immune system

Food Friday: Mediterranean Kale & White Bean Soup with Sausage

Soup, soup, soup! As I write this it is rainy and cold outside so a warm soup is the perfect companion. This is one of my favourite soups and was found in Fine Cooking Magazine in 2008 by my mom. This soup is so easy to prepare, low in carbohydrates, higher in protein and full of nutrients. A bowl of this soup also quenches the desire for a little spice, and you can adjust this to your liking.

For those who find kale a little too rough for your liking, which is the case when eaten raw, this is a great recipe to try. Steaming or simmering kale softens it, making it easier on your digestion, but still providing you with all the beneficial nutrients. Kale is a great source of fiber, helping with constipation and high cholesterol. It is also high in many vitamins and act as an antioxidant. Aim to include cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, to your diet 4-5 times per week, in soups, salads, smoothies etc.

As for the sausage, be sure to buy good quality meat. You typically need to eat less of it if it is good quality. I buy mine from either the farmers markets, a good butcher or Pete’s. The spicier the better in this soup for me.

With more colds and flus going around this winter, the amount of garlic and onion in this soup helps to stimulate the immune system. Drinking ginger tea or supplementing with vitamin C and/or D can go a long way as well.

Without further ado…the recipe.

Mediterranean Kale & White Bean Soup with Sausage

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb. sweet or spicy Italian sausage (about 3 links, turkey or pork)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • One-half small yellow onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into small dice
  • 1 rib celery, cut into small dice
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 lb. 3 oz. can cannellini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups cooked dried beans
  • 1 lb. kale, rinsed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups firmly packed)
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional)

Recipe:

Remove the sausage from its casing and tear it by hand into bite-size pieces.  Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a 4 or 5 quart heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate, leaving any rendered fat in the pot.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil to the pot, increase the heat to medium high, and add the onion.  Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the carrot and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and brown, about 2 minutes more.  Be sure to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Stir in the garlic, pepper flakes, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute more.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat.

When the broth reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium, add the sausage along with any collected juices, and half the beans.  Mash the remaining beans with a fork or wooden spoon and add them to the pot, stirring to distribute.  Stir in the kale, adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, and simmer until the kale is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest (if using) and season to taste with salt and pepper.

NOTE: You can add more sausage and broth to your liking. Best made ahead and reheated – hence a great lunch!

Enjoy!

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

 

Tips and Tricks to Fight Cold and Flu Season

It's that time of year again when we start to worry about getting sick with the coming colder months. There are viruses and infections we hear about on the news and the common cold is starting to get passed around again. Yuck! 

Fear not my friends! There are several things you can do to help boost your immune system and avoid those nasty germs. Here are a few:

Immune Boosting Tips

  • First and foremost, wash your hands often with soap and water. 
  • Eat your greens - Focusing on a healthy diet with good quality protein and colourful fruits and veggies provides an abundance of helpful nutrients to fight any infection and support your body's immune system. Try to focus on soups and warm foods and nothing cold and damp, such a dairy, as these can increase phlegm. 
  • Anti-sugar - A high sugar diet will spike the body's stress hormone, cortisol, and ultimately block your body's natural immune defenses. 
  • Ginger tea - An easy root to have on hand to sooth your stomach, ease muscle tension, while fighting the infection. Simply use fresh ginger slices and steep in hot water. 
  • Probiotics - About 70% of your immune system is in your gut, called GALT - gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Therefore, improving your digestion will indirectly improve your immune system. Probiotics provides the "good" bacteria that can be out of balance in our digestion systems.
  • Vitamin C - This vitamin can be found in many foods such as oranges, kiwi, and even in your slice of lemon in the morning. High doses at the onset of a cold is ideal to kick out those nasty bugs. 
  • Vitamin D - Not only does this vitamin improve your mood in the dreary winter, it helps stimulate your immune system as well. Around 3000 IU is a safe but effective dose. 
  • Andrographis - An herb that works both as a preventative and treatment. It can be found on its own or in an immune combination at your local health food store. One of my favourite supplements is Can-Prev's Cold-Pro, which includes Andrographis, as well as Reishi mushroom and Astragalus, both immune tonics. 
  • Individualized teas - I love making teas in my practice since you can make them specific for the individuals symptoms. Catnip or Bonset are two herbs I would think to include for flu symptoms such as fever and achy bones.  

Immune Boosting Shot

Another helpful option is an all-natural immune injection that I do at my clinic. It is a combination of two homeopathic formulas, which are gentle and safe for everyone, with no added fillers or preservatives. The formula includes herbs such as Echinacea to boost your immune system and other herbs to move lymph and pathogens out. It can be done in conjunction with the flu shot or in replace of. It is suggested once or twice a year if you are healthy, or once a month for those with weak immune systems, who tend to get sick often. Finally, it can be done as soon as the first signs and symptoms of flu appear. 

For specific dosing and other immune boosting options, see your local Naturopath.

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen