Seasonal soups

#BrainFood nutritionist Yvonne McMeel reveals why you should make the most of the winter harvest with warming seasonal soups

by Psychologies

mushroom soup

Nothing beats the biting winter chill more than a hearty bowl of hot soup. From chowders to broths, these nutritionally packed meals are bursting with flavour and easy to prepare.

A great way to get your five-a-day, soup has its advantages over juices and smoothies. If freshly made and gently cooked, your ingredients will retain most of their nutrients and fibre that are essential for good health as well as keeping us fuller for longer.

Yvonne McMeel uncovers the top 10 ingredients that should make up your winter soups:

  1. Make a batch of beetroot soup. The brightly coloured vegetable packs a punch when it comes to providing you with a dose of folic acid. Essential for normal tissue growth, it’s a must during the first three months of pregnancy as its crucial for the development of the baby’s spinal cord. It also contains the mineral silica, which is important for musculo-skeletal health and reducing the possibility of osteoporosis.
  2. Millet is making a comeback, and for a good reason. The gluten-free, nutty little seed is full of iron, b vitamins, antioxidants and calcium. It’s also known for its high levels of magnesium, which have been shown in studies to reduce the severity of asthma, reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and lower blood pressure.
  3. The spicy Tom Yum Gung soup that originates in Japan and Thailand has recently caught the attention of researchers after it was discovered Thais have a very low rate of intestinal cancers. Made with shrimps, coriander, lemongrass and various chillies, it is thought that these key ingredients contain a wide range of cancer-fighting properties.
  4. Don’t forget the humble carrot for a quick and easy source of beta-carotene antioxidant. It blocks the action of free radicals that can damage DNA, cell membranes and protein structures in cells. For a refreshing twist on a classic recipe, include onions and apples and swap the coriander for thyme.
  5. A sprinkling of spice not only changes the flavour dynamics to a soup but can also help the immune system ward off those winter bugs. Adding cinnamon to a hearty Middle Eastern soup is effective against ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria and other pathogens, because it has natural anti-infectious compounds. Equally turmeric – which has been used in India for thousands of years – has a whole host of powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is a very strong antioxidant.
  6. Forever a classic, a hearty bowl of fresh tomato soup will supply your body with the cancer-fighting lycopene. Currently the most powerful antioxidant that has been measured in food, it becomes more readily available and biologically active when tomatoes are gently cooked with a small amount of cooking oil. For an added dose of health-benefiting phytonutrients, garnish with a handful of basil.
  7. Liven up your normal vegetable soup with a serving of chickpeas or kidney beans. Both are an excellent source of bowel-friendly protein and fibre and also contain potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.
  8. Lentils are a great hunger filling ingredient that work well in a soup and they also provide a generous source of vegan-friendly protein and fibre. For added calcium, iron and flavour, add a spoonful of molasses, as this rich superfood offers a quick boost of energy. Opt for blackstrap molasses as it's more nutrient-dense.
  9. A great source of omega 3 and protein, fish chowder is one of the healthiest types of soup. It contains of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring known for their essential fatty acids, as well as cod, which gives us iodine to aid the body's metabolism. Added health benefits are aslo provided by parsley, which contains histidine, known to hinder tumours and reduce blood pressure.
  10. For a rich vegetable soup, onions, garlic and mushrooms (pictured) make the perfect base and provide your body with disease-fighting antioxidants, antifungal and antioxidant blood-cleaning properties, and a wealth of flavour too. Always opt for organic mushrooms as they absorb and concentrate whatever they grow in. For soup that's even more of a meal, add organic chicken for extra protein.

Photograph: plainpicture/Johner

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