Nutrition-wise blog

Super soup — Think outside the can

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. October 11, 2011

Autumn days have turned my thoughts to soup. Soup has history — the name is derived from "sop" or "sup," which consisted of a slice of bread on which broth was poured. It's even thought that the word " restaurant," meaning something restoring, was first used in 16th century France to describe a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup sold by street vendors and eventually in shops that took on the name.

Research has revealed that soup is a great way to improve vegetable intake and thus intake of nutrients such as vitamin C, folate and beta-carotene. Soup has also been shown to be beneficial for weight control because it enhances satiety and reduces total calorie intake when consumed before the main meal.

However, commercial soup consumption is on the decline due to increasing concern over the health risks of sodium — and awareness that soup is its major source.

But soup does not need to be salty nor fatty. Especially when you're making soup from scratch. And it needn't be labor intensive. Here are some tips:

  • Start with water. Using water as your base saves unwanted calories and fat. See tips below for adding flavor and texture.
  • Use leftovers. Add bones, unserved portions of vegetables — even the (washed) shavings or tops of vegetables that you'd usually throw away.
  • Develop flavor. Onion, celery, carrot or other root vegetables such as rutabagas or turnips are basics for stock. If they're not already cooked, lightly brown the bones or vegetables in a little oil in the stock pot first. Add water and bring your stock to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 2 to 4 hours — adding herbs and spices midway. The longer the stock cooks, the more the flavors will intensify.
  • Add pizzazz. Add the following ingredients heavy on the vegetables, moderate on legumes or whole grains (brown rice, barley, bulgur), just bits and pieces of meats, poultry or fish, and maybe a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of grated cheese.
  • Go for a smooth finish. To make your soup creamy and still healthy, puree all or part of the soup. You might also try thickening the soup by adding a bit of flour, cornstarch or non-fat evaporated milk.

Soup can be any combination of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish or seafood, cooked in a liquid. It can be thick or thin, pureed or chunky, hot or cold, garnished or plain. And soup works for just about any course — appetizer, main event or even dessert.

So the next time your mind turns to soup, make it super. And share your favorite recipe here.

- Jennifer

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Oct. 11, 2011