AIM: AN IMMUNE BOOST
Based on average nutritional values of ingredients, and using homemade stock. Actual values will vary.
400g cooked chicken*
1 tsp olive oil
2 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
½ tsp turmeric
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
500ml chicken stock*
Generous pinch of salt and pepper
100g fresh or frozen spinach
To serve: 4 tbsp greek yoghurt (full fat) 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, to serve fresh coriander, roughly chopped
*Ideally roast a whole chicken and make stock from the carcass (recipe below).
We all know exercise is, overall, good for health. But to get the benefits we must fuel correctly, which includes fuelling to support the immune system. Exercise puts a stress on the body and if the nutrients we need to support the immune system and exercise are in limited supply, both short term and chronic intense training sessions can result in immuno-compromise and increased inflammation. It is why elite athletes can be more susceptible to infection and illness. Inadequate sleep and stress also play a critical role in suppressing the immune system.
Both the weekend warrior and elite athlete should ensure their diet provides adequate supplies of protein and carbohydrates, as well as the key vitamins and minerals needed to support immune function. This recipe is designed to provide a good dose of many of the essential
Ginger and turmeric are both anti-inflammatory, as well as being soothing on the digestive system (which may be helpful after a particularly stomach churning conditioning workout, or a long run!!)
Chicken and homemade stock provide vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, and zinc, all of which are needed for an effective full white blood cell population to fight infection and disease.
Greek yoghurt gives another dose of vitamin B12 and vitamin D, as well as vitamin A, which helps support the tissues of the immune system as well as white blood cells.
The seeds and spinach provide vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, for white blood cells, antibodies and anti-inflammatory responses.
Indeed spinach is a real plant powerhouse, as it also provides copper and iron, also for antibodies and white blood cells. Interestingly spinach is one vegetable that needs to be cooked for us to get the most out of it – the nutrients are not very bioavailable (we can’t access and use them!) when it is raw.
The other vegetables give your dose of thiamin, vitamin C and a top up of vitamin A … more white blood cell goodness, as well as a dose of antioxidants.
Finally, the fats in this recipe (greek yoghurt and pumpkin seeds) mean the fat soluble vitamins A, D and E (in particular) in this recipe can actually be absorbed … and so that your body can use and get the benefit from them!
Annndddd importantly … it is also delicious and easy to make!!! I hope you enjoy ☺.
5-10 mins prep
25-30 mins cooking time
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, until it starts to bubble. Add the onion and sauté gently until softened and golden, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds, before adding the pepper and sautéing for another 2-3 mins.
Stir in the fresh ginger and turmeric, and when the spices start to release their aroma add the cooked chicken, tinned tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper.
Turn the heat to high and bring to the boil, before reducing the heat and covering the saucepan with a lid and simmering for another 10-15 mins.
Stir in the spinach and cook for a further 2-3 mins.
Take off the heat and, to serve, spoon into 4 bowls and top each bowl with 1 tbsp. greek yoghurt, ½ tbsp. pumpkin seeds and the fresh coriander.
Variations to consider:
For an extra kick and dose of Vitamin E and A, serve sprinkled with a pinch of dried chilli flakes.
Add more carbs and fibre to the dish, by pairing with a good wholegrain such as brown rice.
For those looking for a higher fat content, use more olive oil to fry the vegetables and / or use a mix of olive oil and butter, for an added kick of calcium and vitamin D in the dish. Alternatively stir in some double cream before serving – again, a further boost of calcium and Vitamin D alongside your added fat content.
Roast chicken and stock:
For this recipe you will need a 1.5kg chicken. Pre-heat the oven to 190˚c. Place the chicken in a roasting tin, season with salt and pepper and rub a little olive oil into the skin of the chicken. Place on the middle shelf of the over for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the juices run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the chicken (just behind the leg). Remove from the oven and leave until cool / it is cool enough to handle, and then strip the meat from the chicken, leaving the carcass. The meat will be used in the recipe, above, and the carcass will be used to make the stock, below.
Homemade chicken stock provides a good source of Niacin (Vitamin B3), which has been shown to be required for optimal functioning of many organ systems, including the immune system. You will also get around 24g protein per 500ml of homemade stock (in contrast, a stock cube will provide around 0.5g protein).
To make the chicken stock, place the chicken carcass in a large saucepan, together with a brown onion, a large carrot, a stick of celery and a potato (peel and chop all four vegetables into 2-4cm chunks), season generously with salt and pepper and add a bay leaf and pinch of dried thyme. Cover the carcass with water (will be 1-2 litres), bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours, occasionally removing and discarding the scum from the top of the water. Any stock that is not used in this recipe can be used as the base for a soup, or frozen to be used at a later date. It will also keep in the fridge for up to 7 days.