5 Immune-Boosting Foods and the Recipe That Cures All
(Originally published in Austin Fit Magazine)
If you Google “foods to boost my immune system,” you’re sure to find an endless number of listicles chock-full of foods that may or may not be in season or available at your friendly neighborhood grocery store. But don’t get your tinsel in a tangle because for any cold and flu season, all you really need is just five key foods and one recipe to heal them all.
High in vitamin C, the real MVP when it comes to kicking colds, a squeeze of citrus (think oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines or clementines) every day is what you need to keep your immune system up and running. The reason is vitamin C is said to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting off infections. Also, since our body doesn’t produce nor store vitamin C, finding a way to take it in daily is crucial during cold season.
While there are many other immune-boosting foods out there, we included spinach because it’s not only rich in vitamin C but it’s also loaded with beta carotene, which increases the infection-fighting ability of our immune system.
Chicken soup ain’t only good for the soul, but it’s good for boosting gut health. After all, about 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. Chicken (or poultry, generally) has a high amount of vitamin B6, which is an important player in the many chemical reactions that happen in the body – including the formation of new, healthy red blood cells. Chicken stock (or broth) is made by boiling chicken bones, which contains gelatin, chondroitin and other nutrients that are so very good for gut healing and immunity-boosting.
We’ve read before that this smelly superfood does wonders for healing the body, so it’s no surprise it made this list. Garlic’s immune-boosting properties are reported to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin, and it’s even been reported that garlic may slow down the hardening of arteries and lower your blood pressure. So when you need your blood-a-flowin’, garlic’ll get you goin’.
Make no mistake: mushrooms are a powerhouse in their own right. These brown or white buttons are a great source of vitamin D and are packed with a variety of immune-boosting antioxidants – including our good friend vitamin C.
So if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop that’ll keep your immune system operating at maximum efficiency year-round, grab a pot and give this lemony, garlicky, chicken-and-veggie-rich soup a go:
Chicken, Lemon and Veggie Oat Groat Soup
Serving size: 2ish cups
2 lbs chicken, cooked and shredded
1 lb bella mushrooms, sliced
1 lb cauliflower, diced
1 lb broccoli, diced
1 lb baby bok choy or napa cabbage, sliced
1 lb baby spinach and/or kale
1 white onion, diced
3 to 4 large carrots, diced
3 to 4 large celery stalks, diced
8 to 10 cups chicken stock/broth
1 cup steel-cut oats, or oat groats
¼ to ½ cup fresh dill, chopped
¼ to ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 to 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 to 3 tbsp lemon pepper
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
- Dump all ingredients except greens, bok choy and chicken into a large stockpot. Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for one hour.
- After an hour, add in greens, bok choy or cabbage, and chicken. Simmer for another 30 minutes to one hour until the oats are soft and chewy and the cabbage is tender.
- For maximum simplicity, use a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
- Old-fashioned oats won’t work for this recipe, so don’t deviate from the steel-cut.
- Butter up a delicious slice of crusty sourdough, and prepare to have your soul warmed.
- This recipe keeps well in an airtight container for up to 5 days and, in fact, only gets better the longer the oats and broth sit.