Being sick is a miserable experience. It’s even worse when food can’t be kept down, which leads to weakness and delays recovery. When ill, it’s best to consume foods
that, even if they don’t taste great, are loaded with nutrients and will help you recuperate. Some foods are better than others at helping you during an illness.
Advances in medical science come and nutritional fads go, but we keep on eating soup to get better when we’re ill. On the sofa or tucked up in bed feeling ill? Convalescent cookery has remained “remarkably constant” for centuries,
As far back as 12th Century, physicians were recommending chicken soup – known as “Jewish penicillin” – to combat cold. A healthy soup provides an easy way to digest the nutrients you need, especially when you’re ill. Even today, most people intuitively think of ideal food for convalescents in much the same terms as people five centuries ago.
It seems that rather than foods scientifically determined to help recovery, these are mostly comfort foods.
Soup’s close appearance to baby food is the reason why you eat it, when ill. Both are nutritious, without being hard to digest, and the way both are prepared means they are “predigested” before being served. It’s definitely a matter of comfort and going back to basics.
The psychological links people have with food do stem from childhood, says food psychologist Christy Fergusson. As you grow up, when you want to feel comforted you look to what your mothers would have provided. Over time you build up food associations and there’s also a sense of connection with your homes – you like to think of them as warm and cosy. There’s a definite tie there to your appreciation of warm and comforting food.
The ancient recipes for soup and broths remain very similar to those in modern cookbooks, with ingredients and techniques handed down through generations. Not many recipes are still handed down this way, but soup is one of them. There are emotional reasons for this.
There’s something about it that means you serve it to people in times of trouble, that’s because it takes an enormous amount of care.
Soup covers all bases – the psychological, physiological and nutritional. When you’re feeling very sorry for yourself, psychologically you need to be comforted. On the nutritional side, it does make you feel better if you have fluid through soup. Physiologically, it’s a vehicle to get essential nutrients from vegetables, as people struggle with getting five-a-day and you can have three of your five in one bowl.
Home-made soups are held up as being the most nutritious (if low in fat and without cream). The game-changer for ready-made soups came in 1987 when the New Covent Garden Company introduced its first chilled soup. Now supermarkets have their own brands and soup is a staple in coffee and sandwich chains.