Recipe: Immune Boosting Cream of Mushroom Soup
This flu season has been especially hard for some folks with the flu vaccine proving only 20% effective against this year’s predominant strains. Spring is just around the corner, but for some it can’t come soon enough! Luckily, with a little extra effort, you can easily give your immune system a boost with this not so creamy cream of mushroom soup. Here’s why its such a winner when it comes to your immune health:
Get rid of the immune suppressing ingredients:
Limit the diary: Even though there are claims of some inherent immune benefit, dairy has the tendency to supress your immune system through a multitude of mechanisms. Dairy products are likely to contain various pesticides, and potentially even antibiotic residues depending where the product was sourced from. There are also certain components of dairy products that research suggests can interfere with your immune function, even triggering autoimmune disease in some cases. Dairy is also thought to increase the inflammatory response in individuals with allergies. We are lucky in Canada to have dairy products with lower levels of these chemical offenders than found in the states, but you still need to be careful about anything that might be imported. As a result I've made the choice to cut the cream and instead use a homemade cashew cream for my creamy, hearty soup. I did also add a little brie cheese to the soup for depth of flavour, so the amount is so small that any effect on the immune system would be negligible. You can decide if you'd like it include it or not!
No refined flour: Traditionally mushroom soup uses flour as a thickener, however white flour is devoid of any nutrients, or fibre - both if which are important to keeping your immune system robust. Without these components, refined flour is basically just sugar (in the form of starchy carbohydrate chains) which can spike your blood sugar and make glucose (what viruses & other microbes eat) more readily available to your unwelcome guests.This might be just enough to tip the scales in their favour.
Add plenty of immune boosting ingredients:
Mushrooms: Mushrooms contain a special type of long carbohydrate chain that interacts with your immune cells to to enhance their responsiveness to intruders (example: beta-glucans). The best mushrooms for the job are some of the more exotic varieties, like shiitake, maitake, chanterelle (yum!!) … pretty much anything except the white button mushroom. Buying a dried blend of these is an easy way to add them into your diet (along with some brown creminis if you’re a bit squeamish to try them all on their own).
Antiviral herbs: Soup is a fantastic way to eat fresh herbs for their immune boosting benefits. The active compounds of these herbs are extracted very well into water, and will help your immune system fight off viruses. Examples of herbs with antiviral properties include thyme, and garlic. Note: quality is important as some active compounds can degrade over time, so try to get your herbs from a high quality source (your garden or farmers markets would be ideal, but if these aren't an option, the next best is fresh from the grocery store).
Boost the protein, fibre and healthy fat: Substituting cashew cream for regular cream gives a huge boost of protein and fibre to this recipe, approximately 4 times more fibre and 6 times more protein. The fat content stays fairly similar, but is a healthier type of fat than cream, (much less saturated fat) so it will provoke far less inflammation, and may actually support anti-inflammatory pathways. Your immune system needs adequate protein to function properly, and your gut microbes require adequate fibre so they can support your immune system as well.
Bone broth: (if you happen to use it) - if you can make yourself some bone broth to add to your soup it will pack some extra vitamins, minerals and immune cell building blocks to give your immune cells what they need to stay strong against invaders. I realize this is an extra time investment since a good bone broth needs to simmer for a few hours to extract nutrients into the liquid, but it is definitely worth it in the long run. There are some store bought options in the freezer section that work really well (just read the ingredients first to make sure there aren't any unnecessary ingredients in the soup...if you can't pronounce it put it back). Or, if you are really in a pinch, regular broth will work just fine (again, read the ingredients, same rule applies here. The Better than Boullion brand, and other organic brands are fairly decent choices).
This soup is a win-win, it has so many medicinal benefits, and it is DELICIOUS! It has exactly what you’d want in a mushroom soup, its flavorful, thick and hearty, and I don’t fell like I’ve compromised at all when I have it as part of my lunch or dinner.
Stay strong everyone, we’re so close to warm, sunny, cold & flu-free days!
Immune Boosting Cream of Mushroom Soup
Cook time 45 minutes
1 cup raw cashews in 2 1/2 cups of water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
800g various mushrooms, diced (I used 1/2 a pack of Costco shiitake, 1/2 a pack of Costco cremini and a generous handful of a dried gourmet mushroom blend from Costco; rehydrated, reserving the water.)
2 strips of bacon, diced
2 tbsp of fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh sage
1 tbsp parsley (fresh or dried) + extra for topping
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp fresh ground pepper (adjust to taste)
2-3 cups broth (you can use home made bone broth, beef broth, or if you’ve used dried mushrooms, add the rehydrating water to your broth mix for the added nutrients)
Optional: 3-4 slices (about 1/4 wheel) of brie cheese, rinds removed.
Optional: 2 tbsp fresh Parmasean for topping
1. Start by adding your cashews and water to a small pot over medium low heat and simmer, covered, for at least 20 minutes (keep an eye on it while you make the rest of the soup).
2. On medium low heat in a large pot, add the garlic, onion and bacon to sweat, and render out the bacon fat. While this is happening, dice your mushrooms and add them to your pot as you chop them. You may need a little extra fat of your choice to keep the pot lubricated, I used a mix of butter (cultured or grass fed is best) and olive oil, but avocado or coconut oil or ghee would also work well.
3. Sautee until everything appears cooked through but not mushy (about 10-15 minutes, then add your herbs and spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat while you prepare your cashew cream.
4. By this point, your cashews should be ready to blend. Pull out your blender (we use a Vitamix, but any high powered blender will do the trick) and add the cashews and water. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. It may be a little thick but don’t worry, you can adjust it later.
5. Take about 2/3 of your mushroom mix from the pot and add it to the blender with the cashew cream. Add your brie cheese if using. Add 2 cups broth and blend on high until all incorporated and homogeneous. At this point you can adjust the thickness by adding extra broth if you like; this soup will thicken in the fridge overnight so it’s best to start out on the thin side.
6. Return everything to the pot with the remaining mushroom mix. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Remove from heat, adjust the salt and pepper to taste, and top with fresh parsley and a little parmesan cheese.
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