What Is Bird's Nest Soup?

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Birds nest soup is a type of Chinese food that is purported to have numerous healing qualities. For the last 400 years, it has been thought to be one of the world’s most expensive foods. And when you hear what it’s made from, you might double take…

What it’s Made From

Birds nest soup is essentially made from spit.

Yes, the name is accurate. This soup is indeed made from bird nests. But rather than being the product of leaves, twigs and egg shell, it is made from the saliva of certain species of swallow. The birds line these nests with their saliva and regurgitated seaweed which forms into a hard outer layer. The whiter varieties are generally thought to be better and they come in small, biscuit-like pieces. The idea is that they can be boiled in hot water or a pre-existing soup in order to give it texture. Reportedly, the taste is not something to write home about…

And just how much is this hardened spit and bile? It can cost you anywhere up to $4,500. So these health benefits better be pretty darn extraordinary…

Health Benefits

On the plus side, birds’ nest soup is now also being added to a range of other foods and drinks, as well as various cosmetic products. In these formats, you can enjoy some of the benefits for a slightly less inhibitory cost.

So what are they supposed to do for you?

Among other things, they are thought to be aphrodisiacs (you can buy them in the shape of hearts), anti-carcinogens and youth promoters.

Unfortunately, there is zero evidence to support any of this. The polite way of saying that is ‘the healing qualities of birds’ nests are still a mystery’.

What we can do is take a look at the constituent parts. On the plus side, they do contain hormones including testosterone and estradiol according to some researchers. This would likely back up claims regarding the effects on libido, although whether these are present in the right quantities remains to be seen.

Otherwise, the nests are a complete source of essential amino acids (so are eggs) and provide some carbohydrates and lipids (fats).

Unfortunately though, a lot of people are also deathly allergic to them. They are known to cause anaphylaxis in a lot of people and seeing as you’ve probably never had the opportunity to try one before, you won’t know until you’re struggling to breathe. That’s a very expensive trip to the hospital!

In conclusion, this is a fascinating piece of culinary culture but not something you need to be seeking out…

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Dr. Everett Derrickson

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Dr. Everett Derrickson

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