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It’s easier than you think: How to cook up an immune-supporting delicious healthy meal in just 15 minutes

Heather Richards, the College of Medicine’s lead on nutrition and Director Of Nutrition at Sano School of Culinary Medicine, tells us how to cook up an immune-supporting chicken stir fry (easily made veggie) in just 15 minutes…

In a recent blog post, ‘How can we be healthier during lockdown?’, I shared how food is key in supporting our immune systems and giving ourselves the best chance of mounting an efficient and effective response to COVID-19.

15 minutes to spare? Then you can cook up something healthy and delicious, with just a few key ingredients says Heather

Knowledge is power but we also need to put that knowledge into practice. At the College of Medicine’s Food on Prescription Conference last year, I showed how you can bridge the gap between knowledge and action with a live cooking demonstration.

Making a quick chicken stir fry, I explained how it is possible to make a healthy meal in 15 minutes whatever your ability in the kitchen. Watch the video from the event below and get the full recipe below…

HEALTHY FOOD IN 15 MINUTES: CHICKEN STIR FRY RECIPE

This recipe is not only delicious but is very simple to make, uses minimal kitchen equipment, requires very little cooking skills and is packed with immune-supporting ingredients.

What’s in it? Star immune-supporting ingredients

ONIONS AND GARLIC
This recipe begins with creating a flavour base of onion and garlic providing prebiotics, a food source for probiotics, to encourage the colonisation of the microbiome and appropriate immune response. Garlic also contains several other nutrients beneficial to the immune system such as vitamin C and the antioxidant selenium.

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Garlic enhances the activity of immune cells and its volatile oils that are responsible for the pungent smell are antimicrobial and useful support for upper respiratory tract infections.

Heather Richards, the College of Medicine’s lead on nutrition, says you don’t need a huge amount of skill to produce healthy meals

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE RECIPE CARD OF HEATHER’S CHICKEN STIR FRY

Onions contain the compound quercetin that is highly anti-inflammatory, a strong antioxidant and also has a vitamin C sparing action so will help maintain Vitamin C levels.

Use fresh garlic and onions. Don’t be tempted to buy jars of ‘lazy garlic’. These products often have added preservatives and other ‘non-nutrients’. Chopping doesn’t take long and you don’t need any particular chopping skills. Chopping is easy with a sharp knife and very difficult with a
blunt one!

GINGER

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The flavour base continues to be built up by adding ginger. If possible use the fresh variety. The spicy smell released when you chop ginger is from the release of the volatile oil gingerol which is anti-inflammatory. Ginger is also a good source of zinc needed for the proper functioning of the immune system.

MUSHROOMS

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When exposed to sunlight ergosterol in the cell walls of mushrooms is converted to vitamin D supporting both the innate and adaptive immune systems.

The compound beta glucan in mushrooms increases NK cell numbers and stimulates the immune system to release cytokines and an immunological response. If you cannot source fresh mushrooms, dried are also suitable.

When the mushrooms are dried if they are exposed to ultraviolet light the conversion of ergosterol to vitamin D continues resulting in an enhanced vitamin D content.

PEPPERS
Including all colours, green, yellow, orange and red provides an array of antioxidants. The variation in colour is due to the pepper ripening and changes in its nutrient profile. As the peppers ripen they change from green to yellow, orange and finally red.

Green peppers contain more chlorophyll and less vitamin C than the red variety. To enhance the vitamin C content of this dish include more red peppers. Make sure you use the whole pepper as the absorption of Vitamin C is increased by 35 per cent in the presence of bioflavonoids found in the white pith.

SOY SAUCE
Soy sauce is made traditionally by fermenting soybeans and is a source of probiotics. Sadly there is an alternative method of production that involves heating the soybeans and mixing them with hydrochloric acid. This method is used because it is quicker and cheaper to make.

In this case, the product is not a probiotic and does not have health benefits. When choosing a soya sauce (or tamari sauce for a gluten-free option) choose one that contains only soybeans, salt, water and wheat. Ensure there are no colouring or flavour enhancers as this indicates it has
been chemically produced.

An example of naturally fermented sauces are Kikkoman and Clearspring. These are available at most supermarkets. Generally, supermarket own-label products are chemically produced versions.

ALL OUT OF MUSHROOMS? MAKE AN INGREDIENT SWAP!

Cooking is a lot easier if you are able to adapt recipes to suit your dietary preferences and reduce wastage by using what ingredients you have! Here are some ideas to adapt this recipe and add even more immune-supporting ingredients as well as making the dish suitable for vegetarians, vegans and the larger appetite.

PACK IN THE VITAMIN C

Broccoli and spinach are both good sources of vitamin C and can easily be added here. Chop the broccoli into small florets and add as one of the first vegetables as it will take slightly longer to cook, having a firmer texture. The smaller you chop the florets the quicker they will cook.

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Add a handful of spinach and stir in during the last few minutes of cooking so that it wilts. Add more zinc content (prawns, beef, and lamb are all good sources of zinc and can be easily substituted for the
chicken and prawns can be purchased frozen if easier).

GO VEGGIE

There are some excellent sources of zinc in nuts and seeds. Instead of just sprinkling the finished dish with flaked almonds swap the chicken for a mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds or cashews.

FOR THE SUPER HUNGRY

This dish could be served on a bed of brown rice or quinoa. Alternatively, add some pre-cooked cubes of sweet potato or butternut squash. Perfect for using up any leftovers.

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE RECIPE CARD OF HEATHER’S CHICKEN STIR FRY


Heather Richards