It's no old wives' tale; chicken soup really can help beat colds and flu symptoms. But rather than open a tin, make a bowl of our ultimate bug banisher at home

Chicken is bursting with protein, which is the building block of infection-fighting immune cells. It's also high in iron, which reduces the risk of viral infections, as well as zinc, which is proven to reduce the severity and length of the common cold.

Garlic contains the compound aIlicin, which has antiviral and antibacterial properties, 'Garlic's essential oils "mop up" cold viruses in your respiratory tract, and help eliminate them,' says Dale Pinnock, author of Medicinal Cookery (Right Way, $12.73).

Butternut Squash is rich in beta carotene, which gives this veg its natural hue. 'Beta carotene is an effective anti-inflammatory, which can reduce the severity of your cold and flu symptoms,' says Dale.

Description: Sniffle-Busting Soup

Chillies get their heat from the active component capsaicin, which helps fight infection, 'Chillies work like a decongestant,' says Dale. 'They're a mild irritant to the sensitive nasal membranes, and produce a thin, watery mucus, which can dislodge thicker mucus, helping you breathe again.'

Ginger stimulates your circulation, helping white blood cells whizz faster around your body to tackle infection. 'Ginger's spicy oils have anti-inflammatory properties, too, which reduce that bunged-up feeling caused by swollen nasal and sinus passages.' says Dale.

'Shiitake Mushrooms have been used as a tonic for the immune system for centuries and are more powerful than anything else natural or man-made,' says Dale. It’s all thanks to the complex sugars they contain, which trigger a sudden increase in disease-fighting white blood cells.


1.   Finely chop 1 red onion, 2 green chillies, 4 garlic cloves, and a 2-inch piece of ginger. Gently sauté in olive oil until the onion softens.

2.   Add 1 small, de-seeded butternut squash, diced, 1 sliced punnet of shiitake mushrooms and 5 chicken thighs (skin removed) to the pan. Stir well, then add enough chicken stock to cover everything.

3.   Simmer and until the squash is soft and the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and blitz the remaining ingredients with a blender until smooth.

4.   Shred chicken, return to the soup, sprinkle herbs and serve.

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