5 Surprising Immune Boosting Foods – Asian Edition

March 26, 2022
Written by
Rachelle Yeo
Picture by Kira Auf Der Heide on Unsplash

5 Surprising Immune Boosting Foods – Asian Edition

What better way to eat with your health in mind than to discover your everyday foods are not just delicious but superfoods too. Some of our favorite Asian dishes commonly found at the dining table (thanks Mum!) and restaurants around us turn out to have fabulous immunity boosting benefits. Here are our Top 5:

Virus and tumour fighters / Picture by Huang Kitchen

1. Shitake mushroom & broccoli in Oyster sauce 

This is one of the most common dishes found on mum’s dinner table or a restaurant staple for Chinese families. Both the mushroom and broccoli are commonly accepted to have immune-boosting, disease fighting properties. Mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to increase NK and Cytotoxic T Cells to fight viruses and cancer cells, while broccoli has sulforaphane which increases antioxidant production, and NRF-2 to reduce inflammation from disease.

Used in Arlene’s spring rollsdumplingskebabsgyozas and Dan Dan Sauce with Noodles, shiitake also has vitamin B, many of the amino acids found in meat, as well as immune-busting polysaccharidesShiitake can reduce inflammation and improve immune strength. There is also some research that indicates it may also even help to reverse age-related immune system decline.

Furthermore, the dish is often seasoned with oyster sauce. Oysters are seen to boost immunity (thanks to the zinc content); help with brain function (vitamin B12), increase energy(iron) and even relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms (omega-3) and regulate blood sugar levels (manganese).

Magical curcumin to suppress immune attacks / Picture by Get Inspired Everyday

2. Chicken curry (turmeric)

Turmeric is often found in Singaporean and Malaysian curries, as well as some Indian curries. This yellow-hued chicken curry often cooked in lashings of delicious coconut milk and fragrant fried onion and garlic is as much a staple in every household across Southeast Asia as it is in many Indian curries and dishes.

The bright yellow-orange root contains a magical compound called curcumin , whose key benefits include buffering high cortisol levels, suppressing immune changes caused by autoimmune disease and calming inflammation while regulating the growth of beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut.

Arlene’s hearty Kebab with Biryani Rice gets its yellow color and aroma from turmeric. Curcumin is also said to minimize joint swelling in rheumatoid arthritis.

Turmeric is a great spice to use although it does impart a bright yellow hue to your skin tongue and teeth. However, because it’s not well-absorbed in the GI tract, you’d need to eat tons of it to achieve a discernible effect on your immunity.

Flexitarian Cooking Tip: Trending now – the ubiquitous chicken in curry now comes in the Jackfruit version instead! Simply swap chicken with Jackfruit, and voila!

Repair and lower cholesterol and blood pressure / Picture by Simply Recipes

3. Stir-fry beef in ginger / garlic

Another staple in mum’s kitchen and most Chinese restaurants around the world. Lean beef is rich in iron, vitamins B12 and B6 and zinc, which help with wound healing, tissue building and repair; and increase white blood and T-cell production to fight infection.

Garlic and ginger are some of the most unsung heroes of Asian recipes and often overlooked in the food-as-medicine category. The case for garlic is in its immunity-stimulating properties where it increases NK cell activity to enhance the body’s ability to kill tumor or virus-infected cells, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral to boot. It also fortifies the gut and works to increase levels of beneficial bacteria as well as fix bacterial imbalances in the gut.

Clinical trials show that garlic supplements can reduce the common cold, and that high doses of garlic can also shorten the duration of a cold or flu. Many of Arlene’s plant-based meals include garlic, which makes everything more delicious too.

Ginger also has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Gingerol, a compound in this spicy, aromatic root shows promise in lowering oxidative stress and inflammation in blood vessels particularly in the heart area. Some studies indicate that ginger extract may help prevent alcohol-induced liver disease and can block the kidney damage created by chemotherapy drugs. It is commonly found in teas to help with nausea, bloating and other GI complaints caused by imbalances in the microbiome.

Flexitarian cooking tip: Fancy a vegan substitute that tastes great too? Swap beef with pan fried Arlene’s Classic Kebabs!

Boost immunity, repair and energy / Picture by Aroma Asian

4. Chicken ginseng soup

The root of the Ginseng plant is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. Above all the beneficial properties including immune strengthening and anti-inflammation, it is said to boost energy, improve brain function, help with general weakness, injury or exhaustion and even modulate blood sugar and heart health.

Often boiled with Goji berries, the soup is served warm and tastes like hearty chicken soup with a slightly bitter twinge, but also a sweet aftertaste. Both are readily available in dried form in packets sold at most supermarkets in Singapore, Hong Kong,Southeast Asia and in the Asian aisles in supermarkets worldwide.

Goji berries are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A and selenium to help prevent cancer, protect your heart and improve vision. Boiled up with chicken, it is also rich in immune-boosting zinc. A must-have in every household with children or grandparents recovering from illness or simply as a health tonic or weekend treat.

Flexitarian tip: Swap the chicken with fish or boil in chicken stock then dunk in Heura’s plant-based chicken!



Antioxidant, gut health and nutrient star / Picture by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

5. Kimchi

Reddish in colour, this traditional Korean dish is a delicious blend of fermented radish, scallion, pickled cabbage and cucumber. Kimchi’s fermentation process produces probiotics that promote good digestion and better absorption of nutrients in your body.Kimchi is also high in vitamins A, B, and C and is commonly found in the Asian aisles in supermarkets. Nowadays it is used not just as the familiar side dish to complement the varied Korean dishes at mealtimes, but also as an ingredient in many cold and warm salads.

Inflammation, cancer, sugar and weight buster / Picture by Select Health

6. Miso Soup

Our superfood miso soup contains spinach, rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin A-producing carotenoids. It also contains kelp, which is a nutrient powerhouse! Kelp has Vitamin K, Vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, and iodine. The soup is a staple served with any Japanese meal and is full of probiotics for improved gut health. Miso soup contains the probiotic A.oryzae, which can reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease and other problems with the digestive system. Benefits include reduced risks of breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancer, and protection from radiation.Researchers have found that consuming one bowl of miso soup per day, as with most residents of Japan, can drastically lower the risks of breast cancer.

Additionally, Miso contains vitamin K, manganese, zinc, protein and calcium that support the bone sand nervous system. Rich in isoflavonoids and phenolic acids due to the soybeans it contains, Miso also shows strong antioxidant properties.

If you are looking to lose some extra weight, Miso soup is a great way to cut down on your sugar intake and increase vegetable intake. Miso paste calories are just 56 calories for 28 grams.

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