By: Aileen Brabazon Dec 15, 2010

A steaming bowl of soup may do more than comfort you on a cold day. Find out how slurping it up can help your health.

Mama always said that chicken soup can clear up a cold. As such, she fed it to you when you were sick as a child and it made you feel better, which is why you use it now as a remedy for the sniffles.

In part, Mama was right. There’s no conclusive scientific proof that the chicken-noodle combo is a cold-curer, but soups in general may help relieve symptoms. “Sipping the hot soup and breathing in the steam can help clear up congestion,” explains Nancy Guppy a registered dietitian and chef instructor at Chapman’s Landing Cooking Studio in Nipissing, Ont.  “Also, spices often added, such as garlic and black pepper, may help to thin mucous and make it easier to breathe.”

Your best bet it to make soup yourself, as canned varieties can be high in sodium. Plus, when you’re the chef, you have the option to stir in a variety of ingredients that benefit your body. Fill your pot with lots of vegetables, such as carrots, tomatoes and kale, as they contain the likes of vitamin C and A that help boost your immune system so it’s better able to battle germs. And add herbs such as rosemary and oregano, because they have anti-bacterial properties.  To make your soup a completely balanced, comforting and hearty meal, also include a protein source like chicken, a complex carb (rice or beans does the trick) and a healthy fat, such as olive oil, recommends Guppy.

Ready to brew up a batch of healthy soup? Here are a few delicious ones to try. 
Double the recipes and freeze the extras, so you always have soothing soup at the ready.

Three sensational soup recipes

Szechwan pumpkin soup


  • 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • ½ tsp dried chili pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 can (28-oz) pumpkin
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 3 cups water
  • ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp light tamari
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 can (400 g) light coconut milk
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds


1.  Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot that has a lid.  Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is softened.
2.  Add chili pepper flakes, ginger, celery until the onion and celery are softened.
3.  Stir in the pumpkin, carrots, water and peanut butter.  Stir well to dissolve peanut butter.  Continue cooking until tender and well combined, about 30 minutes.
4.  Stir in tamari, honey, sesame oil and coconut milk.  Using a blender or food processor, purée soup until smooth.  Stir in cilantro and sesame seeds. Heat over low heat until hot, but not boiling.
5.  To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and sesame seeds.

Variations: Substitute fresh parsley or another herb for the cilantro.  Try a mixture of carrots and squash, pumpkin and zucchini (approximately 5 cups).

Makes 6 servings

*Recipe developed by Nancy Guppy, RD

Tuscan vegetable and chicken soup with ricotta cheese toasts

This recipe is prepared with no salt. Herbs, fresh vegetables and cheese provide the flavour.


  • 1 lb cooked, cubed, chicken breast
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup dry navy beans
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • ¼ cup minced fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 4 Italian plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups diced zucchini
  • ¼ cup minced fresh basil


1. Put beans and water in a large soup pot with a tight fitting lid. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for about 60 minutes or until the beans are soft. Do not overcook.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrot and celery, rosemary and sage; cook for 10 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Stir vegetable mixture into beans (don't drain beans). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Stir in tomatoes, zucchini, and chicken and simmer until just tender (approximately 10 minutes).
4. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in basil; serve with cheese toasts.

Makes 10 servings

Cheese Toasts


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 20 pieces whole grain baguette
  • 1 cup light ricotta cheese
  • 6 tbsp romano cheese
  • ½ cup chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley


1. While soup is simmering, preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a heavy non-stick skillet, heat olive oil and fry bread slices for 1 minute per side or until golden brown. Spread ricotta cheese evenly over toasts. Place on baking sheet and sprinkle each with 1 tsp Romano cheese. Bake for 5 minutes or until golden – make sure they don't burn. Sprinkle with parsley.
3. To serve, place a ricotta cheese toast on each serving of soup and pass the remaining slices at the table.

*Recipes courtesy of the Chicken Farmers of Canada

Country style chicken tortilla soup


  • 2 lb chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
  • 13 cups water
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 4 cloves garlic. minced
  • 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 plum tomatoes, whole
  • ¼ cup  chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce* (to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
  • ½ cup  fresh minced cilantro
  • 1 ¾ oz  white corn tortilla chips (round)
  • 1 cup partly skimmed mozzarella cheese


1. Simmer chicken thighs in the water in a large stockpot with lid for at least an hour.
2. Sauté the onions and garlic in oil until clear (about 3 minutes), then add to chicken stock.
3. Purée whole plum tomatoes with chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce. The chipotle peppers add a good amount of heat so adjust as necessary. Add to chicken stock, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Cut avocado in half and remove pit and peel. Cut the avocado and lime into small cubes. Place in small bowl for garnish.
5. Assemble this soup by putting a few avocado chunks, chopped cilantro and corn chips in each bowl.
6. Ladle soup over and top with cheese. Serve with little wedges of lime.

Makes 10 servings

*Recipe courtesy of the Chicken Farmers of Canada

Aileen Brabazon is a freelance writer based in Toronto who's work has appeared in glow, Hello! Canada, Viva, Oxygen, Rouge and on Her favourite things to write about are nutrition, alternative health and green living, which isn't a surprise considering she's also a certified holistic nutritionist. Between writing, helping clients improve their diets and wellbeing and teaching children with autism, Aileen loves to cook organic foods, hike in nature, volunteer at Evergreen Brick Works farmers' market, unwind with yoga and meditation and dance to Stevie Wonder and Al Green. You can reach Aileen at