup. You’ll find many online kosher sites that refer to this staple as “Jewish penicillin.” While this recipe isn’t necessarily kosher, its spicy profile creates a delicious variation on an established favorite. Studies have shown that spicy food has many health benefits, including speeding up your metabolism, fighting inflammation, and killing bacteria. This recipe, which comes from Go Lb. Salt’s blog, is loaded with vegetables and includes serrano peppers and white peppercorns. It also doesn’t skimp on the garlic, which has proven cold-fighting benefits. The spiciness clears the sinuses, and the garlic helps shorten the length of your cold. The warmth and nostalgia of this soup cannot be debated. It may not replace a good antibiotic, but the emotional comforts alone transcend cultures and nationalities.
With strong notes of lemon and ginger, we admit this Mediterranean-style soup is not for everybody. However, if you like these flavors, you’ll love this simple, fortifying concoction. Roasting the carrots to caramelize them creates a depth of flavor that is surprisingly rich. The infection-fighting ginger mixed with heavy cream are just the things for settling your stomach. Since it is pureed, it will go down easily, allowing its medicinal qualities to work more quickly. It also has an earthy sweetness that will help anyone struggling with weight or diabetes. Carrots also have lots of virus-fighting vitamin A. If you are worried ginger will curdle heavy cream, rest assured that isn’t the case if you cook in the right order. This is a sweet and slightly tangy meal designed to ease sore throats. In all, this soup is unusual but definitely worth a try.
Recent science has taught us that the “feed a cold, starve a feeder” adage doesn’t hold up. In fact, you should feed both. And trust us, with this protein-heavy combination of sausage and beans, you will be well fed! You can decide just how much hot sauce to put in, but keep in mind that high levels of protein promote healing. The cabbage relieves inflammation, is packed with vitamin C, and helps lower your cholesterol. What is more, the beans help regulate blood sugar, improve heart health, and (believe it or not) help with digestion. Is this a low-calorie food? At 274 units per cup, we have to say no. But it is delicious comfort food with vitamins in vegetables, albumin for good circulation, and enough protein to fortify even the sickest sufferer.
This soup has variants in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt, among many other countries. But don’t let the name (which simply means “lentil soup”) intimidate you. This recipe is deceptively easy. It can be pureed for a smooth finish or left alone so you taste each individual flavor. The chicken broth can be switched out for vegetable broth to make this soup completely vegan. Simply add powdered cayenne or a hot pepper for some extra kick. With the basmati rice, this soup provides you with a complete protein. It retains its heat (temperature-wise) very well, meaning it will stay soothing to your sore throat to the last spoonful. The lemon helps to break up mucous, and the turmeric has too many health benefits to name here, but we will say it’s an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Depending on your spice ratios, this soup can be an exotic treat or down-home comfort food.
If chicken and noodle is the Jewish penicillin, this is the kosher panacea! It represents all of the food groups you need for a complete meal. The Jewish Food Society’s version doesn’t just give you an authentic recipe. It also tells one of the many stories behind the creation of this ethnic masterpiece. Usually cooked in a chicken broth base with vegetables, this kosher treat features (hopefully) floating balls of matzah meal, water, eggs, and chicken fat (delightfully called “shmaltz” in Yiddish). You can substitute butter for chicken fat if you didn’t skim it off of your homemade stock. The chicken broth has virus-fighting vitamins A and C, and matzo is loaded with carbs to help fill you and bring up your energy. Take a lesson from the matzo masters and cook the balls in chicken broth before adding them to your soup.
Straight from a family of Southeast Asian immigrants, this soup is a fusion of tradition and modern pan-Asian cuisine. If you prefer a gluten free option, you can switch the vermicelli with rice noodles. But the real star of this show is not the noodles, but the Thai red curry. This garlicky, multi-layered flavor bomb derives its heat from the bird’s eye (Thai) chili pepper, which turns red and spicy when mature. The salty fish sauce contains lots of virus-killing vitamins A and D. The chicken gives you plenty of protein. The coconut milk gives it a silky smooth texture for the sorest of throats. The lime and red onions add just the right amount of bite and tang. Feel free to drop some shiitake mushrooms into this dish. It is cooked in one pot, and it actually takes the advertised 15 minutes!
Real Cold Busting
Of course, soup alone won’t cure your cold, but it will provide you with comfort (both mental and physical) while relieving some of your symptoms. And, of course, there is no cure yet for the common cold. However, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following measures to alleviate symptoms and speed up recovery:
- Get lots of rest.
- Make sure you are hydrated. (Soups are great for this!)
- Take care of a sore throat. Lozenges, hard candy, a saltwater gargle, and yes, soup will help.
- Use an antihistamine for congestion.
- Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain and fever.
Combine these measures with a bowl of soup from this list, and you’ll hopefully feel better in no time.