Recipes for immune health
Wherever you are in the world at the moment, you and your family’s immune health is bound to be on your mind. In this article I want to talk about one of the ways we can take our immunity into our own hands by making use of one of our most valuable skills: cooking.
And what better way to spend time in self-isolation than making nutritious, immune-modulating soups, snacks, drinks and herbal tonics for ourselves and our families? Below are three easy recipes that promise to boost immunity by providing nutrition, supporting the gut flora, delivering antimicrobial activity and lowering inflammation.
Immunity-boosting chicken and turmeric soup
Soup is food for the soul. Chicken soup is also a classic recipe for immune health - it’s incredibly nutritious, especially if made with homemade bone broth. However, I usually just use veg or chicken stock and it still does the trick. This particular recipe contains fresh turmeric and ginger - two powerful antiviral, antioxidant, warming spices. I also add the garlic in right at the end of the cooking process to really capture its flavour in the soup and retain more of its antibacterial properties.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small yellow onions finely chopped
2 large carrots chopped
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts chopped
1 thumb fresh turmeric
1 thumb fresh ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt to taste
3 cups chicken bone broth / veg or chicken stock
1 tin full-fat canned coconut milk
1 small head kale chopped
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until transluscent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots and sweet potato and continue sauteeing, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened but still al dente, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the chopped chicken and cook just long enough to brown the meat, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients except for the garlic, stir well and cover. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes. Then add the minced garlic. Stir, serve and enjoy!
Shiitake mushrooms are among the most powerful medicinal mushrooms available to us in supermarkets.. One 2015 study showed that consumption of shiitake mushrooms in 52 healthy men & women aged 21-41 years improved cell effector function and enhanced gut immunity, as well as having an overall anti-inflammatory effect. This was a 4 week trial where participants consumed 5-10g of mushrooms daily. I add shiitake mushrooms to soups, risottos, stir-fries, eggy breakfasts or just eat them on sourdough toast with local avocados and miso paste. They are deliciously meaty and moreish.
Having a healthy, diverse microbial environment in our gut is essential to proper immune function, since about 70% of immune tissue resides in the gut. Sauerkraut and pickled vegetables nourish the gut microbiome both by providing fiber and beneficial bacteria - in other words, they are both pre- and pro-biotic. Sauerkraut is also one of the easiest, cheapest ways to incorporate fermented foods into your diet - all you need is a nice big organic cabbage and some salt.
1 medium organic cabbage (about 500g)
4 tsp sea salt (not table salt)
1 large sterilised jar
1 smaller sterilised jam jar that fits inside the bigger jar
A large ceramic or glass mixing bowl
Thinly shred your cabbage and pop into the mixing bowl. Add salt and let sit for 30 mins. Then squeeze and massage the cabbage for 5-10mins to get as much liquid out as possible.
Transfer into the big jar, pressing down with the little jar until all the water is sitting above the cabbage. Fill the little jar with water to weigh it down, and cover with muslin cloth, or kitchen roll.
Keep at room temperature for 4-5 days, checking daily to make sure the liquid is always covering the cabbage. As long as it’s fully covered in the brining liquid it’ll keep for months in the fridge. If it looks or smells off, throw it away and start again. Otherwise, dig in!
Recommended dose: 2 tablespoons a day.
Dai et al (2015) Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87.
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