Therapeutic food: Kitchen Apothecary Essentials for Boosting Immunity


Pictured: Yi-Wen
Pictured: Chef Educator Yi-Wen in Shanghai, China

In this piece, inspired by the recent EAT article on the effects of COVID-19 on chefs and the dramatic change in food systems, Yi-Wen outlines the importance of using whole foods to help strengthen our immunity and utilise the kitchen as a space of wellness.

We have a great opportunity during the current COVID-19 pandemic to create an Apothecary or ‘Energy & Immune Boosting’ kitchen at home or for workplace wellness, given the kitchen is where our healing and prevention from imbalance or dis-ease begins. 

By understanding the basic nutrients that enhance immune functions, we hope to help you transition to a more in-depth botanical cooking journey by using all-natural ingredients. We better start by creating a healthy kitchen – i.e. store healthy ingredients – so that you can "completely change" your way of eating. The kitchen is also a place where we remind ourselves that everything must be in moderation.

What are the food nutrients related to boosted immune function?

Pictured: kitchen apothecary
Photo credits: TheKitchn

Micronutrients: critical nutrients like vitamins and minerals from fruit & veg, micronutrients are phyto-chemicals to protect against disease.

Vitamin D: important roles in every type of immune cell.

Minerals and trace elements (e.g. zinc, iron and selenium): Zinc is found in whole grains as well as in various seeds and nuts, celery, mustard and legumes. Iron is found in legumes, tofu, green leafy and vegetables. Selenium can be found in whole grains and mushrooms, try to combine these foods with sources of vitamin C to increase absorption. For example, legumes with bell pepper or nuts with an orange.

Phytonutrients: “Phyto” means plant, so phytonutrients are non-essential but highly beneficial nutrients found only in plant foods.

Fiber: When we eat foods containing fiber, these bacteria digest the fiber, and they produce by-products that are known to have beneficial effects on the immune system. Similar to phytonutrients, fiber is only found in whole plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Kitchen Apothecary Essentials

Using the above nutrients can help you transition to more in-depth botanical cooking. Find below a collection of 11 foods that help explore taste, enhance wellbeing,  and ensure foods are nutrient rich:

Cereal: Contains bran in which vitamins and minerals are stored and germs rich in vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fats and endosperm; bran can also help to improve soil health.

Beans: Good plant protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, especially for enhancing the kidney, bladder and reproductive system. 

Kelp: Seaweeds are superfoods that help clean the intestines, purify and alkalize the blood, cleanse the lymphatic system, balance hormones, and help remove heavy metals from the body

Nuts and seeds: botanical source of protein and unsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and 6), which can ensure that we do not eat meat but at the same time can ensure optimal nutrition.

Green leafy vegetables, seasonal vegetables and root vegetables: The circulation of seasonal vegetables and nature keeps in harmony and grows naturally.

High quality vegetable oil: It is best to ingest fat from whole foods; High temperature heating, but minimize the heating of sesame, flaxseed, extra virgin olive, perilla, walnut, pepper, hemp seed.

Seasonal eating: adjusting your cooking style according to the season 

Find below a recipe for sweet vegetable barley soup: spring cooking to clean the body! Sweet vegetables create a relaxing and soothing energy for our body. Barley helps to strengthen the liver (also the most active organ in the spring season) and enhance our body's detoxification ability.

Pictured: sweet vegetable barley soup
Photo credits: connoisseursveg


  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup barley, washed and soaked 6-8 hours
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2-3 dried shiitake mushrooms, thinly slices
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • ¼ cup cabbage, diced
  • ¼ cup pumpkin or sweet potato, diced
  • ¼ cup carrot, diced
  • ¼ cup sweet white miso
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • Garnish: 2 scallions, thinly sliced or chopped parsley


  1. Pre-cook the barley with a pinch of sea salt in 5 cups of water for 1-1/2 hours.

  2. In a separate pot, add the sliced shiitake, diced onions, diced cabbage, diced pumpkin or sweet potato, diced carrot, and then place cooked barley with the water on top of it all

  3. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the thinly sliced leek then season with sweet white miso. Simmer for 3-4 minutes but do not allow to boil

The wisdom behind seasonal eating 

Cooking Methods
Photo credits: Yi-Wen 

Staying at home has highlighted the importance of adjusting our cooking style according to the seasons. 

In winter, you can steam, cook, grill, stew, use a high pressure cooker or choose the occasional smoked/fried or long-pressed salad/fermentation process, because utilising long and positive energy cooking style can bring us warmth.

In the spring or summer, you can choose a lighter, simpler, and more negative-energy cooking method, including: raw, quick-fried, blanched, layered, quick kimchi, or quick-press salad. In the warmer months, our bodies naturally desire more fruits, salads, and light foods.


Amidst recent natural fires, floods, earthquakes, locusts, animal extinction, climate change, biodiversity loss,  chronic disease and the current COVID-19 pandemic, we look towards the plant-based diet, with inner awareness to taste.