Five winter-warming soup ideas to boost your immune system

The winter months are here – the days are shorter, the nights colder but nothing can be quite as soothing than mouthfuls of a delicious, warming soup. In your quest to make it through cold- and flu-season without a sneeze, the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) gives you some soup ideas with food combos, packed with nutrients and flavour, to give your immune system a boost.

Creamy roasted red pepper & tomato soup

Red peppers are packed with vitamin C, which is important for cells of the immune system to work properly, helping them to detect and destroy invading germs. Half a cup of chopped red pepper has nearly double the recommended daily intake of vitamin C – double that of the famous orange. Tomatoes are also excellent sources of antioxidants, specifically lycopene and vitamin E, which protect immune cells from damage. Add a creamy texture with a punch of protein by stirring in some low-fat plain yoghurt.

Carrot, orange & ginger soup

All citrus fruit, including oranges, are high in vitamin C which is well-known for its immune-boosting effect. Vitamin C is also known to help maintain the integrity of your skin, which is the body’s first line of defence against microbes and viruses. Vitamin A-rich carrots pair well with citrus fruits to make a vibrant sniffle-fighting soup.

Ginger contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds, called gingerols. It has also been thought to promote healthy sweating which is helpful for fighting colds and flu’s since sweat contains a potent germ-fighting agent, called dermicidin. Ginger has also been seen to improve symptoms of nausea, which is often experienced with the flu.

Practical tip: add the orange towards the end to minimise the amount of vitamin C lost from the heat.

Chicken soup made with bone broth

Granny was right to give you chicken soup when you were sick. Chicken is a valuable source of protein and iron, both of which support a healthy immune system. Too little iron could lead to anaemia and weaken the immune system. Combining iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C, such as broccoli, red pepper and sweet potato, can help boost your absorption even further.

Chicken soup made with real bone broth will also work wonders on your digestive and immune health. The gelatine in the bone broth contains a vital nutrient, called glutamine, which is the primary fuel for the cells lining your gut, keeping it healthy and able to block out pesky bugs.

Butternut, sweet potato & cinnamon soup

Butternut and sweet potato are both rich in vitamin A. Vitamin A has long been known for its role in supporting the immune system, as it was called ‘the anti-infective vitamin’ from as early as the 1920s. Vitamin A is needed to maintain the surfaces of the respiratory and digestive systems, which is important to make sure they block harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream.

Cinnamon’s essential oils have antimicrobial properties; these help to stop the growth of harmful bugs. It’s so effective that research has shown that it can be used as an alternative to traditional food preservatives. Besides these benefits, what can provide as much relief from the cold or flu as a warm cup of tea with cinnamon and ginger?

Click here to view the recipe!

Super seed & nut soup toppers

Add some crunch and texture to your soup by sprinkling a mixture of your favourite roasted nuts and seeds over it. They’re great sources of many nutrients needed for a strong immune system, including selenium, copper, zinc and vitamin E. Almonds and sunflower seeds are particularly high in the antioxidant vitamin E, with a 30g serving giving you a whopping 50% of your daily requirements. If you’re looking for more affordable options, seeds and unsalted peanuts are the way to go.

Remember that most of the immune-benefits seen from the nutrients mentioned above, are largely only obtained from eating foods rich in these nutrients. The same benefit is not always seen when using supplements. In fact, using mega-doses of some nutrients could actually harm your immune system. So, make sure to maintain a healthy, balanced diet this winter, and get cooking.

The HSFSA plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, with the aim of seeing fewer people in SA suffer premature deaths and disabilities, and to reduce the cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden in SA and ultimately on the SA health care system. Their mission is to empower South Africans to adopt healthy lifestyles, make healthy choices easier, seek appropriate care and encourage prevention