Immunity Vegetarian Harira Soup

Didn’t get your flu shot this year? Don’t worry! What if I told you that you could protect yourself against the flu and other illnesses with the food you eat? Yes, you read that right…with FOOD!

Did you know that 70% of our immune system is in our gut (intestines) [1]? Crazy right?!! As part of our gastrointestinal system, our gut is strongly affected by the food that passes through it. That is why the foods we eat can have such a strong impact on our health. I love the saying:


In order to build our immunity and keep our bodies strong and healthy, we want to feed our gut powerful foods that help our body, not hinder it. As part of the Culinary Nutrition Expert program I have been taking this fall, we had to develop a recipe for a chosen health condition. I decided to focus on tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a small, slow-growing bacterium that can only survive in humans [2]. As the tuberculosis bacterium needs oxygen to survive, it is primarily found in the lungs of an infected individual [3], but can also affect other parts of the body including the kidneys, spine and brain [2]. Several complications of TB may develop including spinal pain, joint damage, liver problems and sometimes even heart disorders [4]. The primary treatment for TB is antibiotics, and the only major diet restriction noted in TB treatment is the avoidance of alcohol to reduce stress on the liver [4]. However, extra stress on the liver through poor diet choices should also be avoided, as well as extra support provided to the immune system to help fight off the TB infection. Inflammatory foods including gluten, sugar, saturated and trans fats and processed foods should be avoided. Healing nutrients for TB include zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, iron and antioxidants.

For my recipe development assignment, I chose to incorporate as many of these healing nutrients as possible into a hearty, healthy, healing immune-boosting soup. I chose a soup because like smoothies, soups are a great way to pack in all kinds of nutrients, which is exactly what I did with this specific recipe. There is also nothing like a warm, comforting bowl of soup during times of illness. Check out all the healing ingredients!

  • Sweet potato and carrots
    • Vitamin A for strong and healthy mucus membranes including the respiratory tract
    • Vitamin C helps boost immunity; we burn through vitamin C when ill, which is why it is often the main vitamin recommended when you find yourself coming down with something
  • Garlic and onion
    • Contain phytonutrients and flavonoids, which both have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Shiitake mushrooms
    • High in vitamins and minerals including zinc, which is the #1 mineral for immune system health
    • Vitamin B6 to support nerve health, which may be harmed as a side effect to typical TB antibiotics
    • High in iron, which is needed to circulate oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body
  • Tomatoes
    • High in vitamin C
  • Turmeric
    • Contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory
  • Lentils
    • High source of protein, which helps build body’s tissues
    • High in zinc

I’d say this soup packs quite the nutritional punch!

Immunity Vegetarian Harira Soup

  • ½ cup red lentils, soaked overnight
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded and roasted
  • 1 tsp. + 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed
  • 1 Tbsp. each of turmeric, cumin and chili powder
  • 1 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
  1. In a bowl, cover lentils with water and let soak overnight
  2. Preheat oven to 450F. Slice red pepper in half and remove the seeds and stem. Drizzle lightly with 1 tsp. of olive oil and place on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for ~30 minutes, or until skin starts to blacken. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes until cool to the touch. Remove the skin.
  3. While pepper is roasting, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery. Cook for ~5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
  4. Add diced carrot and sweet potato plus 4 cups of water. Let simmer for ~10 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, spices and soaked lentils and let simmer for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add soup to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. (*More water may be needed to help the mixture blend. Add accordingly)

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: ~1 hour total

Serves: ~8 cups



[1] Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Cara, G., & Frati, F. (2008, September 1). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Retrieved December 11, 2015, from

[2] Health Canada. Tuberculosis. (2014, December 18). Health Canada. Retrieved October 21, 2015.

[3] National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases. “Tuberculosis (TB) Cause.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 5 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.

[4] World Health Organization (2014, July 18). “WHO Guideline: Nutritional Care and Support for Patients with TB.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

4 thoughts

  1. Sounds great! One question is why to roast the red pepper? Isn’t it faster to just blend it all up raw then heat however you want to? Just thinking of being lazy and quickest of course

    1. Good question! I thought roasting the red pepper added more flavour somehow, but I might be wrong. I also don’t see why you couldn’t make soup the way you suggested! I assume things are usually cooked before because it makes it easier to puree at the end. That could be a fun experiment!

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