Updated: Sep 29, 2021
Healthy Ageing and the Immune System. You're only as young as your immune system suggests 2020 study.
This mushroom soup supports the immune system due to the wide variety of immune supportive and anti-inflammatory ingredients.
As we move into winter, soup is a great option for adding in loads of lots of ingredients that support immune function. Skip straight to the Recipe
The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body. It is a highly evolved series of defences designed to protect us against many of the diseases and regular assaults such as invading organisms, toxins and mutated cells (cancer cells). It is an incredibly complex body system and must constantly be on the lookout for invaders.
Inflammation is a natural and very important part of the immune response. It occurs when pro-inflammatory hormones signal to the immune system to send large numbers of white blood cells to an area of the body where damage has occurred (e.g. a cut or an infected area of the body), damaged tissue needs removing or an infection may need clearing. This should be a short-lived acute response. However, inflammation can become chronic and widespread when there are persistent signals from areas of the body where damage is occurring, or unwelcome microbes are present. Unfortunately, inflammation can cause more harm than good if it becomes chronic leading to several disorders.
Foods for Immune System Support
Foods to include:
3 portions of oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring anchovies) per week. They contain omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA which may help to regulate the immune system.
1 portion of nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and Brazil nuts) or seeds (Pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax seed) per day. They contain antioxidant vitamins and minerals including vitamin A and E, selenium and zinc, where play a key role in regulating the immune system.
5-6 portions of highly coloured fruit and vegetables per day. They contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients which may help to support the immune system. Example include: dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potato, berries, and beetroot.
Herbs and spices – particularly ginger, garlic, green tea and turmeric. They contain phytochemicals which have a strong regulatory impact on the immune system.
Probiotics. Potent immune regulators. Found in live yoghurt and unpasteurised fermented foods such as tamari, tofu, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut and kimchi, unpasteurised cheese, apple cider vinegar.
Red wine (in moderation!). Contains high levels of resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytonutrient
"The bad news is that as we age, our immune systems gradually deteriorate too. This “immunosenescence” starts to affect people's health at about 60," says Janet Lord at the University of Birmingham, UK.
That's why it's a key factor for my Healthy Ageing clients and part and parcel of what I cover in my Eat Well Feel Well Age Well programme.
Meal plans and recipes as well as lifestyle recommendations will support brain health, joint and bone healthy and keep the immune system in tip top shape as we move through the 2nd half of life.
Immune System Supportive Ingredients in this Soup
Upping your intake of antioxidant-rich foods like ginger and turmeric, may combat inflammation and keep your immune system healthy. What's more, ginger and turmeric have powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties. Just what we need as the colds and viruses abound.
The soup below is chocka block full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients including leafy greens and shitake mushrooms all enhanced by the super gut loving and immune modulating bone broth.
I use Carolsstockmarket Bone Broth.. Carol's bone broth uses very high quality ingredients, grass fed bones and organic vegetables and the cooking process results in a high protein (20g) and high collagen (9g) content which is amazing for gut health. Bone broth has been shown to help seal openings in the gut that can often lead to an overactive and eventually weakened immune system so adding the broth to the soup supports the immune system through the gut. Remember 80% of the immune system is located in the gut therefore the addition of bone broth to this, or any soup, supports good immune health as we move into the challenging winter months.
It’s also called Bok Choy - can sometimes be confusing lol.
So the baby version in the recipe below is basically the same as the adult version. The real difference is in the smaller leaves and even earlier harvest of these baby leaves. Because the leaves are small and tender, they have a sweeter flavour than that of full sized bok choy and can be used in place of other greens in salads. This particular leafy green is often used in Asian cooking.
In terms of the immune system, all leafy greens are a powerhouse of nutrients - antioxidants, and vitamins C and E. They are also high in fibre which supports good gut health, and remember that 80% of the immune system is in the gut, so healthy gut=healthy immune system.
But that’s not all, it turns out that green vegetables -- from bok choy to broccoli -- are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly.
Soup Swaps and Extras
Just say you can't get your hands on some of the ingredients.
No Pak Choi - swap out for any greens like cabbage or broccoli.
Vegan or vegetarian, swap out the bone broth for this Vegan alternative or any good quality stock you can get your hands on.
Maybe you want it a bit more substantial, adding in some chopped carrots or sweet potatoes will give you a bit more bite.
And what about a side of sauerkraut or kimchi for extra gut love.
Good to know but let's get down to the recipe.
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 large white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, sliced
450g shiitake mushrooms (organic if possible)
1½ tsp sea salt
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp turmeric
2 litres stock or bone broth (www.carolsstockmarket.com)
4 heads baby pak choi
½ bag chopped kale, optional:
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
Yes there's a way to prepare mushrooms.
Wipe with kitchen paper, don't wash.
Chop off the bottom of the stem from your mushrooms and discard. NOTE only discard the very bottom of the stems, not the full stems as they contain many nutritional benefits.
Remove stems from tops and slice tops and remaining stem into large pieces.
Heat up the coconut oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Sauté onion for 5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add in celery and mushrooms and sauté for about 10 minutes or until mushrooms have wilted.
Add in spices (including ginger, if using) and broth/stock and bring to a boil. Then let simmer, covered for 1 hour or as long as you want (the longer you leave, the better!).
Add Pak Choi and kale in the last 10 minutes of cooking to wilt.
Serve warm or store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
Thanks to Sheila Downes Nutrition at Institute of Health Sciences for the original recipe.
PS I've tagged a few soup recipes that will benefit from the added nutrient content of using Carolsstockmarket Bone Broth instead of stock and a lovely nutrient dense Vegan 'Bone' Broth alternative.