When La Grange Park resident Venessa Tornabene felt
"under the weather" as a child, her mother soothed her with chicken
noodle soup or honey-sweetened hot tea. Today she serves her own
two daughters Grandma's homemade minestrone soup recipe loaded with
fresh vegetables whenever they show signs of any illness.
During the winter months, it's not uncommon for multiple
children or even the entire household to fall sick with a nasty
cold or the flu. Can food help?
Yes. There are many plant foods that can boost your immune
defense, says registered dietitian Sharon Palmer, author of
Diet. "Plant foods have potent
phytochemicals-plant compounds-that appear to offer particular
healing properties," she says.
It's not only the phytochemicals. "Fruits, vegetables,
legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are also rich in fiber, which
can help feed your `healthy' bacteria, which in turn can boost your
immune defense," she says.
For example, research published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences in 2010 concluded a high fiber diet
contributes to preferential gut microbiota, which is linked with
better immune function.
It's important to start with a healthy plant-based diet,
rich in nutrients, phytochemicals and fibers that promote a good
immune defense to protect against acquiring a disease.
"The beauty of whole foods for healing is that they offer
no adverse effects when eaten in moderation, compared with the
potential for drugs," adds Palmer.
Luckily for us, it happens to be the tastier option as
Chicken soup. A study
published in 2000 in Chest found that chicken soup may contain
substances with a variety of medicinal properties, including
anti-inflammatory effects, that could help ease symptoms of upper
respiratory tract infections. The study found it may inhibit immune
cells, called neutrophils, which play a role in the discharge from
mucous membranes that lead to coughs and excess sputum during a
cold or flu. Both homemade or canned chicken soup worked, as did
Extra virgin olive oil. It
contains the compound oleocanthal, which provides a similar
anti-inflammatory property as ibuprofen.
Fresh ginger. A
decongestant, ginger can reduce the pain associated with muscle
injury after intense exercise. It also quells upset stomachs,
nausea and motion sickness.
Herbal tea. People have been
sipping herbal teas as a health remedy for eons, and now research
shows that some of these botanicals may have antioxidant and
Mushrooms. These fungi help
fend off viral infections. White button mushrooms provide
significant levels of selenium, niacin and riboflavin.
Tart red cherries and
pomegranates. These fruits can reduce muscle
soreness after intense physical activity.
Tea with honey. Honey
contains phenols, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
properties. Other compounds help prevent bacterial growth and
Yogurt. Yogurt with active
cultures of beneficial bacteria can help prevent and treat certain
types of diarrhea. If the diarrhea is a side effect of antibiotics,
which kill both good and bad bacteria, it's especially important to
replenish the good ones.
Tornabene is convinced of the healing power of homemade
soup for her girls.
"We absolutely feel it helps them. My husband says it's
evidence-based feeding. We've seen it work first-hand," she
Christine Palumbo, RD, is based in Naperville. She swears by any type of soup when she’s under the weather. Contact her at Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com. Her Facebook page is Christine Palumbo Nutrition and her Twitter handle is @PalumboRD.
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