Chaga! Butternut Squash! Soup! (GF, DF, V)
Chaga is a mushroom, but not like you would imagine. It looks and feels more like a tree bark than a mushroom and it actually grows on yellow and white birch trees! I have been lucky enough to harvest some up north, which has been a saving grace because they ain't cheap!
Chaga is considered a medicinal mushroom and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, most commonly as a tea steeped for a myriad of health benefits.
Chaga is a known adaptogen, which essentially means that it helps to moderate your body's response to stress. So if you need a little extra chill, this is an excellent ingredient to incorporate into your life.
Part of the adaptogenic effect also works to modulate your immune system. It has an antibacterial, antiviral action while also regulating the action of certain immune cells. This makes it a good option for those with autoimmune diseases, who don't necessarily want to "boost" their immune system, but simply want be sure it is in working order and that they will be able to prevent cold and flu in those sick seasons.
Chaga is also incredibly high in antioxidants, which we all know help to boost longevity. Most people thing about them from an anti-aging or anti-cancer point of view because of their ability to prevent cellular damage and genetic mutation.
However, antioxidants are also important in healing by supporting cellular regeneration as well. -- This is something I have been very aware of as I continue to heal my celiac guts!
They also provide a strong anti-inflammatory effect, also helpful for us celiacs, and anyone else with inflammatory conditions - there are lots of them.
PLUS! They help to stimulate bile flow, important for the digestion of fats. Another thing those of us with healing or compromised digestive tracts want to make sure is happening efficiently!
But I digress, back to antioxidants! Superoxide Dismutase, one of the most important antioxidants for liver cleansing is particularly concentrated in chaga. This makes it a fantastic part of any detoxification program.
As previously noted, chaga is most commonly consumed as a tea. It is important to be sure that it is infused in hot water for at least 1 hour to reap all of the benefits, longer than that if it is a cold water infusion. The longer the better with chaga, it's the mushroom that just keeps on giving. You can even steep the same chaga multiple times, until it starts to produce a lighter coloured tea. Chaga can be found in health food stores, ready to make a tea or also in a pre-made tincture!
I highly recommend infusing this superfood into your diet! Fair warning, the tea on its own can be quite bitter and earthy. I find a little bit of cinnamon in there makes a world of difference.
Now that we have run through all the benefits of chaga, lets talk a bit about Butternut Squash – a totally unrelated food that has almost as many health benefits!
Butternut squash is one of the most common varieties of winter squash. I love this one for it’s help in healing that celiac tummy as well. Why? Because 1 cup of this stuff gives you a whopping 437% of your daily dose of Vitamin A – a key nutrient in healing the intestinal lining!
Vitamin A is also a beauty nutrient, for that same capacity to help regenerate skin cells. It keeps that hair, those skin and them nails looking real nice.
Of course, in this root vegetable, the Vitamin A is found as beta-carotene. Technically, this isn’t Vitamin A at all. It is actually a precursor, a percentage of which will be converted to full form Vitamin A.
The carotenoid, beta-carotene, is also valuable to our bodies on its own! It has been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer and prostate cancer. It has also shown a protective capacity against the development of asthma.
Butternut squash also contains more than 50% of your daily dose of Vitamin C, also key for skin healing and a potent antioxidant. – Yep, we are not confined to oranges when looking for that immune boosting vitamin!
This winter wonder also contains more potassium than a banana, bringing in the count at 582 milligrams per cup. This can be an important factor in lowering and preventing high blood pressure!
I have just described two very different foods that punch up your health in so many ways. Why not put them together and get ALL the benefits!?
I was playing with a classic Butternut Squash Soup recipe, I went out and got a bunch of ingredients and when I went to make it I didn't have a key ingredient - broth! DISASTER!? No! Opportunity.
I had steeped a litre of beautiful, dark chaga tea in with cinnamon the night before and it was just waiting for this moment.
I replaced the broth with my cinnamon chaga and... well... I am SO glad I didn't have broth.
This savoury superfood soup will keep you healthy and cozy in this stubborn lingering winter weather.
1 butternut squash
1 white onion
3 large carrots
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups chaga tea
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1) Steep chaga mushroom in 2 L water for at least 1 hour
2) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
3) Peel, seed and cube the butternut squash. Chop onion and carrots.
4) Place on lined baking sheet, drizzle with melted coconut oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until tender all the way through.
5) In a high powered blender, place roasted veggies plus all remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. If your blender is not as efficient, simply blend in smaller batches.
6) Reheat on stove if necessary.
I suggest topping with some cracked pepper and some pumpkin seeds for that added crunch!
The Realistic Holistic
If you make this recipe, don’t forget to take a pic and tag me on instagram @realistic.holistic and use #realisticholistic - show me how you’re incorporating real health into your real life!