How to Make Your Chicken Soup a Flu Fighting Machine
I was at the doctor’s office the other day when they offered me a flu vaccine. I declined since I was in a low risk category and my job doesn’t necessitate spending too much time around children or other high-risk groups more likely to be contagious. But, as luck would have it, my wife just got sick. Along with the usual complaints of congestion, headache, sinus pressure and more, she was experiencing stomach problems and a fever.
In an effort to fortify myself and give her something to combat the illness I decided on the standard home remedy—chicken soup. Chicken soup has been shown to help break up congestion and eases the flow of nasal secretions. Many say it also inhibits white blood cells that trigger the inflammatory response, causing sore throats and the production of phlegm.
It may do this because chicken itself contains an amino acid called cysteine that is released when cooked. This amino acid thins mucus in the lungs, aiding in the healing process. But since this was no normal cold, I wanted to fortify my soup with a few simple ingredients that also aid in fighting cold and flu symptoms.
The sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to function as antioxidants. In addition, many of them provide our bodies with anti-inflammatory benefits. The very presence of sulfur in so many different garlic compounds may also play an important role in our nourishment. Once known as the ‘Russian penicillin’ garlic is an important ingredient in any flu fighting meal.
To get the most out of your garlic it is best eaten raw after crushing or slicing and sitting for a few minutes. When using in cooked dishes, leave some to add at the end for maximum benefit.
As with all leafy, green Brassica vegetables like kale, chard, collards and other greens, they offer a good dose of vitamins A and C, a range of antioxidants, and the anti-cancer phytonutrient Sulforaphane. As with garlic, these additional benefits are best when lightly cooked. Add your cruciferous greens towards the end of your cooking, letting them wilt until tender just prior to serving.
As anyone that eats a primarily plant-based diet will tell you, variety is not only the spice of life, it is a necessity. Try adding potatoes, turnips, sweet potato, and parsnips to your next soup. All of these vegetables have a wide variety of vitamins and essential minerals to keep you healthy and feeling good. Add them about 1/2 hour prior to serving so they have time to get tender, but don’t overcook.
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 whole chicken, about 4 to 5 pounds
- 3 large leeks, cleaned and sliced thin
- 3 carrots, sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
- 3 celery sticks, chopped 1/4-inch
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- 2 whole sprigs fresh rosemary, 1 (about 1 tsp) minced
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup white wine, sherry or vermouth
- 6 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups winter greens, chard, kale, beet greens, sliced
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- In a 6 quart Dutch oven or comparable heavy-bottomed pot heat coconut oil or other high-heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not yet smoking. Season chicken with salt and pepper inside and out. Place chicken in pot and sear on all sides until golden brown, turn when each side removes easily from the bottom of the pot. Remove to a plate, and reduce heat to medium.
- Remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil in pot, you can reserve the drippings and rendered chicken fat for dumplings or just discard. Saute leeks, carrots and celery until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add half of the thinly sliced garlic and minced herbs, stirring for another 30 seconds. Sprinkle with flour and stir for another minute.
- Using a heave wooden spoon, scrape of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you add the wine. As the bottom becomes clean add chicken stock. Return chicken and any accumulated drippings to pot. Cover and cook until chicken is tender and will easily pull apart, about 40-50 minutes. If using chopped potatoes, turnips, parsnips or sweet potatoes, add after 20 minutes.
- Remove chicken and whole herbs from pot, discard herbs. Remove meat from chicken, discarding bones. Return chicken meat to pot and stir in along with the rest of the garlic, greens and parsley. Cook until greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Serve hot, alone, with noodles, or wild rice.
**02/12/14 This recipe has been modified to answer comments.