COVER STORY

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Find the recipe for the soup on the cover and more at de­li­cious.com.au.

Wage war on the flu sea­son by soak­ing up the im­mu­nity-boost­ing good­ness of soup.

When I was lit­tle, my mum would make me soup at the first hint of a runny nose. And now I do the same for my chil­dren. Wolf­ing down a bowl of steam­ing soup when feel­ing poorly has long been the cus­tom in many cul­tures, but it turns out there’s ac­tual sci­ence to back up the prac­tice, with a num­ber of stud­ies show­ing soup, par­tic­u­larly chicken, can help to clear con­ges­tion.

The most cited re­search, by Dr Stephen Ren­nard of the Univer­sity of Ne­braska, was pub­lished in 2000 in the med­i­cal jour­nal Chest. Ren­nard’s stud­ies found his wife’s chicken soup (a fam­ily recipe in­clud­ing chicken, onions, sweet po­ta­toes, parsnips, turnips, car­rots, cel­ery, pars­ley, salt and pep­per) had an anti-in­flam­ma­tory ef­fect by re­duc­ing the move­ment of the body’s white blood cells so they fo­cused on heal­ing the up­per res­pi­ra­tory tract, help­ing to de­crease the amount of mu­cus in the lungs.

Chicken soup is known in Amer­ica as Jewish peni­cillin, but its heal­ing rep­u­ta­tion goes back way be­fore the States ex­isted. The Chi­nese con­sid­ered it had en­ergy-giv­ing ‘yang’ prop­er­ties as long ago as the sec­ond cen­tury BCE, and in mod­ern Chi­nese fam­i­lies it’s of­ten the first food given to ba­bies, women af­ter giv­ing birth and the elderly – es­sen­tially those with low­ered im­mu­nity.

In Jewish cul­ture, the tra­di­tion of chicken soup dates back to the sec­ond cen­tury CE, but it got into full swing in the 15th cen­tury when, like the Chi­nese be­fore them, the prac­tice of giv­ing it to women af­ter child­birth and to those who were sick be­gan.

The stud­ies can’t pin­point the ex­act in­gre­di­ents that help re­duce mu­cus, but sev­eral of the items typ­i­cally thrown into the stock­pot are thought to boost the body’s nat­u­ral cold-fight­ing abil­i­ties.

“Our im­mu­nity is re­lated to a num­ber of things, but a pro­tein in soup is prob­a­bly one of the most im­por­tant in­gre­di­ents. Foods like chicken and meat con­tain high lev­els of iron and zinc – both of which boost our im­mu­nity,” says Aloysa Houri­gan, an ac­cred­ited di­eti­tian and spokesper­son for Nutri­tion Aus­tralia.

And while meat is the best source of those min­er­als, “veg­e­tar­i­ans can get sim­i­lar ben­e­fits by in­clud­ing a good source of pro­tein like lentils or tofu”, Houri­gan adds.

Veg­eta­bles, mean­while, also have heal­ing prop­er­ties be­cause they’re loaded with an­tiox­i­dants. “In par­tic­u­lar, veg­eta­bles high in vi­ta­min C in­crease our body’s abil­ity to ab­sorb iron, which in turn raises our im­mu­nity,” she says.

“So things like tomato and pump­kin or other yel­low and red veg­eta­bles of­fer be­tac­arotene and vi­ta­min C, which are both help­ful. Also in­clude the bras­sica fam­ily, things like broc­coli and cauliflower, which are good sources of vi­ta­min C and other key an­tiox­i­dants. Onions have an­tibi­otic prop­er­ties so are also great.”

Herbs and sea­son­ing also con­trib­ute to a health­ier win­ter, and they add that other won­der­ful com­po­nent, flavour.

“Dried and fresh herbs pro­mote warmth by in­creas­ing our cir­cu­la­tion,” says An­thia Koul­louros, a natur­opath of 24 years and founder of Ovvio Or­gan­ics. “And things like chilli, cin­na­mon, hot pa­prika and black pep­per are all cir­cu­la­tory stim­u­lants.”

She cites thyme, oregano, basil as hav­ing an­timi­cro­bial and an­ti­sep­tic prop­er­ties, along with fresh gin­ger and gar­lic also for their an­timi­cro­bial prop­er­ties as well as an­tibi­otic.

An­other good thing about soup is the vi­ta­mins and min­er­als that leach out into the wa­ter aren’t lost – you eat the lot un­like when you boil veg­eta­bles, for in­stance, and drain them. “So it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter how long you cook the soup for,” says Houri­gan. “Some peo­ple start with the bones of chicken or meat, which have some an­tibi­otic ben­e­fit and also make a great stock.”

Koul­louros usu­ally bases her soups on a bone broth. “They yield a lot of nu­tri­ents that are ex­cel­lent for in­flam­ma­tion and in­fec­tion and con­tain things like glycine, an amino acid that has calm­ing prop­er­ties to help the body rest. It also has min­er­als which are known elec­trolytes and aid hy­dra­tion, so are ex­cel­lent for fever. And then there’s gela­tine in bone broth, which is an anti-in­flam­ma­tory and good for gut im­mu­nity.”

Koul­louros also ad­vo­cates in­clud­ing un­pas­teurised fer­mented miso. Un­like pow­dered miso, she says, the paste is rich in pro­bi­otics, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als.

So rel­ish tasty soups this win­ter, not only for their com­fort, but also their im­mu­nity-boost­ing good­ness.

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