I Ate Soup Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened

Updated: Dec. 23, 2023

If you've been craving soup season, a doctor lifts the lid on science that shows soup really does have healing powers and shares a fall soup dish your tastebuds and immune system will adore.

Soup has always been more than a meal for me—it’s a symbol of comfort and nostalgia that takes me back to the vibrant autumns and brisk winters of my Pennsylvania upbringing. Even in hot weather I enjoyed a cozy bowl.

My mom’s homemade Italian wedding and chicken noodle soups were my absolute favorites. They had a way of offering warmth that gathered family around the table during the holidays, and solace when I was sick. So many of us can relate to the comforting power of family soup recipes passed down through generations—and there’s some science that supports this.

A popular study from 2000, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal CHEST, explored the longstanding belief in chicken soup as a remedy for upper respiratory tract infections. The research, conducted by lung doctor Dr. Stephen Rennard, MD, Dr. Barbara Rennard, and their team of respiratory experts, analyzed the components of a chicken soup recipe passed down from Dr. Barbara Rennard’s grandmother.

The results were exciting. The researchers discovered that certain ingredients, notably the chicken and vegetables, inhibited neutrophil migration—an essential part of the immune response. This revelation indicated a possible mild anti-inflammatory effect, providing scientific support to the widely held belief in the healing properties of chicken soup for respiratory illnesses like cold, flu, and today perhaps even COVID.

I’ve also recently been introduced to a unique recipe from my soon-to-be mother-in-law—a variation of Haiti’s Joumou soup, a dish so esteemed that UNESCO recognizes it as part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage. Joumou soup is a medley of rich flavors and wholesome nutrients and an emblem of heritage and shared stories, weaving generations together through culinary tradition. With her kind permission, we’re sharing the recipe for nourishing Joumou soup—which stars a member of the pumpkin family and is perfect for fall with immune-boosting benefits.

The nutritional profile of soup

According to Alexis Supan, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic, soup can indeed serve as a nutritional powerhouse when it’s loaded with healthy ingredients. Good soup also fills the belly in a unique way: “People who eat soup regularly tend to have lower calorie intake,” Supan says, “which can help with maintaining a healthy weight.”

Homemade soups enhance your level of control over what goes in the pot, letting you tailor your batch while managing sodium—a common preservative in canned soups that can lead to various health issues when it’s consumed in excess. The American Heart Association says it’s recommended to limit your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less per day. (Note: Many consumer-brand canned soups contain more than half your daily amount…and that’s if you follow the serving size on the label!)

Supan recommends scrutinizing nutrition labels, opting for soups that are rich in vegetables, whole grains like barley or rice, and lean proteins, and avoiding soup products labeled “cream” or “bisque.” If you’re seeking flavor without high sodium, season your soup with herbs, spices, lemon or lime juice (try it—it’s a treat), and roasted ingredients.

Bone broth-based soups, which tend to be rich in protein, offer the dual benefits of curbing hunger and boosting the immune system, making them particular winners during fall and winter virus season.

Regardless of whether you choose homemade or store-bought soups, being mindful of ingredients and nutritional content are key to reaping the health benefits of soup.

I Had Bone Broth Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened

When I ate homemade soup, I felt more satisfied after my meals

I began with homemade soups—namely lentil, tomatillo, and Italian wedding soups. Right after eating I felt satisfied but light, a sensation Supan validates: “If you are choosing healthy soups made with vegetables and lean protein, like beans or chicken … soup can promote satiety for fewer calories than other meals because of the high water volume it has.”

I also enjoyed the labor of love process it took to prepare these soups, and at one point my partner commented on how good the kitchen smelled. To me, soup is love in a pot. I felt a sense of accomplishment and contentment—one more reason maybe soups really are good for the body as well as the soul.

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When I ate canned soup, I felt a higher level of thirst

Not everyone has the time or the budget to make soup from scratch anytime they want. But when I switched to canned soups like creamy tomato and chicken noodle soup, I noticed a contrast in the way I felt versus the feeling the homemade bowls gave me.

Most noticeably, I immediately felt a marked increase in my thirst—a sign my system was craving hydration to flush the rush of sodium. Supan points out the pitfalls of excessive sodium consumption, leading to potential health risks such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

This Cleveland Clinic expert also recommends a gradual shift to low-sodium versions of canned soup, pointing out that our taste buds can adjust to lower salt levels so we enjoy them just as much as the full-sodium versions.

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Homemade Joumou soup recipe

Calabaza squash is a member of the pumpkin family. Pumpkins provide nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E, which are some of the most powerful vitamins to prep your immune system for fall virus season.

If calabaza pumpkin is tough to find, butternut squash makes a great substitute.

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings):

  • 1/2 calabaza pumpkin or butternut squash

  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks

  • 3 medium Russet potatoes, washed and quartered

  • 1 celery stalk

  • 1 white turnip, washed and quartered

  • 1 small cabbage, chopped

  • 1 leek

  • 1 parsley sprig

  • 1 green bell pepper

  • 1 medium green onion

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 large yellow onion

  • 1/2-cup of pasta (rotini, penne, or broken angel hair spaghetti)

  • 1 pound of beef stew meat or chicken breast, cubed

  • 1/2-cup broth of the meat you select
  • Salt, to taste

  • Pepper, to taste

  • Margarine or butter, to taste

  • All-purpose seasoning to taste

  • Juice of one lime

  • 1/2-cup tomato sauce

  • Water, enough to cover all ingredients in the pot


  • Prepare the meat: Wash the meat with lime juice, rinse in hot water, and drain. Season the meat and let it marinate for at least 10 minutes—the longer, the better. Add some olive oil, diced garlic, and the meat in a stockpot. Brown with a couple teaspoons of water and let it caramelize. Add 1/2-cup of broth, cover, and let it cook until tender. If you’re using a pressure cooker, this will take about 10 minutes.

  • Prepare the vegetables: While the meat is cooking, wash, peel, and cut all the vegetables into medium pieces. Cut the calabaza squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut the halves into ¾-inch to one-inch slices. (The skin can be left on for now and removed later.) Boil the squash in a large pot of water for about 15 minutes until cooked. Once it’s cool enough to handle, remove the skin and blend the squash into a puree with a bit of water.

  • Combine and cook: In the same large pot, add more water if needed and combine all the veggies, spices, and the squash puree. Bring it to a boil on medium heat, then add the cooked meat and pasta. Continue cooking until the pasta is al dente. Adjust the seasoning with salt, butter, and pepper as needed. Cover the pot and let it simmer on low heat. Allow the soup to rest for five minutes before serving with lime wedges on the side.

Bon Appetit!

Recipe by Aldine Parisot

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