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Immune Support Chicken Stock

I remember as a kid any time that I was sick I'd want chicken noodle soup.  I'd crave it, especially if I had a sore throat. I still do, though not the canned kind any more.  I used to keep cans of various kinds of chicken broth type soups on hand for recipes or just in case someone in the family got sick. BUT, now I know better!

After studying natural health and how food affects our bodies, I graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as a health coach in 2010.  Knowing that where our food comes from and how it's processed is one of the most important steps to keeping our body healthy.  Although that is a very important topic to share, it's for another article another time.  I mention it here only to explain what put me on the path of finding the healthiest ways to feed my family.  So let's get back to chicken broth/stock/bone broth.

It turns out that when you're under the weather chicken soup is more than just something our moms and grandmothers gave us as the traditional "get well" food. There's actually been studies that back up the idea that it really does positively support the body's immune response and help us feel better, as well as nourish the body!

This broth is amazing!  You will want to just sip it as it is, because it's really that tasty!  So do it, because it provides your body with so many valuable nutrients and immune supporting (and digestive supporting) properties.  But, if you can keep from drinking it all, it's also fabulous used in any recipe that calls for chicken broth or stock.  I want to talk about the importance of the ingredients, but if you're in a hurry feel free to  Jump To The Recipe first. 

Let's Talk About The Chicken

I don't want to make this a long, dull to most people, dissertation on the immune system supporting benefits of chicken broth, so I'll just hit some highlights.  According to studies, broth made from chicken has been shown to help  clear up nasal congestion and ease upper and lower respiratory symptoms.  Sipping chicken broth can help you stay hydrated while soothing a sore throat, and it's excellent for supporting your digestive system. Chicken soup is a nutrient dense option when your appetite is low because it is high in B vitamins, especially B3 (niacin), and minerals such as selenium which is necessary for optimal immune function.  Chicken also contains many amino acids and is a concentrated source of tryptophan - known for its ability to promote increase in serotonin which support a more relaxed body to enhance restful sleep.

Quality matters! When picking your chicken to make broth (or picking a chicken to consume in general) it's important to get a high quality bird, even if more expensive. A good source is to buy local where you can get to know the farmer and how they raise their chickens. We are fortunate to have a Mennonite community near us that is an excellent source for meat, eggs, dairy and produce locally grown and processed.  Most of the time the cost is about the same and sometimes less expensive than the lower quality options at the grocery stores. Farmers markets also provide access to local farmers who sell their locally raised meat. However, if you haven't found a local source for chicken be sure to talk with the head of the meat department of your grocery store to find out the best quality they offer.  Ideally you want to pick a chicken that is organic, has been pasture-raised (or free-ranged) vs conventionally raised.  One step better is to choose a chicken that has been supplemented with organic and non-GMO feed to avoid glyphosate (from the herbicide Roundup) used on ingredients of conventional chicken feed which can build up in the chicken's bones and then end up in your food.  YUCK!

Chicken Broth vs Stock vs Bone Broth

Is this recipe considered a broth or a stock or a bone broth?  That's an interesting question.  The truthful answer is that I'm not sure.  Based on technical definitions it doesn't really fit perfectly in either category, but I'm leaning more toward "stock". Let me explain based on common definitions.

  • Broth is basically any kind of liquid that has meat and/or vegetables cooked into it and can be made in a relatively short amount of time.  It is usually seasoned and will not turn gelatinous when it cools.
  • Stock is normally made from meat and the bones and often contains vegetables and it's usually cooked from 2 to 4 hours.  Because it's cooked for longer than broth it is richer and more nutrient-dense than broth.  It usually also remains liquid when cooled, though it is thicker than broth.
  • Bone Broth is made similar to stock but it often uses roasted bones and is slow boiled much longer - often 24+ hours. It is the most nutrient-dense of the three because the longer boil time releases more nutrients, including collagen which makes it gelatinous when it cools. It is more often used for sipping on its own for gut health and immune support rather than adding to recipes, though there is nothing wrong with cooking with it.
So based on the above, I believe my recipe falls more in the "stock" category; however, more times than not, mine does become gelatinous when it is refrigerated even though I start with a raw chicken and only boil it for 2 hours.

The Other Recipe Ingredients Have Benefits, Too!

  • Onion - onions offer several anti-inflammatory affects due to their content of Vitamin C and quercetin along with other flavonoids which can help kill harmful bacteria, as well as reduce the severity of symptoms associated with the common cold making them an especially good addition in soups, stews and broths to consume during cold and flu season.
  • Garlic - like onions, garlic contains phytonutrient compounds that reduce inflammation.  Garlic contains allicin, a sulfur compound which is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent that works well with Vitamin C to help kill harmful microbes and can be effective against common infections like colds, flu, stomach viruses and Candida yeast.
  • Leeks - like both onions and garlic, leeks are high in phytonutrients and sulfur compounds.
  • Carrots - carrots are an excellent source of Vitamins A, K and C.  Although the healthiest way to eat carrots is to shred them and eat them raw (for easiest digestibility) steaming them for only 5 minutes maintains their nutrients and prevents them from being mushy.  However, boiling them in a broth allows them to release their nutrients which is what we want since we are discarding the remaining solid carrot anyway.
  • Celery - celery is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C and a strong flavor enhancer for soups and stews. Celery contains antioxidant compounds that enhance the activity of certain white blood cells which support the immune system by targeting and eliminating harmful cells.  Like carrots, they are best raw or steamed al dente rather than boiled, except for releasing their nutrients into a broth when consuming the solid celery is not intended.
  • Lemongrass - lemongrass is a culinary herb as a citrusy flavored grass that adds a unique flavor in recipes.  It's also a powerhouse with high content of Vitamins A, B and C and is known for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that support the immune system to deal with a cold or flu and overcome infection. It's also helpful in breaking down mucus and phlegm buildup to support easier breathing.
  • Turmeric powder - Turmeric is a spice that is an orangey-yellow color and is the main spice in curry.  It is an excellent source of manganese (protects cells from free radical damage) and iron (supports a healthy immune system and enhances oxygen distribution in the body) and turmeric provides a concentrated source of the anti-inflammatory phytonutrient curcumin (a natural pain reliever and has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties among many of its benefits).  Turmeric powder best paired with black pepper to increase the absorbability of its curcumin to reap the most benefit.
  • Ginger - fresh ginger provides more flavor than dried when making broth.  Ginger has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and supports the body to fight off bacterial infections while also supporting healthy digestion.
  • Herbs of thyme, rosemary and oregano not only provide excellent flavor but they are each powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibiotic properties to help fight off bacteria and viruses.
When at all possible, buy organic for each ingredient.  Eating clean goes a long way to improving/maintaining your health!

What If You're Missing Some Of These Ingredients?

Make it anyway!  I've made it without having leeks or lemongrass, because sometimes I just can't find those.  I have substituted shallots for leeks.  I've even used more of the herbs I do have if I don't have each one that the recipe calls for.  Curry powder can be substituted for the turmeric powder.  I often add 1-2 drops of dōTERRA essential oils of celery, lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, thyme, rosemary and/or oregano if I'm missing any of those ingredients, or if I want to enhance the flavor and the benefits that those ingredients provide, because small amounts of high quality essential oils provide amazing support to the body.

Let's Talk About Salt

This recipe make unsalted chicken stock.  If I'm making it to use in other recipes, then I don't add any salt, or maybe just a teaspoon in Sept 7 because I know that my recipes also add salt.  If I'm making this just to sip, then I'll add up to 3 teaspoons in Step 7 which gives it the extra layer of flavor without being too salty.  My preference of salt to use is fine ground pink Himalayan sea salt, because it has less sodium and contains other trace minerals.  The fine ground dissolves the best so you don't end up with pieces of salt in your broth.  When adding for the first time, add in 1 teaspoon at a time, stir and taste.  You can always add more, but you can't take it out.  Also, I like to leave it less salty and allow others to adjust for their particular taste.  I do the same with extra black pepper.  It can always be added later if needed.

It's So Easy To Make!

This is a staple in our house.  It's really easy to make, it tastes so good and it's so good for you!  I always have some in the freezer for last minute recipe needs or to thaw and sip it if we're feeling under the weather or on a cold winter day.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!  Let me know in the comments when you make it. 

If you jumped straight to the recipe without reviewing my tips in this blog, I highly recommend you go back and read the whole thing.  But I get it!  I always just straight to the recipes first before reading blog posts!

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