Fully Loaded Miso Soup and Building a Strong Immune System

Move over chicken soup.  There’s another healing bowl of goodness in town and it comes fully loaded.

A concentrated source of plant protein, antioxidants, protective fatty acids and active bacteria, miso dissolves effortlessly into this nutrient dense soup to produce the perfect combination of taste, health and comfort.  You will fall in love with this interpretation of Japanese chicken soup!

And that’s a good thing because this year, more than ever it seems, cold and flu season has struck hard and fast.

The familiar story of the fall and early winter has been one of ongoing colds, sore throats, nasty coughs and/or some variation of the stomach flu.  In some cases, these bouts of illness are striking more than once which is particularly concerning.

So, in the spirit of giving, I’ve decided that my New Year’s gift to you, my dear readers, is an overview of some of the top dietary strategies for staying healthy and strong through the longer winter months.

While it’s perfectly natural to get sick from time to time, building a strong immune system is one of our best defenses against reoccurring and enduring illness.

So here’s to you and your Radiant Health in 2013!

~~~~~
 

Dietary Strategies to Support a Strong Immune System

Antioxidant rich foods ~ While there is no one food or nutrient that can guarantee health, a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and plenty of fruit and vegetables will help build a strong immune system.

Fruits and vegetables are the main source of disease fighting antioxidants in our diet so be sure to include a broad and colourful variety and don’t forget about the powerful allium family – garlic (more below), onion, chives, leek – which are rich in phytonutrients and operate as antioxidants in the body. 

In addition to vitamins A, C and E, the minerals zinc and selenium are also powerful antioxidants.  Brazil nuts are one of the best dietary sources of selenium but you can also find this trace mineral in a variety of fish and seafood. Zinc, essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, can be found in red meat, oysters and enriched grains/breakfast cereals. 
 
Raw garlic ~ another immune fighter that is well worth working in to the diet.  This pungent herb appears to boost the immune system and fight viruses.  There is also promising preliminary evidence to suggest that it may also have a preventative role in cold onset. 

Fluids ~ proper hydration helps prevent the formation of small cracks in nasal membrane where virus can enter.  This is particularly important during the winter months when artificial heating dries our skin. Fluids can also help alleviate nasal congestion once a cold has set in.  Aim for seven cups per day and consider warm beverages including: lemon water, soothing herbal teas, soups, and warming stews. 

 

Vitamin D ~ studies continue to link a shortage of this mighty nutrient to many serious diseases including: cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease and influenza. It is believed that vitamin D increases the body’s production of proteins that destroy viruses.

During the fall and winter months, when the sun in the northern hemisphere is not sufficiently strong to synthesize vitamin D under our skin, adults are advised to take a minimum of 1,000 IUs (international units) of vitamin D per day while children should supplement in the range of 400 IUs daily. Older adults, people with dark skin, those who don’t spend a lot of time outdoors and those who wear clothing that covers most of their skin, should consider supplementing year round. Vitamin D levels can be easily tested through your medical or naturopathic doctor.

Probiotics ~ studies reveal that good bacteria (the ‘friendly’ strain of live microbes that are used to repopulate the gastrointestinal tract) can enhance the immune system helping to both prevent and reduce symptoms of flu and cold. 

Daily intake of fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh) and dairy products such as unsweetened yogurt and kefir may be helpful for arming our intestinal ecology with good bacteria.  For a more potent concentration during flu season, a daily probiotic capsule containing acidophilus and bifidus has been shown to produce positive results in both adults and children. 

A 2009 study published in Pediatricsfound that healthy children, aged 3 to 5, who took a probiotic supplement during the fall and winter suffered significantly less fever, nasal congestion, cough occurrences/duration and missed fewer days of school. The study also found that probiotic supplements reduced antibiotic use in these same children. 

Children’s products are available on the market and the doses are usually one quarter to one half that of adults. Probiotic powder can be mixed with water or added to a delicious fruit smoothie to make it easier for children to consume. 

Vitamin C ~ while it may not prevent onset, vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration of cold symptoms in both adults and children.

 

Vitamin C is also important during times of physical and emotional stress not only as an immune builder but also because the adrenal glands (the glands that are responsible for releasing stress hormones) require a steady supply of this nutrient to function properly.  This is a good time to stock up on vitamin C rich foods including: red bell pepper, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries and oranges. 

 While vitamin C toxicity is very rare (the body does not store water-soluble vitamins), supplemental amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day in divided doses are not generally recommended because they can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea. Also, individuals with a history of kidney stones are advised to consult their doctor before taking vitamin C supplements.

 

Echinacea ~ the evidence on Echinacea continues to produce mixed results however the most recent information on this herb appears to be positive.  A very recent study out of the UK suggests that Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) does have a positive effect on the prevention of the common cold while another study published in American Family Physicianrevealed that Echinacea purpurea improved the symptoms of cold already in progress. 

Ginseng (COLD-fx) ~special extract of North American ginseng – sold as COLD-fX – has been shown to be effective at reducing the frequency, severity and duration of colds in both adults and seniors. 

 

The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician or other health care professional directly before beginning or changing a course of health treatment. 

~~~~~
Fully Loaded Miso Soup {Protein Rich, Vegan}
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms of choice
  • 5 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup shelled edamame beans, (run frozen beans under hot water for 15 seconds)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 package (about 500 grams or about 2 cups) firm tofu, diced
  • 6 Tbsp miso paste, or to taste
  • 1 bundle green onion (scallions), finely chopped
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Notes: 

Miso – if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to experiment with miso, you’re in for a treat.  Miso is a fermented food sold in paste form that is most commonly derived from soybean and brown rice or barley (you will find it in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores).  A staple of the Japanese diet for centuries, miso is a concentrated source of plant protein that has a very pleasant, savoury taste (umami) that is quite soothing (and addictive!).  Like most fermented foods, miso also contains active bacteria that help arm our digestive tract (and immune system) with a healthy ecology, protecting us from illness.  It is also said that the emollient nature of the linoleic acid in miso promotes soft, silky skin.
Miso dissolves beautifully in soups but you don’t have to stop there.  You can use it in sandwiches, as a vegetable dip or as a spread over other proteins such as salmon – delish.  A little goes a long way with miso so start slowly and see how you enjoy the taste.
Once you have your ingredients assembled for this soup, it will only take you minutes to pull it together and you will have lots of leftovers!
~~~~~~~
Directions: 

Sauté onion, garlic, chili-garlic sauce and mushroom with some olive oil in a skillet on the stove top set to low-medium heat until onion is translucent (about 7-8 minutes).
Transfer onion/mushroom mixture into a large pot that you will be using to cook the soup.  Add vegetable stock and water to pot followed by edamame, bell pepper and tofu, stirring to combine over medium heat. Allow mixture to come to a boil before reducing heat and adding miso.  Adding the miso at the end of the process once the temperature of the soup has reduced will preserve the probiotic quality of this wonderful fermented food. Stir to integrate miso thoroughly and finally, add green onions (scallions) just before serving.
 

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Comments

  1. SallyBR says

    I read your post with a cup of pomegranate white tea – very warm and comforting, but still the photos of all that snow gave me a shiver. Why oh why would you do this to my tropical self? On the first working day of the year?

    oh, well – only a miso soup can bring me back to life… and your version is amazing, Phil and I both love miso soup but always go for the bland version, just some green onion and tofu, nothing else. This one is much better!

    stay warm… if at all possible…. :-)

  2. JudySavoringToday says

    This looks wonderful! We are starting a cleanse next week and this soup would be a great meal to include during that time. Thanks!

  3. says

    Kelly, this is a great post; I will be sharing this with my friends to keep us all healthy this winter season! And I will be making a pot of this soup this weekend for sure. Adding in edAmane is a nice surprise! Happy healthy New Year!

  4. says

    What an original Westernised miso soup! I have never tried making miso soup out of chicken stock (only the Japanese dashi which I prepare once a week in big batches). Just like you did, I put lots of different vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, seafood, chicken… (without thinking however of their nutritional values ;-) ). I love your healthy, but nutritious soup!
    Thank you for the tips to improve the immune system.My personal goal for 2013 is to take more calcium this year. Apparently I don’t have the right dietary habits concerning calcium intake, so since most women health bone problems when they get older, I don’t want to be one of them. Regular intake of delicious French maturing cheese is the best dietary prescription I have ever received ;-) (I had no idea maturing cheese has so much more calcium and vit. D than fresh cheese and used to eat tons of fresh cheese thinking it takes care of calcium and vit. D…). Happy New Healthy Year, Kelly!

  5. says

    I am absolutely bowled over this post, Kelly. Love all the info, thank you, the soup looks and sounds incredible, did you use light or dark miso paste (I usually have the yellow one at home) and the winter wonderland photography is incredible, thank you for sharing them with us. I love the addition of the fresh vegetables, and to top it off with the bright scallion, such lovely and lively flavours. I’m definitely making this soup for dinner soon. Happy New Year to you and hope that you are over all the sniffles, colds and flus.

  6. says

    There ain’t much snow over here ..we have a really mild winter this year, but a Vc loaded soup is always good for you any time of year.
    Stay warm!

  7. Koko says

    Kelly, I am so so so down with this super soup. I am a miso addict, I just love it’s salty taste and I have made miso soup a few times this year when I’ve wanted something light or have been feeling something coming on….none as fully-loaded as this one, though! I love all the variations of miso available so commonly now.

    I totally agree with you- a decked out miso soup is the new chicken noodle, for sure! Love all the stats about miso and healthy bacteria, it’s so key. I learned the importance of that after a long stay in the hospital in which my body had been entirely wiped out of good bacteria due to far too many antibiotics. I think the antibiotics somehow made my recovery even slower- there was nothing bad left in my system, but there was nothing good either. Although my diet is rich with fermented foods, I take a acidophilus almost every day since then.

    Here’s to a happy, healthy, awesome 2013!!

  8. Kristy says

    It’s no wonder Miss A is so healthy. She rarely comes down with anything and when she does, she bounced back in a day or two. She eats very well. She’s fortunate that her cravings (outside of sugar) are for healthy foods. Perhaps my resolution this year should be to eat more like her. ;) This soup does look and sound very good. We all enjoy miso soup and I like how you’ve fully loaded it here. It makes it much more filling (and pretty). Here’s to warding off all the germs!

  9. inspirededibles says

    Hi Eva, thank you for your enthusiasm and thoughtful note. I used a red miso (‘akamiso”) aged 3 years and sourced from soy/organic brown rice. Generally, the lighter the colour of the miso, the younger and sweeter tasting it is. Darker misos tend to be more older and more robust/salty in flavour and you may need less to achieve desired taste. Cheers!

  10. inspirededibles says

    Haha, yes indeed, this is definitely an interpretation of miso soup and not a traditional Japanese version. While I love the mostly broth-based Japanese classic, I wanted to go with something a little more hearty and fulsome on the veggie side. Thought a vegan version would lend itself more to a veg-based stock, though dashi is delish.

    Love the prescription for aged cheese and bone health!! I think my fave would be Greek yogurt ;0). Other great sources of calcium often overlooked: sesame, almonds, dark leafy greens – the full range of cabbages: kale, collards, bok choy…). Happy New Year to you Sissi!

  11. inspirededibles says

    Your tropical self…heehee! Love it.

    Did I mention that I walked the dog for an hour this morning in -30 wind chill temps – it was… INVIGORATING (!) yeah, that’s it! ;0)

  12. inspirededibles says

    Very happy to hear that you find the post useful Linda – I hope your friends do too. A very happy new year to you!

  13. says

    Happy New Year Kelly!!!! Hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday! Thank you for such a great list of healthy eating ideas. Some I can do and actually do, but some I have to omit. Having a couple of active autoimmune diseases, I have to find a balance for my immune system. If I boost it too much, it makes my diseases worse. If I The first four items on your list work for me, but the others, not so much. With that said, I know that your soup would be a perfect meal for not just my health but the cold weather that we are having this first week of 2013. It’s cold!!!! Looking forward to seeing what else you serve up in 2013 my friend!

  14. inspirededibles says

    Hi KoKo! I love the salty taste of miso too and find just sipping on a bowl of miso broth enormously comforting… I decided to go with the fully loaded version here to work in more veggies. It makes me sad that many allopathic establishments are still not educating about the importance of repopulating the intestine with good bacteria following a course (or several) of antibiotics…

  15. inspirededibles says

    Ok. You want to talk cold? Let’s compare. I walked the dog for an hour in -30 this morning, you? :)

    Understood on the immune building vs. boosting.

    Cheers MJ – Happy, Happy New Year to You!

  16. inspirededibles says

    I knew that Miss A had it going on – love that girl! ;0)

    Have a beautiful afternoon Kristy – great connecting with you earlier – xo.

  17. inspirededibles says

    You can absolutely use any miso in this recipe. For some general guidelines, have a look at the reply I wrote to Eva above. Happy New Year Food Jaunts!! :)

  18. Debra Eliot says

    This will be on my soup list. Thanks for the reminder about all things to ward off the cold/flu season, too.

  19. says

    Thanks a lot for the advice, Kelly. I have looked up all the other sources of calcium, but apparently nothing beats hard matured cheese also given the content of vit. D. Thanks for reminding me about the Greek yogurt! I love it (still no light version here though).
    You are right to propose such a Westernised version of miso soup because many people are put off by the dashi’s fishy smell and never discover miso alas.

  20. inspirededibles says

    Thanks Sissi – you’re right, it’s hard to beat dairy generally for a concentrated source of calcium but for those who don’t digest it well or don’t want to eat copious amounts of saturated fatty cheese on a daily basis ;0) it’s nice to have options. Cheers!

  21. says

    What a great post considering it’s totally cold and flu season around here. Goodness, there’s so many nutrients to make sure I get!!! I dont’ know how to fit them all into my diet. This soup looks like a good start tho :)

  22. Barb Bamber says

    What a great title/name for this soup, it is indeed fully loaded.. with so much goodness packed in! My family loves miso soup and to be honest, my “go to” chicken soup with rice when we’re sick is boring compared to this recipe! I think one should eat this weekly to stave off getting sick. My gosh there’s a lot of flu going around this winter!!

  23. Natalie says

    Thank you so much for this yummy miso loaded soup recipe. I have always loved miso soup yet the extra veggies made it even better! I have been feeling under the weather and just wanted a comforting healthy soup, so glad you shared this recipe. It is absolutely delish!!! I will surely pass it on! :-)

    • kelly says

      Natalie, your lovely note was the perfect way to start to my day ~ a bright light. Thank you kindly for taking the time to drop by. I love hearing from my readers and it’s especially nice to know how much you enjoyed this soup… yay! Feel better soon :).

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