Most people seem to migrate towards soup when feeling sick and in need of some comfort food. Whether chicken or tomato, the soup seems to serve two purposes. It is easy to open a can and heat when you are just not up to ‘proper’ cooking, but most importantly, it tends to take us back to our childhood when we were given soup to eat in front of the television, snuggled up under a duvet or blanket.

Do these soups provide us with a magical ingredient that helps us to feel better – or are these comfort foods just that? Foods that make us feel better during times of illness.

So, what are the best comfort foods for us when we are sick? There are various foods that offer comfort for different people – chocolate, stews or even ice-cream to name a few.

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Can we consider chocolate as a comfort food? Why not? It provides energy, but more importantly it contains polyphenols, a micronutrient with lots of benefits including antioxidant effects and it gives a boost of serotonin, which is our ‘feel good’ hormone (Dolan, 2013).

When you are sick and you just want to curl up in a ball, but your belly is rumbling, what is quick and easy? A baked potato is easily put in the oven or microwave and doesn’t require much effort. It’s warm and inviting and can be topped with whatever you like.

Adding a dollop of butter and some protein, such as cheese, hummus, beans or meat, will help with the slow release of energy from the potato and keep us feeling fuller for longer. For a healthy choice, opt for a sweet potato, which is high in vitamins A and C.

A casserole or stew is easily made from anything you have in the fridge or cupboard at home. Load it with plenty of mixed vegetables to aid in healing as well as providing a comfort food, which may well take us back to our childhood. Onions can be used as a base for most dishes and can help the body to release toxins.

They also contain quercitin which is said can help fight respiratory problems and infections. The onion family (which includes garlic) is also an anti-inflammatory food. Since inflammation occurs when we aren’t well, be sure to include onions as the base of your comfort food when you are sick.

Herbs and spices

As well as lots of different vegetables, using certain herbs and spices can help both when you are sick – and also to help prevent illness.

Ginger: improves absorption of the nutrients in food, can help clear sinus problems, reduce flatulence, reduce stomach cramps, decrease inflammation, and help clear nose congestion.

Turmeric: has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It is a detoxifier, an anti-inflammatory and a natural painkiller.

Thyme: is high in vitamin C and iron and also has antibacterial properties.

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Cinnamon: is both a natural antiviral and antibiotic.

Within your comfort foods, be sure to boost:

Vitamin D3 (the form of vitamin D for best absorption): Foods that contain high levels include liver, cheese, egg yolks, and fatty fish.

Vitamin C: Including yellow peppers, kale, broccoli, tomatoes and mange tout.

Zinc: Seafood, spinach, beef, lamb, cashew nuts, cocoa (mainly in dark chocolate) and mushrooms.

A comfort recipe

Here is a recipe to help you get started. The amount of each ingredient can be varied depending on how much you would like to add.

Hearty veggie stew

Ingredients:

– Butternut squash, peeled and seeded, cut into small cubes
– Can of chickpeas or mixed beans
– Can of lentils (whichever type you prefer)
– 1 or 2 large carrots, cut into slices
– 4 or 5 sliced mushrooms
– 1 large onion, chopped
– Tomato puree to taste

Add to taste:

– Ginger, cumin, turmeric, ground black pepper, coriander, thyme and garlic
– Around a pint of vegetable broth
– Coconut oil or olive oil to cook

Use an ovenproof casserole dish (preferably cast iron*), and add the oil to the dish on a low heat. Peel the garlic and just squash with the back of a knife and leave for a couple of minutes. Add all the herbs and spices to the pan then add the chopped onion and mushrooms and stir until mixed. Next, chop the garlic and add to the pan then add the carrots, butternut squash, lentils, chickpeas, tomato paste and stir in.

Pour in the vegetable broth and mix everything together. Cover the pan and place in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 45 minutes, or until the butternut squash is soft, and the vegetables have soaked up most of the fluid.

Micronutrients

This stew will provide you with vitamin A, C, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12 and minerals iron and zinc. Therefore, you are boosting your immune system, helping to fight infection, give digestive support and boost energy release.

*Try to avoid non-stick pans as these can build up toxins within the body. Using cast iron pots and pans can help maintain your iron levels.

Reference:

Cocoa polyphenols can increase calmness and contentedness

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