Fall has finally arrived here in the Northeast. After the warmer than usual summer, it is easy to forget to grab a jacket and scarf on the clear sunny Fall days we've been experiencing of late. The amazing variety of foods make it almost too hard to choose a favorite but few things say "Fall" to me like hot apple cider and fresh cider donuts. Along with the beautiful and bountiful fall harvest comes the start of the cold season. People are already starting to cough and sniffle, so it seems like a good time to talk about how to use food as medicine. As my grandmother often said "Feed a cold, starve a fever."
Spice it up
Spices aren't just good for making food tasty, they have long been used for their medicinal benefits. Add the ones below to a favorite recipe or try new recipes that feature them.
- Garlic & Onions aren't just handy for keeping away vampires. Both are members of the allium family which are known for their anti-viral, anti-pathogenic properties. This family also includes chives, leeks, shallots and scallions. In Eastern medicine, they also influence the lungs as well as our Protective (or Wei) Qi which helps to keep us healthy. This makes them very useful in both preventing and expelling colds. Some cultures will use a potent "soup" made out of broth and a whole lot of onions and garlic at the first sign of a cold.
- Ginger is another antibacterial, anti-viral powerhouse. A tea of fresh ginger and local, raw honey can help show a cold the door. Simply peel a few slices of ginger and steep them in hot water for a warming treat.
- Cayenne pepper, like garlic, has a strong effect on the Wei Qi and has very high levels of Vitamin C. Adding some of that to a garlic & onion soup will boost the anti-bacterial & anti-viral properties as well as "opening the pores" (inducing sweating).
Zinc may not exactly be a "food", but as a metal it is often contained in foods we eat. It has been shown to have anti-viral properties, shortening the duration of a cold caused by the common rhinovirus. There have been some conflicting studies, but a couple of more recent reviews have concluded that zinc does seem to have a reducing effect on the severity and duration of the common cold. Zinc is generally thought to prevent viral replication, although the exact mechanism of action still needs to be clarified. Check here for more information.
Grandma's chicken soup
Most of us have a close relative with a secret chicken soup recipe which always seems to help you feel better. It turns out that isn't just a tasty bowl made with love. A study published in 2000 by Dr. Rennard in the journal Chest, examined the effect of chicken soup and it's separate components on immune cells in vitro. The study showed that only the complete soup with vegetables and chicken together had the most beneficial effect. Check here for more information and the exact recipe used in the study.
To make your own bowl of cold fighting soup feel free to experiment with the recipe which has evolved in our house. It is something which continues to evolve and can be changed based on your mood (or what's in your refrigerator).
Kick that cold chicken soup
- 2 Tablespoons Olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 Bay leaves
- Dill or Sage to taste
- 1 quartered chicken
- 2-3 cups of shredded Kale leaves
- 1/2 cup of Orzo pasta
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- In a large heavy pot (a dutch oven is perfect), heat the oil
- Add the onion & celery to the pot & saute until the onions are translucent.
- Add in the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.
- Season chicken pieces with salt & pepper, place skin side down in the pot until browned (about 5 minutes)
- Add carrots, Bay leaves, dill or sage and add water until covered.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.
- Remove chicken, let cool, remove the meat from the bones and shred
- Return meat to the pot, add Orzo pasta and simmer for another 10 minutes
- Add the shredded kale to the pot and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the Kale is bright green in color and the orzo is cooked through.
- Adjust salt and pepper if needed
- Serve with a fresh loaf of crusty bread
Find more handy tips for staying healthy this fall in our other blog post: