Bolster your immune system with these delicious soup ingredients that help fight off the common cold and flu.
By Matthew Kadey, RD
1. Pumpkin seeds
Forget the medicine cabinet. If you really want to fend off a cold or flu, find comfort in a healing bowl of soup. Grandma’s chicken noodle remedy isn’t the only soup to lift your spirits when sick. Research shows a number of foods (which also make for some delicious soup ingredients) can boost your body’s natural defences against viruses. Keep your immune system in fighting shape and feed that pesky cold by slurping up soups infused with these immunity-boosting, sniffle-busting good guys.
These jack-o’-lantern castoffs are brimming with zinc. A number of studies suggest that loading up on zinc – which aids in the function of immune cells – can help reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms when under the weather.
Soup’s on: Toast handfuls of pumpkin seeds and sprinkle them over squash soups or bowls of creamy potato or mushroom soups.
A staple in Japanese kitchens, miso is made from fermented soybeans. The fermentation process produces a healthy army of probiotic bacteria, which can cut down the number of days a cold or flu will leave you symptomatic. Dutch scientists attribute this to the probiotic’s activation of certain genes in the walls of the intestines.
Soup’s on: For a quick immune system–enhancing soup, simply whisk some miso with warm water and dried mushrooms, and let it steep for five minutes. A miso broth is also a great base for soups full of chicken, noodles and Asian greens.
The soluble fibre found in oats and barley is already hailed for helping lower cholesterol, but it can also keep your nose from dripping like a leaky hose. University of Illinois scientists discovered soluble fibre increases the production of an anti-inflammatory protein that strengthens the immune system. Beta-glucan, the main soluble fibre in chewy barley, has been found to slash the number of sick days taken by those with upper respiratory tract infections.
Soup’s on: Barley and zinc-rich beef make a dynamic soup pairing. Also try serving barley in soups with chunky vegetables, lentils, mushrooms or turkey.
It’s likely that Bugs Bunny wasn’t knocked off his feet by a cold or flu too often. His orange-hued vegetable of choice is brimming with beta-carotene. In the body, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A. In addition to supporting vision, one of vitamin A’s many roles is keeping your immune system running smoothly. A more robust immune system is a surefire way to help send a cold packing.
Soup’s on: Try this immunity-friendly creamy carrot soup made with sweet potato, another beta-carotene powerhouse. Consider using toasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish. Also work chunks of carrot into beef and barley soups.
Is a regular rotation of winter sniffles getting you down? Then be sure to reel in salmon – one of the few foods that brings vitamin D to a pot of soup – to keep future runny noses at bay. An Archives of Internal Medicine study involving nearly 19,000 subjects found those with the lowest average levels of vitamin D were 36 percent more likely to develop upper respiratory infections than those with higher levels of the sunshine vitamin. Similar research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases found subjects with better vitamin D status were less likely to take sick days from work than those who were given placebos. Washington State University researchers also suggest that astaxanthin – the pigment that gives salmon its pink glow – can increase immune cell activity.
Soup’s on: Use fresh or even canned salmon in seafood chowders. Or grab your chopsticks and slurp up a soup replete with salmon, soba noodles, bok choy and miso broth.
Avoid these ingredients when you’re sick
While you should take in plenty of fluids when fighting a cold or flu to stay hydrated (the main benefit of chicken noodle soup – thanks, Grandma!), it’s best to abstain from imbibing alcohol. Wine, beer, and liquor may compromise your immune system and reduce the body’s ability to fight infection.