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Fully Loaded Miso Soup and Building a Strong Immune System

Posted Jan 02 2013 7:54am

Move over chicken soup.  There's another healing bowl of goodness in town and it comes fully loaded.
A concentrated source of plant protein, antioxidants, protective fatty acids and active bacteria, miso dissolves effortlessly into this nutrient dense soup to produce the perfect combination of taste, health and comfort.  You will fall in love with this Japanese version of chicken soup!
And that's a good thing because this year, more than ever it seems, cold and flu season has struck hard and fast.
The familiar story of the fall and early winter has been one of ongoing colds, sore throats, nasty coughs and/or some variation of the stomach flu.  In some cases, these bouts of illness are striking more than once which is particularly concerning.
So, in the spirit of giving, I've decided that my New Year's gift to you, my dear readers, is an overview of some of the top dietary strategies for staying healthy and strong through the longer winter months.  
While it's perfectly natural to get sick from time to time, building a strong immune system is one of our best defenses against reoccurring and enduring illness. 
So here's to you and your Radiant Health in 2013!
~~~~~

Dietary Strategies to Support a Strong Immune System


Antioxidant rich foods ~ While there is no one food or nutrient that can guarantee health, a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and plenty of fruit and vegetables will help build a strong immune system.   

Fruits and vegetables are the main source of disease fighting antioxidants in our diet so be sure to include a broad and colourful variety and don't forget about the powerful allium family - garlic (more below), onion, chives, leek - which are rich in phytonutrients and operate as antioxidants in the body.

In addition to vitamins A, C and E, the minerals zinc and selenium are also powerful antioxidants.  Brazil nuts are one of the best dietary sources of selenium but you can also find this trace mineral in a variety of fish and seafood. Zinc, essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, can be found in red meat, oysters and enriched grains/breakfast cereals. 

Raw garlic ~ another immune fighter that is well worth working in to the diet.  This pungent herb appears to boost the immune system and fight viruses.  There is also promising preliminary evidence to suggest that it may also have a preventative role in cold onset.

Fluids ~ proper hydration helps prevent the formation of small cracks in nasal membrane where virus can enter.  This is particularly important during the winter months when artificial heating dries our skin. Fluids can also help alleviate nasal congestion once a cold has set in.  Aim for seven cups per day and consider warm beverages including: lemon water, soothing herbal teas, soups, and warming stews.




Vitamin D ~ studies continue to link a shortage of this mighty nutrient to many serious diseases including: cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease and influenza. It is believed that vitamin D increases the body's production of proteins that destroy viruses.

During the fall and winter months, when the sun in the northern hemisphere is not sufficiently strong to synthesize vitamin D under our skin, adults are advised to take a minimum of 1,000 IUs (international units) of vitamin D per day while children should supplement in the range of 400 IUs daily. Older adults, people with dark skin, those who don’t spend a lot of time outdoors and those who wear clothing that covers most of their skin, should consider supplementing year round. Vitamin D levels can be easily tested through your medical or naturopathic doctor.

Probiotics ~ studies reveal that good bacteria (the ‘friendly’ strain of live microbes that are used to repopulate the gastrointestinal tract) can enhance the immune system helping to both prevent and reduce symptoms of flu and cold.

Daily intake of fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh) and dairy products such as unsweetened yogurt and kefir may be helpful for arming our intestinal ecology with good bacteria.  For a more potent concentration during flu season, a daily probiotic capsule containing acidophilus and bifidus has been shown to produce positive results in both adults and children.

A 2009 study published in Pediatrics found that healthy children, aged 3 to 5, who took a probiotic supplement during the fall and winter suffered significantly less fever, nasal congestion, cough occurrences/duration and missed fewer days of school. The study also found that probiotic supplements reduced antibiotic use in these same children.

Children's products are available on the market and the doses are usually one quarter to one half that of adults. Probiotic powder can be mixed with water or added to a delicious fruit smoothie to make it easier for children to consume.




Vitamin C ~ while it may not prevent onset, vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration of cold symptoms in both adults and children. 

Vitamin C is also important during times of physical and emotional stress not only as an immune builder but also because the adrenal glands (the glands that are responsible for releasing stress hormones) require a steady supply of this nutrient to function properly.  This is a good time to stock up on vitamin C rich foods including: red bell pepper, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries and oranges.

While vitamin C toxicity is very rare (the body does not store water-soluble vitamins), supplemental amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day in divided doses are not generally recommended because they can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea. Also, individuals with a history of kidney stones are advised to consult their doctor before taking vitamin C supplements.


Echinacea ~ the evidence on Echinacea continues to produce mixed results however the most recent information on this herb appears to be positive.  A very recent study out of the UK suggests that Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) does have a positive effect on the prevention of the common cold while another study published in American Family Physician revealed that Echinacea purpurea improved the symptoms of cold already in progress.

Ginseng (COLD-fx) ~special extract of North American ginseng – sold as COLD-fX – has been shown to be effective at reducing the frequency, severity and duration of colds in both adults and seniors.



The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician or other health care professional directly before beginning or changing a course of health treatment.


~~~~~

Fully Loaded Miso Soup {Protein Rich, Vegan}
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms of choice
  • 5 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup shelled edamame beans, (run frozen beans under hot water for 15 seconds)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 package (about 500 grams or about 2 cups) firm tofu, diced
  • 6 Tbsp miso paste, or to taste
  • 1 bundle green onion (scallions), finely chopped


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Notes:
Miso - if you haven't yet had the opportunity to experiment with miso, you're in for a treat.  Miso is a fermented food sold in paste form that is most commonly derived from soybean and brown rice or barley (you will find it in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores).  A staple of the Japanese diet for centuries, miso is a concentrated source of plant protein that has a very pleasant, savoury taste (umami) that is quite soothing (and addictive!).  Like most fermented foods, miso also contains active bacteria that help arm our digestive tract (and immune system) with a healthy ecology, protecting us from illness.  It is also said that the emollient nature of the linoleic acid in miso promotes soft, silky skin. 
Miso dissolves beautifully in soups but you don't have to stop there.  You can use it in sandwiches, as a vegetable dip or as a spread over other proteins such as salmon - delish.  A little goes a long way with miso so start slowly and see how you enjoy the taste.
Once you have your ingredients assembled for this soup, it will only take you minutes to pull it together and you will have lots of leftovers!
~~~~~~~
Directions:
Sauté onion, garlic, chili-garlic sauce and mushroom with some olive oil in a skillet on the stove top set to low-medium heat until onion is translucent (about 7-8 minutes).
Transfer onion/mushroom mixture into a large pot that you will be using to cook the soup.  Add vegetable stock and water to pot followed by edamame, bell pepper and tofu, stirring to combine over medium heat.  Allow mixture to come to a boil before reducing heat and adding miso.  Stir to integrate miso thoroughly and finally, add green onions (scallions) just before serving. 



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