The medical magic of chicken soup

MADISON, Wis. — Chicken soup is an age-old remedy to treat many different ailments and for many good reasons. Many believe there is growing evidence to support this prescription for physical and mental health.

“It’s the beginning of the year, it’s cold. The body needs an extra boost during the coldest months. Creating soup reduces stress, it’s good fellowship and it makes us feel good,” SSM Health family medicine physician Dr. Zorba Paster said.

Dr. Paster is a passionate advocate of home cooking and nutrition. He shared one of his favorite recipes for matzo ball chicken soup, often dubbed “the Jewish penicillin.”

“We know that good eating and good nutrition improves the immune system in a number of ways and chicken soup might have something special,” he said. “You have the physiological aspect which is, soup is warm. You have moisture going into your nose and nutrition that you’ve made and controlled. You have another aspect which is very important for immunity. The reduction of stress. When we are stressed, we are not healthy psychologically. Study after study has shown stress reduces your ability to fight and work on your immune system.”

The idea that chicken soup has medicinal benefits dates back to ancient times. Some doctors believe the soup’s benefits are mainly psychosomatic, that it’s the ultimate comfort food. Others say the steaming hot soup clears congestion and provides the body with the necessary hydration to flush out viral bugs.

“We don’t really know if we get COVID-19 what the factors are to make us better,” Paster said. “However, we do know if you have more resilience, you’re more likely to survive COVID-19. Good food, good eating, good soup gives you resilience and sitting down with someone else and sharing that soup, gives you even more resilience.”

Zorba’s Chicken Soup with Matzos Balls

The Soup


· 2 extra-large onions

· 8 cups of water

· 8 tsp of Better than Bouillon Chicken

· 1 lb. pkg. of Skinless Chicken Breasts – cut into bite-sized pieces

· 1 lb. package of carrots – coarsely chopped (you can use a cellophane package of smaller carrots)

· Parsnips – 1 large one or 3 small ones.

· 1 Tbsp. of poultry seasoning (I use Penzey’s. They’re the best.)

· 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper.


How to make it

· Heat the water to boiling, turn it down to a simmer and whisk in the bouillon. It’s important to whisk it; stirring it doesn’t work as well.

· Put in the chicken, onions, carrots, & parsnips.

· Simmer for 1 hour.

· Correct the seasoning – if it’s not salty enough or needs more chicken flavor, add 1 to 3 tsp of Better than Bouillon. That has enough salt so you probably will not need any additional.


The Matzo Balls

Buy Matzo Meal at your local grocery store.

Follow the instructions exactly on the package, but the secret for making a fluffy Matzos dumpling is to add 1 tsp of baking powder for each ½ cup of Matzos Meal.

The other thing that’s important is to boil the dumpling in a large pot so that the water temperature does not go down too fast. Keeping that water hot and near boiling makes for a fluffier dumpling.