Easy All-Natural Thai Chicken Coconut Soup With Shiitake & Lemongrass
8 minute read
Fragrant lemongrass and ginger combine with creamy coconut milk, rich shiitake mushrooms, and spicy Thai red chilies to create a warming, delicious soup. These ingredients also happen to have several health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, cholesterol-lowering effects, as well as providing several vitamins and minerals.
Delicious and powerfully nutritious? Read on to find out more about how each of these ingredients provides numerous health benefits and how you can easily make this soup at home.
Lemongrass is a plant that grows in tall stalks and has been used as an herbal remedy in traditional medicine to relieve pain, vomiting, cough, the common cold, fever, and exhaustion. Lemongrass can even kill germs due to its antimicrobial properties.
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A study highlighted lemongrass’ antimicrobial strength by showing that lemongrass essential oil was the second most effective essential oil against Streptococcus mutants, a bacteria that significantly contributes to tooth decay.
Another study showed that lemongrass has antioxidant properties, which helps prevent a gamut of health problems by clearing the body of free radicals (unstable molecules that can cause damage to the body’s cells).
Shiitake mushrooms, native to East Asia, are used in Asian cuisines for their rich, umami flavor. Not only do they add depth and savory, umami notes to food, but they also pack a lot of nutrients in a low amount of calories.
Four dried shiitake mushrooms are only 44 calories, but provide 2 grams of fiber. Getting enough fiber (25 grams is the recommended daily amount) is essential to good digestive health. Fiber helps to regulate your digestive tract and helps prevent gastrointestinal issues such as constipation.
Shiitake mushrooms also provide several other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B5, riboflavin, niacin, folate, copper, selenium, and potassium.
In addition to these vitamins and minerals, shiitake mushrooms also contain polysaccharides, terpenoids, sterols, and lipids that can boost your immune system and may contribute to the alleviation of many health problems.
With the rise of demand for dairy-free alternatives to traditional dairy products, coconut milk has become more and more popular.
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Coconut milk, the full-fat canned version, is made from the flesh of coconuts and is creamy and thick. Coconut milk is a high-calorie food due to its high-fat content, but don’t let that lead you to think that coconut milk isn’t good for you.
The fat in coconut milk is partially made up of saturated fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Studies show that MCTs can lower calorie intake and reduce appetite, and may help moderately overweight individuals to lose weight and lower risk factors associated with being overweight.
Saturated fats aren’t good for heart health, right? Several studies have shown that MCTs improve HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels. Coconut milk may also reduce inflammation and may be helpful in the treatment of ulcers.
In addition to the health benefits from the fat in coconut milk, it also provides fiber, protein, and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium.
You can adjust the recipe below to include as much or as little of the Thai red chilies as you want. Opt for as spicy as you can handle to get as much of the health benefits from chilies as you can.
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Red chilies contain the carotenoid capsanthin, which is what makes them red. Capsanthin, along with sinapic acid and ferulic acid, are antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals and various chronic diseases.
Capsaicin, the compound in chilies that makes them spicy, is a unique plant compound that has shown evidence of treating heartburn. It may also aid in weight loss by increasing fat burn.
Ginger has been used in food and traditional medicine for thousands of years. It contains a unique compound called gingerol, which has been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Ginger may be effective in the treatment of nausea, vomiting, and morning sickness. In a study with 150 participants, ginger was found to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain during menstruation in women with primary dysmenorrhea (painful periods or menstrual cramps).
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One study has shown that ginger may also improve blood sugar levels and improve risk factors for people with type 2 diabetes. In regards to cardiovascular health, ginger may also lower cholesterol levels.
Several ingredients that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cholesterol-lowering properties are combined in the warming, fragrant soup below.
Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Number of Servings: 4 Servings
2-3 lemongrass stalks, or 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
6 cups chicken broth
1-2 cups cubed chicken breasts or tenders
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 (15 ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice
1-5 fresh Thai red chili peppers, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Sticky rice (to serve with)
1. If you’re using lemongrass stalks, pound them with a heavy mallet or rolling pin. This releases the aroma and flavor.
2. Place the chicken broth and lemongrass in a large stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a boil.
3. In a 12-inch pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and cook the chicken and mushrooms until chicken is cooked through. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
4. Add cooked chicken and mushrooms, coconut milk, fish sauce (start with 1 tablespoon and add more to taste if you’d like), lime juice, Thai red chilies (to taste), ginger root, and coriander powder to the chicken broth. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Top with fresh basil and cilantro.
6. Serve with sticky rice, if desired.
The Bottom Line
Several of the ingredients in this Thai chicken and coconut soup provide a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They also are good for cardiovascular health as well as providing compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Eating healthy often means expanding your usual menu to keep you interested in the food you eat each day. By trying Thai cuisine at home, you can add to your repertoire of healthy dishes and make yourself better able to eat healthily and easy.