Kitchen Pharmacy Part 2 – Prevention, plus an immunity hotpot

It’s better that cure! That is definitely the word on the street. And it certainly saves a lot of time (and money if you think it terms of time off work) to be avoiding illness. By keeping yourself as well as you can you are also in a better position to bounce back faster and more completely if you do get sick. 

So how do you stay well and avoid the dreaded lurgies?

There are certain key nutrients that help to maximise immune function, the big three being Vitamin C, Vitamin A/betacarotene and Zinc.

Vitamin C is widely recognised as being of assistance during colds / flu / infections for its ability to reduce the severity and duration of illness. Vitamin C supplements are one of the most widely consumed supplements on the market. They appear in varying quality, forms and strengths, and here is the basic lowdown. Powders are better absorbed than tablets. Smaller quantities taken more frequently is better than one huge dose. Don’t buy chewable vitamin C tablets as they are full of sugar/sweeteners which inhibit your immune system by up to 50%, and this is not what you want!

Having said this, nutrients work better, and are ultimately best absorbed if you have them as part of a whole food! Of course there are circumstances where we require higher doses, but for prevention and general wellness, wholefood is the go. 

We are so lucky to have such an amazing array of goodies packed with Vitamin C to choose from, with capsicum, kale, broccoli, thyme and parsley, kiwi fruit, strawberries, citrus fruit, raw cabbage, sweet potato and tomatoes being the high flyers. Be careful though, you can destroy up to 100% of the vitamin C content of these foods during the cooking process as it is sensitive to light, heat, and oxygen. In simple terms, less cooking = more vitamin C. Don’t use large amounts of water to cook your veg as this will leach vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals from your food (the exception to this being soup/casseroles which pass the test as you are eating the liquid as well as the vegetable). The other big thing to consider is seasonal eating and buying local produce! By buying food this way, you are ensuring less storage time, less transportation time, less time sitting around on a shelf, and therefore a higher nutrient value (and a more delicious taste!). Organically grown fruit and vegetables have a higher nutrient value again, and if you buy in season and from the farmers markets you will often find that this is not a great deal more expensive than conventional produce. 

A little on Vitamin A and Zinc
Preformed Vitamin A is mainly found in eggs, fish, milk, butter, cream, red meat and liver. Plant sources of carotenes which are converted to vitamin A in the body are sweet potato, carrots, kale, pumpkin, spinach, paprika, cayenne and chilli powder. Vitamin A plays a large role in cellular immunity and is a lovely antioxidant.

Zinc can be found in eggs, seafood, nuts, legumes, wholegrains, miso, mushrooms, green beans and pumpkin seeds. It’s role in immune function contributes to reduced frequency  and duration of colds, as it is required for normal development and functioning of immune cells. It is also an antioxidant.

But again, having these nutrients as wholefoods is the best thing you can do to stay healthy and boost your immune system.

There are literally hundreds of delicious things you can create with this combination. I have given two fabulous options here to get you started.

Firstly, a juice. Actually it’s more or a smoothie. Don’t just reach for the orange juice – boring! Yes oranges do have vitamin C, but not as much as kale, capsicum, kiwi fruit or broccoli. Don’t fancy broccoli juice? No problems, this kale and orange juice will knock your socks off! Not only packed with vitamin C, but with immune boosting vitamin A and loads of antioxidants. I add a little ginger sometimes to it for a spicy edge and to give it a little more of a warming nature. Here’s what to do.

Kale and Orange Juice
1. Peel an orange, chop and pop in a blender.
2. Tear up a handful of kale and add that too (always add the orange first so that the kale sits on top and can blend in nicely instead of getting stuck down the bottom of your blender).
3. Add  about 1/4 cup water or a few ice blocks.
4. Add optional extras: a squeeze of lemon juice (highly recommended), 1/4 tsp finely grated ginger, a few chunks of pineapple, berries, chia seeds, spirulina, etc).
5. Blend up until you a get a rocking creamy green colour and enjoy!

I just love knowing that all the goodness from this green goddess of a drink reaches the cells of your body in 15 minutes, awesome!
The great thing about making it in the blender is that you retain all of the goodness and fibre of the ingredients, AND you don’t have to clean the juicer!!
(P.S. I agree OJ is delicious and lovely – but please use freshly squeezed, or in the least a juice without sweeteners).

Next, a warming, nourishing hot pot delight to keep you satisfied. 

Inspired from the Food Matters Project, this little beany veg combo is packed full of immune boosting nutrients, and is sustaining and warming to boot! This weeks recipe was Beans ‘n Greens Burritos (original recipe here), and this is my take. 

Beany Capsicum Hotpot
You will need:
Coconut or olive oil
1 red capsicum/pepper, cut into chunks
1/2 – 1 red chilli, sliced
1 carrot, roughly diced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 brown onion, diced
Large handful of kale, roughly chopped or torn
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp fennel seeds
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
400g red kidney beans, cooked and rinsed
200g chickpeas, cooked and rinsed
200g tomatoes, chopped (or 200g tinned tomatoes)
Vegetable stock or water
1 avocado
2 sprigs fresh parsley or corriander
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
Lemon or lime juice
Yoghurt (optional)

Heat the oil in a pot, add the capsicum and chilli and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the carrot, half the garlic, onion, paprika, fennel seeds, thyme, bay leaf and a pinch of sea salt. Cook for about 15 minutes. Add the beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, the rest of the garlic and enough vegetable stock (or water) to cover. Simmer on low heat for half an hour. Five minutes before the end of cooking time, add the kale.

Season to your liking with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve in bowls and top with sliced avocado, fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon/lime juice, a dollop of yoghurt (if using) and a scattering of pumpkin seeds. Alternatively, you could top with avocado salsa. The flavour of this hotpot just gets better in time, so it’s a great thing to make and enjoy for lunch in the following days.

Check out what the other FMP members created here.
Stay well.x

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