Soup Therapy: Detoxify, Lose Weight, and Boost Immunity

The healing power of soup: something that both scientists and grandmothers can agree on. From helping you lose weight to warming you up from the inside out to boosting your immunity, soup is a winter staple that you shouldn’t be without. Maybe that is one reason that it is celebrated this month with its very own National Soup Month. Here's a closer look at what you can do to benefit from soup's amazing healing powers.

The healing power of soup
An ancient Chinese proverb states that a good doctor uses food first, then resorts to medicine. A healing soup can be your first step in maintaining your health and preventing illness. The therapeutic value of soup comes from the ease with which your body can assimilate the nutrients from the ingredients, which have been broken down by simmering.

Here are some healing soup tips that will preserve your wellness and longevity:

1. Lose weight with soup
Obesity is on the rise throughout the industrialized world, resulting in a startling increase in the rates of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. You can count yourself out of the statistics if you eat a bowl of soup at least once a day. Nutritious low-salt soups will nourish you as they flush excess wastes from your body. It has been found that people who eat one serving of soup per day lose more weight than those who eat the same amount of calories, but don’t eat soup. Homemade soup is your best bet, because canned soups tend to be loaded with salt and chemicals. My advice is to use organic vegetables whenever possible. The herbicides and pesticides that can be present in conventional produce can assault the immune system and overload it with toxins.

2. Build your immunity
Your immune system needs a lot of minerals to function properly and the typical Western diet does not always hit the mark. When you slowly simmer foods over low heat, you gently leach out the energetic and therapeutic properties of the foods, preserving the nutritional value of the foods. Keep in mind that boiling can destroy half of the vitamins found in vegetables, so cook soup over a low heat.

Immune-Boosting Soup
Simmer these ingredients for 30 minutes: cabbage, carrots, fresh ginger, onion, oregano, shiitake mushrooms (if dried, they must be soaked first), the seaweed of your choice, and any type of squash in chicken or vegetable stock. Cabbage can increase your body’s ability to fight infection, ginger supports healthy digestion, and seaweed cleanses the body. Shiitake mushrooms contain coumarin, polysaccharides, and sterols, as well as vitamins and minerals that increase your immune function, and the remaining ingredients promote general health and well-being. Eat this soup every other day to build a strong and healthy immune system.

3. Detoxify your body

As a liquid, soup is already helping you flush waste from your body. When you choose detoxifying ingredients, such as the ones featured in the recipe below, you are really treating your body to an internal cleanse. The broth below boasts many benefits: it supports the liver in detoxification, increases circulation, reduces inflammation, and replenishes your body with essential minerals.

Super Detoxifying Broth
Simmer the following for 1–2 hours over a low flame: anise, brussels sprouts, cabbage, Swiss chard, cilantro, collards, dandelion, fennel, garlic, ginger, kale, leeks, shiitake mushrooms, mustard greens, daikon radish, seaweed, turmeric, and watercress. Drink 8 to 12 ounces twice a day. You can keep this broth in your fridge for up to one week; however, it is always best to serve soups when fresh because each day, the therapeutic value decreases.

In addition to using cleansing herbs in soups, you can take cleansing herbs in supplements. For a gentle but powerful cleanse using Chinese herbs, Internal Cleanse increases the ability of the liver to cleanse the body of internal and environmental toxins.

4. Warm up with a hearty soup
You always want to eat for the season. Soups provide something the body craves in cold weather. When you cook foods into a soup, you are adding a lot of what Chinese nutrition would call “warming energy” into the food. Warming foods to feature in your soups include: leeks, onions, turnips, spinach, kale, broccoli, quinoa, yams, squash, garlic, scallions, and parsley. As a spice, turmeric aids with circulation, a great boost against the cold weather.

5. Get well faster
As you mother may have instinctively known, when you are sick, there is no better healing food than soup. The reason for this is that soups and stews don’t require as much energy to digest, freeing your body up to fight the infection.

It would be impossible to talk about soup’s healing abilities without putting the spotlight on homemade chicken noodle soup. Studies have found that chicken noodle soup does seem to relieve the common cold by inhibiting inflammation -- helping to break up congestion and ease the flow of nasal secretions.

While chicken soup may not cure a cold outright, it does help alleviate some of the symptoms and can help as a preventative measure. Many of my patient’s keep the herbal formula Cold & Flu in their medicine cabinets so its there to support recovery when a cold strikes.

In Chinese medicine, you would traditionally be given a tonic soup specifically tailored to your needs, and for that level of personal care, it is a good idea to consult a health practitioner knowledgeable in Chinese nutrition.

I hope you have gotten a taste of the healing power of soup! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

—Dr. Mao


This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.


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