Chicken Soup for Immunity
There’s a lot speculation around why the shift from warm weather to cooler temperatures tends to be the onset of the “sick season.” It’s been proposed for years that bacteria-causing viruses tend to thrive in cooler temperatures thus making Autumn and Winter prime time for influenza. Others have argued that during the cooler months, the body does not produce as much Vitamin D or melatonin, which has been shown to support the immune system so that it can stave away spreadable illnesses. However, according to a 2015 study on changes in the human genes from season-to-season, researchers found that approximately 25% of genes shift along with the season including the parts of DNA that help fight off colds, viruses and infections.
No matter the truest cause of that cold or virus that has had you and your family feeling off for weeks now, there’s nothing better than one thing….chicken soup. There are so many variations of chicken soup, but I have absolutely fallen in love with this Asian-inspired chicken soup from Eating Well Magazine (March/ April 2010). Not only does it taste yummy, but it’s got a powerful combination of ingredients that boost the immune system to protect and fight against sickness.
- Onions contain quercetin, which can help break up mucus in the the body stimulating the body’s immune system to protect against infections.
- Garlic contains allicin which when thinly sliced can help activate the immune system to fight off cold and flu viruses.
- Ginger contains gingerols and shagaols which can improve blood circulation, increase oxygen and remove unwanted toxins from the body. Ginger is also good for digestion.
- Shiitake mushrooms contain beta glucans that aid in inflammation and push out bad bacteria, and unwanted viruses.
Asian-Inspired Chicken Soup Recipe
Adapted from Eating Well
- Per serving: 257 calories; 11 g fat(3 g sat); 3 g fiber; 13 g carbohydrates; 27 g protein; 79 mcg folate; 76 mg cholesterol; 5 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 2,920 IU vitamin A; 29 mg vitamin C; 107 mg calcium; 3 mg iron; 789 mg sodium; 831 mg potassium
- Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (58% daily value), Vitamin C (48% dv), Folate (20% dv)
- Carbohydrate Servings: 1
- Exchanges: 1½ vegetable, 3 lean meat
- Prep and Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- ½ ounce (about ½ cup) dried shiitake or mixed dried mushrooms
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil
- 2 cups diced onion
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 6⅛-inch-thick slices peeled fresh ginger
- 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 2-to-3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 bulb fennel, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 8 scallions, whites cut into 2-inch pieces and greens chopped, divided
- 1 pound bok choy, preferably baby bok choy, white stems sliced lengthwise and greens chopped, divided
- 2 cups (4 ounces) mung bean sprouts (see Note)
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- Lime wedges for garnish
1. Place mushrooms in a heatproof measuring cup and cover with boiling water. Soak for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours. Remove the mushrooms from the water, remove and discard stems (if any) and cut into ⅛-inch slices; set aside. Strain the soaking liquid and reserve.
2. Heat oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Pour in the reserved mushroom liquid, broth, soy sauce, cinnamon stick, star anise and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in chicken. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Stir in fennel, scallion whites and the reserved mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add bok choy stems, return to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes more. Stir in bok choy greens and bean sprouts. Cook until the greens are just wilted, about 2 minutes more.
4. Discard the cinnamon stick and star anise. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each bowl with scallion greens, cilantro and a ¼-teaspoon drizzle of sesame oil. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.
- Note: Mung bean sprouts (germinated mung beans), often simply labeled “bean sprouts,” are white with a light yellow tip and are thicker than more common alfalfa sprouts.
- Note: People with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity should use soy sauces that are labeled “gluten-free,” as soy sauce may contain wheat or other gluten-containing sweeteners and flavors.
Enjoy staying well during sick season!
– Casey Edmonds, CHC
Health Advisor | Email Casey