Soup is a cook's most versatile dish. It stores well. Some leftovers even freeze well. It serves well hot or cold. Your broth is like a blank canvas just waiting for a colorful blend of ingredients to be created. You can pair it with a salad, serve it as a warm appetizer, or serve it as a main course. Soup is also one of the most soothing eating experiences one can have. This winter is a perfect opportunity to curl up to a warm ladle of soup.
Sip. Slurp. Spill. Repeat.
"Soup". The word almost imitates the sound one makes while slowly sipping soup. This simple act is often unappreciated. Although you're mainly avoiding a painful third-degree mouth or throat burn, there are many other benefits. If your soup is steaming, it will be more aromatic, allowing you to slow down and enjoy the smells as you spoon through the soup. The more your senses are stimulated, the better satisfied you'll be. Slurp, taste, chew, and swallow slowly as savor the warm ingredients. This slower process helps you recognize when your body signals fullness so you can avoid consuming more calories than needed.
Soups can curb your appetite. In one study, an appetizer serving of soup was compared with equal calories of fruits, cheese, or crackers. Of all the types of appetizers, when soup was eaten the size of the main course was significantly reduced. The soup proved to be most filling and beneficial as part of a weight maintenance or weight loss program.
Because great amounts of water are incorporated into soups, they can help keep you hydrated and feeling refreshed. Although soup is mostly water, it can still be filling. Its water content lends soup a high volume that triggers stretch receptors in the stomach to notify the brain it's full. One study found that subjects who ate soup as a first course ate, on average, about 26% less than those who ate a casserole (same ingredients but without water) during their second course. A similar study found that subjects who ate soup as a preload (or appetizer) consumed 20% less calories throughout the meal.
Another interesting set of studies found that the body considers soup to be a food, not a drink. It showed that a pureed vegetable soup made subjects feel fuller than when eating the same ingredients with a glass of water. The study suggested that it takes longer for the vegetable soup to empty out of the stomach, and thus keeps the person feeling fuller longer.
Building Blocks of a Healthy Soup
Broth: Choose your broth wisely. A flavorful, healthy broth will make a strong foundation for a
healthy soup. There are many options, from vegetable to chicken and fish-based broths. If you
choose a ready-to-use broth from the store, select low-sodium broths. Cream-based soups that
use low and whole-fat dairy products such as milk, sour cream, and cheese pack extra fat and
calories compared to broth and stock-based soups. If you plan to make a cream-based soup,
use non-fat dairy products.
Vegetables: Since vegetable intake is already well below recommended levels for most people, a hearty and healthy vegetable-based soup is a great way to encourage vegetable consumption.
Serving vegetable-based soup as a first course is proven effective even for children, who normally want to be paid to eat their vegetables. One study found that serving a healthy vegetable soup as a first course to children can help increase vegetable consumption at the second course as well, and thus throughout the entire meal. It also helped prevent eating excess calories.
The great thing about soup is that the water-soluble vitamins that leach out of boiled vegetables are retained in the broth. To build on your broth, start with bite-sized chunks of tougher root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, celery, garlic, parsnips, turnips, leeks, onions, squash, potatoes, rutabagas, and celeriac. As these vegetables simmer for a few hours, the flavor intensifies. During the last 20-30 minutes of this process, other less durable vegetables can be added and simmered. The possibilities are endless. Try tomatoes, broccoli, artichokes, corn, zucchini, mushrooms, fennel, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant or peppers. Pack greens such as spinach near the end and simmer until slightly wilted.
Herbs & Spices: These will add the flavor your soup needs without the extra sodium. Incorporate fresh herbs need to incorporate later in cooking. Dried herbs and spices need more time to rehydrate and release their flavor. A unique flavor profile can be created with various herbs, from basil and bay leaves to mint, tarragon, and thyme. Try a variety of spices such as lemongrass, cumin, or coriander.
Legumes: To really pack more nutrition into your soup, dried beans, peas, and lentils are the way to go. Have you tried kidney, black, mung, fava, barlotti, cannellini, white, and garbanzo beans, soybeans, green or yellow split peas, and black-eyed peas? Remember to soak them in cold water for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator (or overnight) and drain the remaining water. The cooking time will be greatly reduced, preserving more of the bean's protein and other nutrients.
Lean Meat, Poultry, & Fish: Cooking time will vary for each meat. For poultry, use white meat that is lean (less than 20% of calories should come from fat). For fish-based soups, try whitefish of any kind, salmon, tuna, or shellfish. Be aware that shellfish may become too tough if overcooked. If you plan to use a red meat, try a wild organic red meat such as venison, moose, or bison.
Whole Grains: Whole grains are the ultimate ingredient to make your soup hearty and high in fiber. Avoid using processed or refined grains such as white rice. Use brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet, or wild rice. Slightly undercooking grains will prevent them from overcooking once placed in a simmering soup.
Cool Down With Soup?
Though it may seem like it belongs in the summer, December 6 marks National Gazpacho day. Gazpacho is a cold-served, savory tomato-based soup often composed of raw vegetables including onions, cucumbers, bell peppers, garlic, parsley, and lemon. Use watermelon with cucumbers to make it sweet and savory. A chilled dessert soup can be made with a blend of pureed fruits, lime juice, and low-fat yogurt. Another cold favorite is avocado soup—a blend of vegetable broth, avocado, cucumbers, lime juice, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Add a crumbled hardboiled egg to pack some extra protein.
Try this Cumin-scented Wheat Berry Lentil Soup recipe:
Lentil mixture: Combine 1.5 cups rinsed green, brown or red lentils with 4 cups of low-fat and low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and 4 cups of water. Simmer lentils 30 minutes.
Veggie mixture: In separate pan pour 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and cook 3 large, chopped carrots and 1 diced red onion with 1/2 tsp of salt and 3/4 tsp of pepper till brown (15 minutes). Introduce 4 minced garlic cloves and 1.5 tsp of ground cumin for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
Stir 1.5 cups of cooked wheat berries into lentil mixture. Pour in 2 bunches of chopped swiss or red chard and simmer for 3-5 minutes, till leaves are wilted. Stir in veggie mixture and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Recipe adapted from eatingwell.com
Rolls BJ, Fedoroff IC, Guthrie JF, Laster LJ. Foods with different satiating effects in humans. Appetite. 1990 Oct: 15(2):115-26.
Spill MK, Birch LL, Roe LS, Rolls BJ. Serving large portions of vegetable soup at the start of a meal affected children's energy and vegetable intake. Appetite. 2011 Aug;57(1):213-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.04.024. Epub 2011 May 8.
Flood JE, Rolls BJ. Soup preloads in a variety of forms reduce meal energy intake. Appetite. 2007 Nov: 49(3):626-634.
Rolls BJ, Bell EA, Thorwart ML. Water incorporated into a food but not served with a food decreases energy intake in lean women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70:448–55