Few foods are more comforting than a piping hot bowl of delicious soup.
What you may not realize: Certain homemade soups are packed with healing nutrients that help fight chronic health problems, including diabetes, arthritis and stomach troubles.
What’s so special about soup? With most cooking methods, such as steaming or boiling, the liquid is discarded—along with vitamins and minerals that may have leached out of the food. Not so with soup, which uses all the liquid so that most of the nutrients are preserved, even when heated.
Bonus: Because soups are so filling and satisfying, they have also been shown to help reduce one’s overall calorie intake when added to a meal!
My three favorite healing soups —and their “souper” star nutrients (each recipe below makes about four servings)…
FOR DIABETES PREVENTION—CURRIED LENTIL QUINOA SOUP
Souper star nutrient: Fiber. Diets rich in whole grains, pulses (which include beans, lentils, peas) and vegetables help protect against diabetes. The all-important common denominator in these foods is fiber, which takes longer to metabolize than processed carbs. For this reason, fiber is linked to improved blood sugar control—in people with diabetes and those without the disease.
There’s also good news from a 2016 study that found a link between regular consumption of pulses and a healthy body weight—a crucial factor in controlling diabetes.
To get an adequate amount of fiber, the American Diabetes Association recommends that women consume at least 25 g daily…men need a minimum of 38 g. (These amounts are based on average daily calories consumed by women and men.) One serving of this recipe provides 20 g of fiber.
Instructions: Place the following ingredients in a large pot, stir well and cover—eight cups of water…one-and-one-half cups of green lentils (rinse first)…one cup of rainbow quinoa (rinse first)…one onion, diced…one sweet potato, peeled and diced…one cup of frozen peas…two medium carrots, sliced…one cube of vegetable bouillon base…one cup of tomato sauce…one tablespoon of tikka masala spice blend (see note below)… and three garlic cloves, minced. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes.
Note: I buy tikka masala spice blend at Seattle’s World Spice Merchants…or you can find garam masala (a good substitute for tikka masala spice blend) at most supermarkets.
FOR ARTHRITIS PREVENTION—CARNIVAL SQUASH SOUP
Souper star nutrient: Turmeric. Traditionally used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis, turmeric contains a powerful chemical called curcumin, which is known to block inflammatory enzymes and proteins.
Instructions: Halve one carnival squash (a somewhat sweeter squash than butternut and available at most supermarkets), scoop out the seeds and slice into quarters, leaving the peel on. Place in a medium pot, add water to cover and cook 20 minutes, until the flesh is tender.
While the squash cooks, sauté three celery stalks, diced…one shallot, diced…and one chopped garlic clove in one teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet. Peel a three-inch segment of turmeric root and slice three-quarters of it into thin slices, reserving the rest for garnish. (Or use three teaspoons of turmeric powder.) Add to the skillet and sauté with vegetables until soft, about 10 minutes.
When the squash is tender, drain the water from the pot and let it cool slightly. Scoop out the flesh and add to a blender with the cooked celery mixture plus one cup each of vegetable broth and plain, unsweetened coconut, soy or almond milk. Blend until smooth, then return to the pot and reheat just until bubbly and heated through. (For easier cleanup, you can blend in the pot with an immersion blender.)
Ladle into bowls, garnishing with grated (or powdered) turmeric and sliced celery leaves.
FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH—MISO KABOCHA SOUP
Souper star nutrient: Probiotics. Trillions of microorganisms reside in your bowels—and that’s a good thing! These healthy bacteria, called probiotics, aid digestion and nutrient absorption…govern the immune system…and work to keep harmful pathogens in check.
Emerging research has linked the consumption of probiotics and probiotic-rich foods, such as miso (a traditional Japanese fermented soybean paste), sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and kefir, with potential health benefits, including improved immune and digestive function.
Miso is intensely flavorful and provides a note of umami—that is, a meaty, savory taste. This recipe also contains ginger, which helps fight inflammation and nausea.
Instructions: Slice a small, unpeeled kabocha squash (a round green Japanese vegetable available at farmers’ markets and an increasing number of supermarkets) into large pieces. Scoop out the seeds, place in a baking dish with a small amount of water and bake at 350°F for 35 minutes (or you can microwave it with a little water for 10 minutes).
Once slightly cooled, scoop out the flesh and place it in a blender with one cup of vegetable broth…one cup of plain, unsweetened coconut, soy or almond milk…one and-one-half tablespoons of white miso…and one teaspoon of grated fresh ginger. Process until smooth (use an immersion blender in a pot if you prefer). Heat the mixture in a medium pot until bubbly. Stir in one 14-ounce package of tofu (diced in small cubes) and one-half cup of green onions, diced. Delicious!