Apr 18, 2013

Super Immunity Soup

The title of this soup is inspired by Dr. Fuhrman’s book Super Immunity which I am reading now for a second time. Everyone should read this book, especially medical doctors and anyone else in the health field. It contains vital information about how to boost our immune systems through food choices which protect our bodies from colds, influenza and infections.

This soup contains several known immune-boosting foods, including shiitake mushrooms, greens and miso.

I remember way back in the 80s, when I was eating lots of macrobiotic foods, that shiitake mushrooms were hailed as having properties that bolster the immune system. Whenever I would get sick, I would make a pot of miso soup with lots of shiitakes. But why wait until you’re sick to eat immune-boosting foods? A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds will certainly strengthen your body’s natural defenses.

I recently did some research to discover the science behind the claims of shiitake mushrooms and other foods purported to boost immune function. One study shows that shiitake mushrooms contain high-molecular-weight polysaccharides (HMWP), which are said to improve human immune function.[1]

Another study reported that polysaccharide extracts of Shiitake were shown to stimulate the function and activation of macrophages. Macrophages are white blood cells involved in the body’s initial response to infection (destroying pathogens and sending out chemical signals to the immune system to mount an attack on invading organisms).[2]

Shiitake has been cultivated for over 1000 years. During the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644) Chinese physician Wu Jue wrote that the mushroom could be used medicinally as a remedy for upper respiratory tract infections, poor circulation, liver pathologies, exhaustion, premature aging, and as a Qi (life force) tonic.

What about kale? I’ve mentioned it quite a bit on my blog and I use it in many recipes and eat a LOT of it. Why? Kale is a rich source of organosulfur compounds, which have been shown to reduce the risk of many cancers,[3] especially one of the most deadly forms, colon cancer.[4] The cancer-protective compounds in kale have thus been the subject of intense research, particularly their role in blocking the growth of cancer cells and inducing cancer cell death (apoptosis).

Organosulfur compounds known as glucosinolates are present in the cruciferous vegetables of the Brassica genus, which includes kale. These compounds are broken down into potent anticancer compounds called isothiocyanates in the body, which are powerful inducers of cancer-destroying enzymes and inhibitors of carcinogenesis.[5]

There are so many more health benefits to eating kale! Dr. Fuhrman rates kale and other cruciferous greens at the very top of his ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) food scoring system.

Lentils, also included in this soup, are full of phytonutrients (a term that simply means nutrients from plants). Phytonutrients function as antioxidants and boost immunity. Studies conducted by the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston revealed that both lentils and peas are able to reduce the risk of breast cancer. One of the reasons is that both these foods are rich in flavones, a class of antioxidants. While the results of these studies are not entirely certain, they represent the premise of future research.

Miso and other fermented foods and drinks help build up the inner ecosystem and assure the digestive tract is well supplied with beneficial bacteria. These bacteria help digest, synthesize, and assimilate nutrients that are so necessary for good health and anti-aging. They also strengthen the immune system, keeping it at the ready to fight infection and cancer. [6][7]

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SODIUM CONTENT? That’s the question I had, too. Animal studies have repeatedly shown the same result for miso versus table salt intake: Animals consuming a 2.3% table salt (sodium chloride) diet and animals consuming a 2.3% salt-from-miso diet have not experienced the same results. Salt-from-miso diets have not been found to raise blood pressure, even when they provide an equal amount of salt as high table-salt diets. Researchers speculate that the difference may be related to a combination of factors, including soy proteins, peptides, isoflavones, and diverse antioxidants found in soy miso. In addition, researchers point to the potentially key role of fermentation in transforming soybean content and rendering it more capable of cardiovascular support.[8][9] Further research is needed to clarify all of these issues, however, so I use the mellow white miso, which is lower in sodium—and not too much of it—in my recipes.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the immune enhancing benefits of garlic, onions and ginger. I won’t get into all of those research findings here. This article is getting long enough and I want to get to the recipe!


  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 2-3 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 green onions, diced
  • 3 TBS mellow white miso
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
  • 1″ piece of ginger, grated
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 tsp dried wakame (sea vegetable)
  • 1 tsp yellow curry
  • 1 TBS low-sodium veggie base (I use Vogue)
  • ½ – 1 tsp of your favorite hot sauce
  • gomasio for garnish


  1. Place all ingredients, except miso, into a pot and simmer until the kale and mushrooms are tender.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Dilute the miso with a little of the both in a separate cup so that it is more like a gravy. Add to the soup and stir to combine.
  4. Garnish with gomasio and/or some dulse or kelp flakes.

Serves 4. Enjoy!

Healthy trails,


1. USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2008, July 1). Shiitake Mushrooms May Improve Human Immune Function. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 14, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/06/080629081210.htm

2. Study on immunostimulating activity of macrophage treated with purified polysaccharides from liquid culture and fruiting body of Lentinus edodes. Lee HH, Lee JS, Cho JY, Kim YE, Hong EK. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2009 Jun;19(6):566-72. PMID: 19597314 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] 

3. Heber D. Vegetables, fruits and phytoestrogens in the prevention of diseases. J Postgrad Med. Apr-Jun 2004;50(2):145-9.

4. Xiao D, Pinto JT, Gundersen GG, Weinstein IB. Effects of a series of organosulfur compounds on mitotic arrest and induction of apoptosis in colon cancer cells. Mol Cancer Ther. Sep 2005;4(9):1388-98.

5. Padilla G, Cartea ME, Velasco P, de Haro A, Ordas A. Variation of glucosinolates in vegetable crops of Brassica rapa. Phytochemistry. Feb 2007;68(4):536-45.

6. Akhter M, Inoue M, Kurahashi N et al. Dietary soy and isoflavone intake and risk of colorectal cancer in the Japan public health center-based prospective study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Aug;17(8):2128-35. 2008.

7. Akhter M, Inoue M, Kurahashi N et al. Dietary soy and isoflavone intake and risk of colorectal cancer in the Japan public health center-based prospective study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Aug;17(8):2128-35. 2008.

8. Nakamura M, Aoki N, Yamada T, Kubo N: Feasibility and effect on blood pressure of 6-week trial of low sodium soy sauce and Miso (fermented soybean paste). Circ J 2003; 67: 530–534. 

9. Masaoka Y, Watanabe H, Katoh O, Dohi K: Effects of miso and NaCl on the development of colonic aberrant crypt foci induced by azoxymethane in F344 rats. Nutr Cancer 1998; 32: 25–28.

6 responses to “Super Immunity Soup”

  1. So informative and well written! The soup looks amazing. I just purchased some miso and have several recipes to try using it in – I have never cooked with it before.

  2. Helyn says:

    Thanks, Tami! Let me know how your soup turns out! 🙂

  3. Jill says:

    Just found your site – and I am sooooo happy I did. You have such wonderful recipes that I will try during the next 4 weeks of my first 6-week trial of being a nutritarian. Thank you for making it easier (and yummier) for me to eat well and much more gourmet than I pictured for this period of time! I can't wait to get cooking!!

  4. Helyn says:

    Hi Jill! It just makes my day to know you are enjoying my recipes! Welcome aboard and I'm sure you will do great on your 6-week plan!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just found your website and can't wait to try some of these recipes!!

    – Ellyn in Washington, DC

  6. Helyn says:

    Great, Ellyn! Have fun!!

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