The fall is commonly known as the start of cold and flu season. However, in actuality, colds and flu are around all year– they’re just more prevalent in months with colder weather. Now throw COVID-Sars into the mix and we’ve really got lots to prepare for this season. We’ve done many posts over the years with some great immune boosting tips from our Toronto naturopaths, however, this time we thought we’d do something different – we thought we’d talk to our holistic nutritionist, Michelle, about some culinary immune boosting tips you can try.
When the weather starts to get colder, I like to think more about warm dishes I can make for lunch and dinner. Soups and stews tend to be good classics – and the good thing about those is that you can make a big batch so it will last a few days. But when we talk about immune boosting meals, would any type of soup or stew work? My advice is to focus on soups and stews that have lots of protein in them. Protein is essential to not only keep our bodies strong and healthy, but also keeps our immune system strong. If you’re a meat eater then you’re getting protein from the various animal products that you eat. For people that are vegetarian or vegan while you will get protein from various food sources, I recommend focusing on high protein sources like eggs (for vegetarians, if they eat them), tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, mung beans, as well as other beans and lentils.
As for how to make the soup – you can either do a classic chicken noodle, or for vegetarians and vegans, maybe a hearty lentil soup. Be sure to add lots of onions, garlic and ginger to the soup. Not only do they make the meal taste great, but garlic and onions can have anti-viral properties. I like to throw lots of veggies into my soups for flavour, and to boost up the fibre of the meal. If you’re leaning more towards a stew, instead of thickening the liquid with flour try using something like a butternut squash. The squash will become soft and will definitely help to naturally thicken any soup. If a classic chicken noodle soup is what you’re after try using zucchini noodles or squash noodles instead to keep the carbs low in the meal. Carbs can be a real problem for the immune system in two ways. They slow down white blood cell activity and create too much mucus and phlegm.
Another food to consider is mushrooms. Mushrooms have real health promoting components called beta glucans and are a source of vitamin D. Be sure to use a diversity of mushrooms as the standard white button mushrooms have the least health benefits. You should be able to find lots of variety at your local grocery store.
I also really recommend using lots of fresh herbs. If you planted a COVID garden over the summer and managed to plant things like rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, etc., now is your chance to literally reap what you sowed. Culinary herbs are far more important for our health than what most people give them credit for. Most people know about oregano oil for their immune system, but we can use herbs such as oregano , thyme and rosemary to support our overall health, including the immune system.
Play around with your soup and find out which combinations work best. And most importantly, remember, there is no right or wrong soup combination. Have fun with the process, and who knows. You may end up with a new culinary masterpiece after all your efforts.