Benefits of Homemade Chicken Soup

2013-01-26 — 23 Comments

~ The Very Real Benefits of Homemade Chicken Broth ~

Sure it’s easy enough to pick up cans or a box of chicken broth at the store, but even with purchasing organic products the extra processing required for packaging mass quantities means it no longer has many of the original nutritional benefits. Also these products often have extra things added to lengthen shelf life that you may not want to be ingesting, especially in the non-organic options.

Chicken Noodle SoupStudies have proven what grandmothers through the ages have already known: chicken broth made with whole chicken parts is very good for us. Here are some of the facts science has revealed:

At least one study has found that chicken soup can slow down the inflammatory process that’s triggered by infection. It has been shown to reduce the length of a cold and assist with recovery (this isn’t an Old Wives Tale, but it only works with the stock made from whole chicken parts). In addition, cysteine, an amino acid that chicken releases when it’s cooked, is chemically similar to a common bronchitis drug. The warm, soothing broth can thin mucus and calm congestion and cough, and if your tummy is fine and you add a dash of hot sauce like my family enjoys, you’ll get an added boost of sinus-clearing benefits.

Chicken broth is hydrophillic. This means that when you ingest it, it attracts water (instead of repelling it, like most cooked foods do), and it becomes especially easy to digest and assimilate the nutrients. For people who have trouble digesting raw vegetables, and for people (as most do) who ingest pasteurized milk, bone broths add significant quality and benefit to the diet.

The glycosaminoglycans in the connective tissue contain over 100 compounds that are supportive of your own connective tissue. For people with arthritis and/or joint issues, this is especially helpful, but it is also good for everyone. If you think about a person who takes a glucosamine supplement for their joints, consider that consuming broths made from a whole chicken contain that compound plus around 100 more. Additionally, the natural forms of these compounds are more easily assimilated in the body compared to a synthetic supplement. The compounds in the bones/joints also translate to healthy (strong and flexible) bones.

Chicken broth is soothing and repairing for the digestive tract. People with IBS, colitis, gluten issues, and/or other intestinal conditions will find broth helpful in repairing damage to the mucosal lining of the intestines.

Along with excellent benefits for our health, here are more benefits:

Throwing away chicken bones is terribly wasteful. They’re full of minerals such as calcium that can be used to nourish our family. Also I feel that utilizing every part of an animal as much as possible shows respect for its offering of life. After a chicken dinner if I don’t have time (or energy) to make broth I’ll wrap the bones and leftover chicken tightly and freeze for up to one month before proceeding to make broth.

Making our own is so much more nutritious than buying it. Even the natural brands are very watered down and poor in nutritional value. They often use “natural” flavorings and coloring to make up for the poor quality of the stock. Less natural brands can be full of refined salts and MSG. Making your own broth gives you a mineral rich, nutritious base for all sorts of wonderful meals.

Good nutrition is always paired with superior taste. We love homemade broth so much that we will sometimes sip it hot in mugs, simply salted (Yes, broth needs added salt). A good homemade broth gives you the foundation for making delicious soups and sauces and a myriad of other uses. You can cook your grains in it for extra nutrition and taste. You can flavor chicken potpie, stir fry’s, and many other dishes with it.

Also when we utilize the bones and leftover bits of chicken, we save money! We don’t have to buy those expensive “natural” boxes of chicken broth at the store when we have our own on hand in the freezer.

Luckily making our own stock is very easy and refreshingly satisfying.

Start with an organic free-range chicken (the essence of the animal is going into your soup, so if it’s a hormone/antibiotic exposed chicken, your soup will reflect that).

cast iron enameled potNext, ideally use an enameled cast iron stockpot if you can. While Le Creuset is the name for a lifetime investment and future heirloom pot, we can’t all afford the hundreds of dollars for the up-front investment, so luckily there are other suppliers of decent enameled pots with much more reasonable price tags. It’s best to avoid using a slow cooker or crockpot if there is anything acidic in the recipe, such as the vinegar required here. Read more about the risks of lead leaching from crockpot liners here.

To increase the calcium of your broth make sure to add cider vinegar to the stock, and ensure you cook it gently for long periods of time, such as 12-24 hours (but not beyond 24 hours as off flavors can develop). It was found in more than one study that the calcium content increases through length of cooking time when in an acidic liquid. You can also let the bones sit in the acidic water for about an hour before heating. This may allow even more of the beneficial minerals to leach from the chicken bones.

I have made chicken broth many ways, such as using chicken necks and backs, leftover bones stripped of meat, raw meat on bones, using whole vegetables, using leftover vegetable scraps saved from a week of chopping etc.  This is to say the art of making stock is very flexible. The following recipe is what I use because it’s frugal and always results in a delicious tasting broth.

Please note that this very healthy chicken broth, or stock if you prefer, will become gelatinous like jello once cooled. It will re-liquify upon reheating.


Homemade Chicken Broth

1 chicken carcass (or a bag of bones from the freezer, see *Note)
1-2 pounds of organic raw chicken legs or pieces 
3-5 chicken feet, optional (kept frozen in the freezer; see **Note)
4 organic carrots, scrubbed and cut into 3 inch pieces
4 organic celery stalks, washed and cut into 3 inch pieces
1 large organic onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 bay leaves
10-15 peppercorns
A few sprigs of thyme
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (you cannot taste it in the final product)

chicken broth ingredientsPut everything into a large stock pot and cover with filtered water about an inch or two above the top of the ingredients. To draw out more of the calcium from the bones, let sit for 30 minutes to an hour at room temperature. Bring to a low simmer and cover. Never boil stock. Keep at a gentle simmer for 3-24 hours, skimming any foam that may rise to the top. The longer you simmer the more flavor and minerals leach out into the stock. I find that a 10-12 hour simmer works perfectly for me (Don’t go past 24 hours or the broth will become bitter and too dark). Once done, allow to cool, and pour through a colander into another large pot. 
This lovely broth is now ready to be made into Chicken Noodle Soup with the addition of diced carrot, onion, and celery with seasonings like basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, bay, salt and pepper. Once simmered a few minutes, add some egg noodles and cook until tender, and stir in cooked, chopped chicken and frozen peas if desired and stir until heated through.
Cooled chicken broth can also be frozen in 1-, 2-, or 4-Cup containers ready and waiting to be added to soups, stews, sauces and recipes of all kinds. Enjoy!
*Note: Whenever we make drumsticks for dinner, or any type of chicken on the bone, we save the bones for making this stock! After dinner add them to a freezer bag kept in the freezer until there’s enough to make a pot of stock. (Although for some it may seem strange at first to save bones that people have eaten off, a 12-hour simmer is going to kill any ‘cooties’ but if you prefer just have your family cut their meat off the bones.)
**Note: Regarding the chicken feet, some find this practice barbaric; however remember that using all parts of the chicken show proper respect to the gift of life from the animal. The feet are an excellent source of gelatin. Find them at Asian stores or from local farmers.

(References: Kitchen Comfort for Cold and Flu Sufferers article by Amy Ahlberg, The Nourishing Gourmet by Kimberly Harris, Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones by Annemarie Colbin)

Additional Reading: ‘A Comfort Food Classic: Chicken Noodle Soup‘ by Modern Girl Nutrition

http://moderngirlnutrition.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/a-comfort-food-classic-chicken-noodle-soup/

23 responses to Benefits of Homemade Chicken Soup

  1. 

    Gina dear, I love this topic. And I know how wonderful homemade stock tastes, yet since I discovered Imagine’s Organic stocks, especially vegetable, I rely on them for the base of most recipes calling for stock. Kudos to you and those you inspire to create it all at home. I do recycle the boxes! 😉

    • 

      Hello dear Diane 🙂 Thanks for your cheer of support, it means so much! I’m glad you can get Imagine’s great stocks – perfect for a quick start to a healthy soup or other recipe. And you make me smile with the recycle comment, because of course you do! We love recycling. It’s the only way to go (well, up there after reusing and repurposing 😉 ). Cheers, Gina

  2. 

    I make my own stock too. It just tastes better. Must be the love that goes into making it 🙂

  3. 

    Hello Gina – I’m so happy you found me – thank you. This is the first post of yours I clicked on and I can tell we are kindred spirits. My family once threw out the turkey carcass and I was devastated! I looked longingly at it in the compost bin and decided to let it go… and breathe! I love homemade stock and agree about using all the part of the animal out of respect. Did not know about adding apple cider vinegar but will do that and also admire your Le Creuset pot very much. Nice to “meet you”…. Lindy.

    • 

      Hello Lindy! Thank you for this wonderful comment. I am delighted that you’ve come over here and are finding things to enjoy. I enjoy your blog as well and fully believe we’ve found in each other a kindred spirit 🙂 And us Ontario and Alberta gals can lament about this snow and together look forward to spring! (I keep checking for melting) Very nice to meet you too! Gina

  4. 

    Miso Soup is our chicken soup, same warm “comfort” but without taking the life of a poult first. Homemade stock is a must! Not only does it just taste better (you make it to your tastebud) aseptic shelf-stable containers (here, anyway) are not recyclable. My kids make this warm tummy treat on demand with fresh shrooms and greens, tofu, and miso paste. A staple in this household in any season, for any age.

    • 

      Thanks so much for your visit and wonderful comment Shannon! Yes I realize this stock takes the life of a poult and I want to mention that the more I enjoy blogs like yours the more vegetarian meals, and ‘days’ I am creating for myself and my family. So thank you again for sharing these excellent tips on making it with miso 🙂 Mushrooms are a staple in my home because they help reduce (or eliminate) meat from meals with their own ‘meaty’ texture. First tried it with chili and my family didn’t even notice it was meat-free! Hugs of gratitude, Gina

  5. 

    Thank you so much for the sweet shoutout! I had no clue that chicken broth had this many benefits. And agreed- there is nothing better than a homemade version. Have a great night!

    • 

      Thanks so much for coming back over, and it is indeed my pleasure to share a link to your delicious recipe for chicken soup 🙂 Cheers, Gina

  6. 

    Great post. As a kid, it was my favorite and now my kids love it.

  7. 

    Really love this post! We used to joke as kids that our family’s chicken soup could heal wounds. I always knew it was special but never had a clue it has this many benefits! My own is similiar to my grandmother’s and the one you have listed here. Homemade truly is much better. We’re too cluttered with boxed garbage nowadays.

    • 

      Hello and thank you for this wonderful comment! Sincere apologies for my tardy response as I have been away but am back and so thankful for your comment. Yes I agree with your old family joke that good chicken soup can even ‘heal wounds’! It is pretty special stuff, and so worth the bit of effort. Thanks again! Cheers 🙂

      • 

        No need to apologize. 🙂 I very much enjoyed visiting.
        Considering your blog’s content, I think you’d enjoy visiting my friends here:
        B4Peace
        You may’ve heard about this already, but if not, I think you’d enjoy checking us out. There’s no pressure or strict rules. Just one post a month dedicated to peace is all we ask. 🙂
        Thank you for your time & lovely response.

        • 

          Hello and I appreciate your delightful comment. And how wonderful of you to be spreading the news about Bloggers4Peace! Cheri and Kozo will be so proud of you! While you’d have to read my About page to see this, I’ve been a part of the movement for a few months now as a writer for World Peace at ProfessionsForPeace.com. I have (so far) chosen to keep this site more about how to live as green and frugal as possible while still living in the suburbs (although I want to live on an organic farm, hubby isn’t ready for that!).
          Love and Hugs, Gina

          • 

            Yay! I’m glad to have met you & sorry I didn’t realize you were already involved. 🙂 Silly me. Very pleased to have met you anyway! I love your blog! 🙂

            • 

              Hello dear one, and no you are not silly 😀 I am truly honored and delighted that you enjoy this blog too and thought to invite me to the peace group. That feels like the nicest hug, and I happily share a loving hug right back to you. And I love your blog too! Love, Gina

          • 

            Ha! Wow! I feel stupid! I already have you on my list with your ProfessionsForPeace blog & wasn’t aware they were written by the same lovely Gina!
            After I fully read your comment I was like waaaaaaiiitt a minute! I know Gina!
            Boy, I feel like such a ditz!

            • 

              Hi again 😀 You make me laugh with your “waaaaiitt a minute!” So cute! I totally get that, and please do not say such things because you are FAR from being a stupid ditz. I know you’re kidding but still… I like these words to describe you: Sweet, Caring, Funny, Kind.. and more nice descriptive words. Your visits just make my day, and I always enjoy visiting your delightful CardCastlesInTheSky. Love and Hugs, Gina

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