As the winter months roll in where the days get shorter and the nights colder, nothing can be quite as soothing as sipping on a delicious, warming soup. In your quest to make it through cold- and flu-season without a sneeze, we give you some soup ideas with food combo’s packed with nutrients and flavour, to give your immune system a boost.
Red peppers are packed with vitamin C which is important for cells of the immune system to work properly, helping them to detect and destroy invading germs. Half a cup of chopped red pepper has nearly double the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, which is double that of the famous orange. Tomatoes are also excellent sources of antioxidants, specifically lycopene and vitamin E, which protect immune cells from damage. Add a creamy texture with a punch of protein by stirring in some low-fat plain yogurt.
All citrus fruit including oranges are high in vitamin C which is well-known for its immune-boosting effect. Vitamin C is also known to help maintain the integrity of your skin, which is the body’s first line of defence against microbes and viruses. Vitamin A-rich carrots pair well with citrus fruits to make a vibrant sniffle-fighting soup.
Ginger contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. It has also been thought to promote healthy sweating which is helpful for fighting colds and flu’s since sweat contains a potent germ-fighting agent called dermicidin. Ginger has also been seen to improve symptoms of nausea, which is often experienced with the flu. Practical tip: add the orange towards the end to minimize the amount of vitamin C lost from the heat.
Grandma was right to give you chicken soup when you were sick. Chicken is a valuable source of protein and iron, both of which support a healthy immune system. Too little iron could lead to anaemia and weaken the immune system. Combining iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C such as broccoli, red pepper and sweet potato can help boost your absorption even further.
Chicken soup made with real bone broth will also work wonders on your digestive and immune health. The gelatin in the bone broth contains a vital nutrient called glutamine which is the primary fuel for the cells lining your gut, keeping it healthy and able to block out pesky bugs.
Butternut and sweet potato are both rich in vitamin A which has long been known for its role in supporting the immune system, as it was called “the anti-infective vitamin” from as early as the 1920’s. Vitamin A is needed to maintain the surfaces of the respiratory and digestive systems, which is important to make sure they block harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream.
Cinnamon’s essential oils have anti-microbial properties which help to stop the growth of harmful bugs. It’s so effective that research has shown that it can be used as an alternative to traditional food preservatives. Besides these benefits, what can provide as much relief from the cold or flu as a warm cup of tea with cinnamon and ginger? See below for an easy recipe from Cooking from the Heart.
Add some crunch and texture to your soup by sprinkling a mixture of your favourite roasted nuts and seeds over it. They’re great sources of many nutrients needed for a strong immune system, including selenium, copper, zinc and vitamin E. Almonds and sunflower seeds are particularly high in the antioxidant vitamin E, with a 30g serving giving you a whopping 50% of your daily requirements. If you’re looking for more affordable options, seeds and unsalted peanuts are the way to go!
Remember that most of the immune-benefits seen from the nutrients mentioned above, are largely only obtained from eating foods rich in these nutrients. The same benefit is not always seen when using supplements. In fact, using mega-doses of some nutrients could actually harm your immune system. So, make sure to maintain a healthy, balanced diet this winter, and get cooking!
Recipe: Butternut and sweet potato soup
1 large (1 kg) butternut, peeled and chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
2 tsp (10 ml) ground cinnamon
2 tsp (10 ml) ground nutmeg
1 tbsp (15 ml) ground cumin
7 cups (1,75 litres) boiling water
½ cup (125 ml) low-fat or fat-free milk
lemon juice and black pepper to taste
Place veggies, apple and spices in a large pot with the water.
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
Remove from the heat, blend mixture until smooth or mash with a potato masher.
Return mixture to the pot and add milk, lemon juice and pepper.
Heat through and serve warm.