Soup. Oh, how we love thee. Let us count the ways …
You’re good for a cold.
“Soup usually has a lot of nutrients that help in fighting colds and upper respiratory infections,” says Nancy Georgekutty, MD, board-certified family medicine physician at Methodist Family Health Center – Mansfield North. “Warm soups especially help with movement of the nasal mucus. This helps clear the airways and relieve congestion.”
You protect us.
In a study done by Stephen Rennard, MD, of University of Nebraska Medical Center, volunteers who ate soup had less movement of neutrophils — a type of white blood cell that defends the body against infection.
“When you have less movement of these cells, this reduces upper respiratory infections by reducing inflammation and mucus production,” Dr. Georgekutty says.
Soup lends itself to things that cook slowly, for example, root vegetables and beans. Both are high in nutrients. Beans are also high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol, and insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation, colon cancer, and other gastrointestinal issues.
You warm us.
“Soups can help keep us warm on days it is cold while keeping you hydrated,” Dr. Georgekutty says. “It’s also important soup be warm to give us those mucus-moving benefits for colds or flu. It’s not a cure-all but it’s a great comfort food.”
Soup contains a lot of water, which fills you up. But this study also suggests smooth soups can make you feel fuller than a solid meal — and give the stomach quick access to nutrients to help with glycemic levels.
Heard the story of stone soup? Just about any vegetable can go in. And don’t be afraid to add nutrient-heavy ingredients to bring variety to a favorite recipe: Add kale to mom’s chicken soup or fennel to minestrone.
You welcome leftovers.
What’s in the fridge? New potatoes and green beans from last Sunday’s supper? Mix in a can of tomatoes, a can of kidney beans, water, and spice — then voilà, dinner!
Even if there’s no time to cook root vegetables or soak beans, using canned (low-sodium varieties, of course) or frozen vegetables can make a tasty dinner. Toss in meat from a pulled-apart store-bought rotisserie chicken to add more protein.
You’re relatively inexpensive.
Soup is often associated with peasant food because it can stretch more expensive ingredients like meat and cheese by using them as flavor enhancers.
Every culture has a soup recipe; you can travel the globe in a bowl. A black bean soup with pumpkin seeds and chilies can transport you to Mexico, while slurping Vietnamese pho takes you to the Far East. French vichyssoise? Maybe not. Julia Child said it’s an American invention.
Finally, you’re forgiving.
Too much salt? Add more water to the pot. Not enough? Season a little at a time. With a large enough bowl, addition and subtraction can make soup just right.
Cook up this recipe from Chef Cassondra
Chef Cassondra Armstrong has been serving Dallasites for nearly 30 years. With a reputation as an innovator and community leader, she’s best known for her healthy take on Southern dishes. Here she shares one of her own healthy soup options.
Vegetable Gumbo with Okra
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Number of servings: 4
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grape seed oil
1 small green bell pepper, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into ½-inch pieces
I medium rib of celery, sliced thinly crosswise
2–3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (minced)
1 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup frozen sliced okra
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbed
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ cups of low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup uncooked whole barley
2 scallions, sliced thinly
2–3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- Cook the flour for 1½ to 2 minutes, or until beginning to turn light golden, stirring constantly. Be careful not to overcook. Transfer to a small plate.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the onion, bell pepper, and celery for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the undrained tomatoes, okra, and seasoning blend of thyme, bay leaves, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne. Stir in the flour until well blended.
- Stir in the chicken stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cook covered for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the mixture has thickened. Stir frequently.
- Meanwhile, prepare the barley using the package directions, omitting the salt.
- In the gumbo, discard the bay leaves. To serve, spoon the barley into bowls, and ladle the gumbo over the barley. Garnish with scallions and fresh parsley.
Serving size: ¾ cup vegetable gumbo and ½ cup barley
Amount per serving: 195 calories; 2.5g total fat; 0mg cholesterol; 310mg sodium; 40g carbohydrates; 6g fiber
Need a gluten-free solution? Either leave out the flour entirely or substitute cornstarch mixed well with a couple drops of cold water. The mixture should be sticky and thick. If you take this route, wait to add the mixture after you bring the soup to a boil (in step 4).
Methodist Family Health Centers and Medical Groups are owned and operated by MedHealth and are staffed by independently practicing physicians who are employees of MedHealth. The physicians and staff who provide services at these sites are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System.