My Brain-Healthy Chicken Soup
Winter is coming. While cooking to support our long-term brain health, let’s also protect ourselves against common winter-related ailments, from the cold to the flu. This recipe combines a neuroscientist’s eye with Ayurvedic principles with a good old-fashioned chicken soup. It has plenty of vitamins and minerals, and lots of water to keep you hydrated during the harsh winter months. but what’s notable about this recipe from a brain health perspective is the combination of ingredients that boost the immune system with healthy proteins that protect the nervous system.
In particular, the chicken contains a high amount of protein, including all nine essential amino acids, and several B vitamins, especially vitamin B12 and B6. Those are essential in supporting the central nervous system … the brain. When scientists talk about “essential amino acids” (like tryptophan) it means that we do not synthesize these amino acids ourselves (like we do with “non-essential” amino acids like alanine and serine) and can only get them from food. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins. So chicken is a “complete protein.”
Often, conventional chicken soup recipes focus on the noodles or the rice more than the quality of the meat and the herbs and the veggies. In this recipe, it’s the quality of the ingredients that gives the soup such beneficial effects for immunity and brain health. Use the best organic chicken and veggies you can, and forget about the noodles
Prep time: 30 minutes; Total time: 2 hours; Difficulty: medium
Recipe type: Entree
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 small yellow onions, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 5 small organic carrots, sliced
- 3 stalks organic celery, sliced
- 1 organic parsnip, sliced (if you prefer potatoes, replace w/ 2 small yellow potatoes, chopped)
- 1 tbsp turmeric powder
- ½ ginger root, finely chopped
- ½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 1 organic free-range whole chicken
- 2 liters vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoons Brewer's Yeast (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t use any)
Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot. Add garlic and onion and cook until translucent (about 10 minutes).
While you’re waiting for the garlic and onion to cook, chop up all your veggies. Add them to the rest, together with the turmeric. Cook for 10 minutes, or until tender.
Place chicken in the pot, add parsley, rosemary, and ginger, fill with 1/2 of the vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for one hour.
Remove chicken from the soup and let cool on a cutting board. I often first put the chicken in a strainer and collect the broth that drains off, and put the broth back in the pot.
Remove meat from bones, and shred. Throw away skin and bones.
Return meat to the pot. Add the remaining broth, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until you feel it’s cooked enough. Add Brewer's Yeast before serving.
This will yield 8 servings or more, enough to get through a bad cold, or to prevent one. And it has what you need to keep your brain healthy long after winter has passed. Buon appetito!