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  • Sylvia Meo, R.D.

Souping - the Next Big Food and Wellness Trend?



Seasonal changes (colder temperatures, fewer daylight hours) affect our overall healthier lifestyle habits, both our exercise routine and healthy eating seem to go into some sort of hibernating mode. In fact, it has been well documented that our daily caloric intake increases slightly during this time of year, some of us easily gain 3-4 pounds by the time the holidays are over. Which would explain why most of us start the New Year with shedding some extra weight before springtime as our number one resolution!

So why not do things differently this year? I think I have tapped into the secret to solving many of the issues that seem to come with the colder climate we live in without removing ANYTHING from our diet. In fact, I want us to add something to our daily menu from now on. Soups!

Soups are a perfect entrée for a quick lunch or supper, for on the go or at home, and can also easily be turned into a quick, well-balanced, full meal! I truly believe the way to a healthy body and life, weight included, is not achieved through elimination, restriction or a negative mindset, but through a change in focus towards the positive. Simply introducing and adding soups to our diet every day may be the way to not only keep us warm from the inside out during the colder days, but to add a variety of health-promoting, nutrient-dense ingredients to our daily menu and maybe even help us maintain our weight or shed some extra pounds!

Let me explain…

1. Soups are an easy and excellent way to increase our vegetable (and fruit) consumption.

Summer and early fall are the two seasons we seem to get the most servings of fruits and vegetables in our diets. It is a peak time to enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are local, fresh, readily available and abundant, but they are also more appealing and flavorful. With the colder climate we live in, many fruits and vegetables are unfortunately not available during the colder, winter months, and what is more readily available is often the lesser appealing, starchier root vegetables (turnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, beets, Jerusalem artichokes). Although, along with the various types of winter squash (butternut, pumpkin, acorn, spaghetti, buttercup, etc.), many cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli rabe, etc.), winter greens and dark leafy vegetables (endives, radicchio, escarole, fennel, kale, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, etc.) that are quite available at this time of year, the soup possibilities are endless and can be incredibly nutritious and hydrating!

You can use raw or previously cooked vegetables, a single vegetable or a combination of vegetables. There are truly no limits! You can even use frozen vegetables which are flash frozen at their nutritional prime, and during our cold winter months they may be more nutrient dense than the same vegetables that are imported fresh. We can also add in a fresh fruit (apples, pears, pomegranate, peaches) to change up the flavor or add texture!

If nothing else, starting off a meal with a soup or sipping on a warm bowl of soup for a mid-afternoon snack, could be a sneaky and easy way to get wholesome, high quality nutrients - vitamins, minerals, powerful antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber - into our bodies and those of our little ones. Soups are also the perfect delivery system for introducing new ingredients and foods into our daily menu.

2. Soups help us combat cold and flu season.

What is the first meal we seek when we start to feel sick and the onset of a cold or flu? Soup! The warmth of a nice big bowl of soup does automatically bring us some sort of comfort, but does it really help and work as a remedy?

According to the National Institutes of Health, it does indeed help ease the symptoms. Soups are hydrating which is particularly important when the body is trying to fight off an infection. Hot liquids also help dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow, which allows the mucus to flush things out and helps alleviate congestion which we all know is a major symptom of any cold and flu!

Vegetable-rich soups are particularly interesting during the colder months because many vegetables are rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E and other nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties making them a good choice when we aren’t feeling our best, are essential to withstand the cold and boost our immune system in order to help our bodies fight off illness and maintain good health.

For extra cold and flu fighting power, make sure to add immune boosting ingredients that also have antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic and antibiotic properties such as fresh ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric, lemongrass, sweet potatoes, any type of cabbage (red, green, Brussels sprouts, etc.), seaweed, mushrooms (particularly shitake) or a good squirt of lemon to your soup. Another great immune boosting ingredient you should consider adding to your soups is miso, a salty paste made from fermented beans (typically soybeans, so make sure it is organic) with an incredible nutrient profile. Only one tablespoon of miso is a good source of iron, protein, calcium, potassium and B vitamins. I often omit salt altogether from my soups and instead use miso paste, not only does it add the salty flavor but also so much nutrition!

3. Soups can help us lose weight.

According to a study done in 2007 by Penn State, starting off a meal with a small serving (100-150 calories/serving) of nutritious soup can help reduce your total calorie intake at that meal by 20% and make you feel more satisfied than eating just solid foods. Not a bad way to reduce some excess weight or help keep our weight in check during the holiday season that is quickly approaching! Several other studies have also tested the effects of consuming soup on a regular basis and have found that it can reduce energy intake, enhance satiety and decrease hunger, all factors that can help promote weight loss.

Essentially, a healthy soup is a low-energy, high-density food, this means it provides a larger volume of food for fewer calories, it is also high in water and fiber, as well as takes longer to sip and eat compared to solid foods, all of which would strongly suggest that eating soup could play a key role in any type of long term weight management plan. Although, unless your soup will be replacing a complete meal, watch the serving size as we generally tend to eat whatever is on our bowl.

4. Soups may actually be the perfect solution for reducing food waste!

As I have mentioned in a previous segment, it is estimated that we Canadians are amongst the worst in the world when it comes to food waste. The average Canadian throws out roughly 374 pounds of food per year and the largest part of that waste (47%) comes from us throwing out food at home.

Instead of tossing those wilted and forgotten vegetables in the compost, soups are a great way to clean out your refrigerator at the end of the week and use up all the vegetables and herbs that don’t look so fresh but are still perfectly fine for a good homemade soup! So before you go out to buy more groceries make it a habit to clean out your refrigerator and give your vegetables that might have otherwise rotted away, a second life by making a large batch of soup. If you have leftover vegetables from a previous meal, throw those in there as well. Get into the habit of making a large batch of soup at the end of the week and freeze half of it for another time. This will be especially useful those nights when making supper is the last thing you feel like doing or you need a quick lunch idea for the next day!

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