How to support your immune system, plus 2 soup recipes

My best friend, Sophia, and I live across the world from each other and this week we’ve been messaging about the coronavirus pandemic. We both got sucked into refreshing the news every few minutes to see updates on restrictions et cetera and became overwhelmed with anxiety for 24 hours! Sophia is due to get married in England on June 7th, so we started worrying about her wedding not being able to go ahead as planned, and I was fretting that I wouldn’t be able to get there if they kept the borders closed.

Amongst our Whatsapp messages back and forth, we tried to calm our minds by focusing on the positives to come out of this, such as that people around the world have been united, as we’re all in this together. And, that we can inspire people by attempting to become beacons of positivity.

Sophia is a knowledgable Nutritional Therapist who specializes in gut health, and we’ve always shared a love of eating well and using food as preventative ‘medicine’. Sophia is based in Nottingham, UK, and runs Sophia’s Kitchen Therapy, where she shares healthy recipes and useful nutritional advice. She recently shared a post to her Instagram on people stockpiling long-life foods and how, although it can be good to have some extra tins of legumes or rice in the cupboards, especially if supermarkets become even more depleted, forgoing fresh vegetables for preservative-heavy items is not helping our immune systems.

I thought it would be cool to pick Sophia’s brain on her top dietary recommendations to not just get over illness faster, but to ward it off altogether. There’s been so many reminders to wash our hands, to not touch our faces, and to self isolate. But I haven’t seen much advice on how to stay healthy nutrition-wise during this stressful time, or how to increase our chances of recovering from coronavirus quickly, should we contract it.

So, we decided to collaborate on this blog post to share some tips on supporting our immune systems during this unsettling time. (Of course, we’re not saying this will fully protect you – but being healthy can only help!) Plus, we both ended up making veggie-filled, warming soups for dinner on that same day, so we decided to include our two recipes for those here as well! They’re both so easy to make, inexpensive, and great for making in large batches. You can save them for lunch as well the next day, or even freeze some.

(Scroll further down to see all of Sophia’s immune-boosting advice).

Sophia’s Immunity Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • A very large piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 Bird’s eye chillies, chopped
  • 2 cups of bone broth
  • 1 cup of water 
  • Pink salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Turmeric powder 
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee

— Try to use organic veggies wherever you can. 

Method

Heat your oil of choice in a large pan and sauté the garlic, chilli and ginger for 5 minutes. Add in the turmeric powder and let this coat everything. Then add in the chopped veg and sauté for 5 minutes.

Pour over the bone broth and water, salt and pepper. 

Let everything boil until soft and then once cooked, blend everything together. (I use a hand held blender).

I like to top mine with some seeds for a little protein boost! 

My Chunky Vegetable Soup

This soup has always been known affectionately as “Aunty Becky’s Big Soup” in our family! My Aunt Becky would make this for me when I felt unwell as a child, and now Paddy and I make it whenever we’re feeling a little rundown, or whenever we want a simple, warming, vegetable-filled meal!

It couldn’t be easier to make. You basically add any vegetables you have to a pan of hot water, and simmer on medium heat until the vegetables become soft. We usually add vegetable stock cubes, but this time we tried Organika’s Veggie Broth, and it was delicious!

Ingredients

  • White potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes / yams
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Leeks
  • Kale
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Vegetable broth
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Pink salt and black pepper

Method

Add as many of the above vegetables (or other vegetables if you have them) as you like, and cook together in one pan, so none of the nutrients are drained away. Simply chop the vegetables – no need to peel them. And if you can buy organic produce, always opt for that.

You may also like to check out my recipe for Black Bean Hummus, or Sophia’s recipe for Immune-Boosting Chicken Thigh Curry.

Now it’s time for some tips!

Other than the important advice given from the government about washing hands and practicing hygiene, tips that you can follow to prevent catching the coronavirus involve supporting your immune system in order to help it fight off the virus, or any other viruses that are going around at the time. Unfortunately you can’t get these immune-loving nutrients from tins of beans or dried pasta (or toilet roll, for that matter! LOL).

Dietary and supplement advice from Sophia – BSc, Dip, CNM, BANT

  • Take live bacteria supplements every day. 80% of the immune system resides within the gut, so keeping your microbiome healthy and diverse will help in preventing you from becoming ill. 
  • Consume probiotics from food, as well as supplements wherever you can. Good sources include: Kombucha, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and yoghurts with added cultures – I like the dairy-free Coconut Collaborative ones. 
  • Eat Zinc-rich foods, as this is an important component of the immune system. Foods include grass-fed meats, shellfish, chickpeas, eggs, pumpkin seeds, and nuts.
  • Get your vitamin D levels checked, and if your levels are low then take a supplement to boost your levels. Try to spend 30 minutes outside in the winter sun whenever you can, without SPF on so that you can absorb vitamin D from the sun. (Note: It is always important to test your vitamin D levels before just supplementing, without knowing the correct dose; i.e if your levels are super low then you will need a higher dose, however if borderline then you will need a maintenance dose – work with a nutritional therapist to find this out). 
  • Medicinal mushrooms can be used to modulate the immune system and reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections. You can get these in a supplement form, or you can buy shiitake mushrooms and eat those. The main ingredient in the mushrooms that is of benefit is the beta glucans. Beta glucans can also be found in oats, so starting your day with a bowl of porridge is a good way to get the benefits too. Mushrooms on toast is another good way! 
  • Ensure you are consuming plenty of vitamin C in your diet. You can get vitamin C from the following foods; broccoli, cauliflower, papaya, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts,  carrots, bell peppers, and kiwis. You can also take a vitamin C supplement, but make sure it has a minimum of 1000mg per capsule to have a therapeutic effect. 
  • Coconut oil has anti-viral properties, so try to cook with this.
  • Garlic is anti-viral, so try to add this to your meals.
  • Green tea also has anti-viral properties. Adding a teaspoon of Manuka honey to your green tea will add even more anti-viral properties! 
  • Bone Broth is extremely nourishing and provides lots of minerals and nutrients to improve your gut health, and thus immune system. 

Ideas for building these foods into your day

  • Porridge with pumpkin seeds and berries
  • Fresh pressed juices with oranges, kiwis, red pepper, and carrots
  • Add sauerkraut and kimchi on the side of meals
  • Pan fried shiitake mushrooms with fresh garlic and wilted spinach on toast, for an immune-boosting lunch 
  • Fresh soup using lots of vitamin C rich vegetables – see our two recipes, above! 
  • Sip on green tea throughout the day, with a teaspoon of Manuka honey
  • Include bone broth in your daily cooking, for its gut-loving benefits. 

Lifestyle Tips

  • Try to reduce stress where possible, taking time to relax, as stress dampens your immune system, leaving you wide open to illness. This includes making sure you are getting enough sleep, as sleep deprivation also reduces the impact of your immune system. 
  • Exercising for 30 minutes every day will help to boost the immune system. But avoid over exercising when you are feeling run down, as this will lower your immune defences. 

We wish you all the health, happiness, and calmness during this unsettling time, and our love goes out to all those directly affected. Just remember – we’re all in this together. 🙂

3 Comments

  1. September 30, 2020 / 6:07 pm

    There’s definately a great deal to learn about this topic. I really like all the points you have made.

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