In the midst of winter, immune-boosting foods can really make a difference in the strength of our overall defense system. Bolstering our immunity is critical as we take steps toward optimal wellness. Though it’s important to have a strong immune system any time of the year, it is especially so when the weather is cold and defenses are under siege. A good vegetable broth like this one is a nutritional powerhouse; each ingredient offers benefits.
Why we love this recipe:
We love fenugreek for its nutty, slightly bitter flavor. Fenugreek has been shown to improve the absorption of curcumin, turmeric’s primary active component by 15.8 times. Independently, curcumin is not readily bioavailable, and researchers are constantly working to improve its intestinal absorption by combining curcumin with other agents (black pepper and turmeric is another winning combination).
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in oleocanthal, a potent anti-inflammatory polyphenol that stimulates the body’s innate repair process. A stream of strong and fruity olive oil does wonders to finish off a simple, straightforward soup like this.
Quercetin exists aplenty in red onions and broccoli. It scavenges for free radicals and naturally stabilizes mast cell activity, which can protect the immune system from over-activating.
In one study, eating shiitake mushrooms proved to increase sIgA (indicating improved intestinal immunity) and decrease levels of CRP (an inflammatory marker produced by the liver that can indicate infection, atherosclerosis, or autoimmunity.) The implication is that shiitake mushrooms work to calm inflammation and thus positively affect inflammatory blood markers.
The recipe is endlessly adaptable. For a low-histamine version of this broth, omit the fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, and mushrooms. Substitute baby bok choy for mushrooms. People who are highly sensitive to histamine may react to onions; omit them if this is you. Eat broth within 1 day (make a smaller batch if necessary). Leftover foods form histamine the longer they sit.
6 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
1 red onion
2 T extra virgin olive oil + more for finishing
2 stalks celery
½ lb shiitake mushrooms
5 cups water or more as needed
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground turmeric or 1 T fresh grated turmeric
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup chopped lacinato kale (from about 3-4 leaves)
Sea salt to taste
Mince all of the garlic, and let it rest for 10 minutes or more. We rest garlic before cooking it so that it has time to form the antifungal, antibacterial compound called allicin.
Toast the fenugreek seeds in a dry skillet over low heat. This takes about 2 minutes. Then use a coffee grinder to blend seeds to a powder. If you don’t have a coffee grinder, buy fenugreek powder (fenugreek powder is a little harder to find than whole fenugreek seeds). See our notes below for reasons to seek out fenugreek rather than skip it altogether! If you can’t find it, use 1 tsp black pepper instead to enhance the absorption of curcumin in turmeric.
While fenugreek seeds are toasting, peel and chop the onion.
Add 2 T olive oil to a soup pot.
Add chopped onions to the soup pot and sauté over low heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent. This takes about 5 minutes.
As onions are cooking, slice carrots and celery.
Prep the mushrooms: Give them a good rinse, then slice off and discard the bottom tips of the stems. Separate the caps from the stems and slice both. The stems are full of nutrition, too.
Add the sliced carrots, celery, and mushrooms to the onions.
Add the water, grated ginger, turmeric, and ground fenugreek to the vegetables.
Bring broth to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add more water as needed.
Meanwhile, chop broccoli florets into very small pieces and slice the kale leaves.
After about 40 minutes, vegetables should be very soft. Add the broccoli and kale and cook for another minute or two.
Season with sea salt.
Drizzle with olive oil just before eating. Broth will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Jacqui Gabel is from Minneapolis and moved to Denver two years ago to attend NTI’s Natural Food Chef Program. Like many, she fell in love with Colorado and chose to stay. She’s currently working on completing her MNT certification and working as a private chef. Find her online at realfooddesire.com.