Is there anything more satisfying than a steaming bowl of soup on a cold winter day? Especially when it’s filled with tender vegetables, hearty beans and warming herbs and spices, all swimming in a hearty broth. Pairing a soup or chili with your main dish salad is a classic Nutritarian matchup, so let’s look at why – and check out some delicious recipes!
Vegetable-bean soups and stews are nutrient-rich, flavorful, satisfying, and easy to prepare. Plus, the ingredients deliver incredible health benefits: You get the fiber and resistant starch in beans, lentils, and split peas, which cannot be broken down by the human digestive system, but support the growth of beneficial of bacteria in the gut.1
Pro tip: Add cruciferous veggies (such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) to your soup for a nutritional boost. Make sure you puree or finely chop the vegetables before adding them. Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates. When the vegetable’s cell walls are broken by blending, chopping or chewing, a chemical reaction converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates (ITCs)—compounds with a variety of potent anti-cancer effects.2,3
Plus: Vegetable-bean soups are also a great way to warm up in the winter. A vegetable-bean soup is the ultimate one-pot meal.
Starving our microbial self: the deleterious consequences of a diet deficient in microbiota-accessible carbohydrates
The Epigenetic Impact of Cruciferous Vegetables on Cancer Prevention
Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis
Soup is the ultimate convenience food: You cook it once, but eat many times. You can make soups in big batches, then freeze some and eat the rest over the next few days. Soups keep well in the refrigerator for up to five days, taste even better the second or third day after the flavors have had time to meld.
Pro tip: The time-honored way to make the most of produce that’s on its last legs is to make a big pot of soup. Us a low-salt vegetable stock (or carrot or tomato juice), chop up your veggies (add lots of Allium vegetables, such as onions, garlic, scallions, leeks or shallots for a flavor/nutrient boost), and toss in some vinegar, herbs and spices. Also add some dried or cooked beans, split peas or lentils for a little heft, and puree some of the soup to give it a creamy base. Let your imagination be your guide – or find inspiration in the Nutritarian Recipe Database. If you are going to freeze some soup, portion it in individual containers for easy thawing.
Since the vegetables are gently simmered in the soup base, the nutrients are retained and some are even made more absorbable. Carotenoids, such as alpha- and beta-carotene (in carrots and yellow-orange vegetables), lutein (in green vegetables), and lycopene (in tomatoes), are more absorbable from cooked vegetables compared to raw vegetables. Cooking breaks down some structural components of the vegetables, making the carotenoids more accessible to the digestive system.4
Many essential nutrients, such as niacin, folate, other B vitamins, and minerals, are water-soluble. With water-based cooking methods like steaming or boiling, water-soluble nutrients are lost in the cooking water. However, in a soup the water-soluble nutrients are retained.5
Pro Tip: Use carrot or tomato juice as your soup base instead of store-bought vegetable broth. You’ll cut out excess sodium and add more carotenoids.
Soup is high in water content and is fiber-rich from beans and vegetables; soups are filling and satisfy the appetite, despite their low calorie density. A year-long weight loss study that assigned participants to two soups a day or two snacks a day – with the same number of calories – found that the soup group lost more weight than the snack group.6 Another study compared calorie consumption at lunch in two groups: one assigned given a low-calorie vegetable soup at the beginning of lunch and another given lunch without soup first. The vegetable soup group consumed 20 percent fewer total calories during the meal.7
Pro tip: Boost the flavor of your soup with Allium vegetables (onions, garlic, shallots, leeks), herbs, and spices. Did you know that vinegar activates the same taste receptors as salt? Adding a bit to your soup gives you a depth of flavor that’s very satisfying. Experiment with different textures: leave the vegetables chunky, or puree some or all of the soup. Looking for crazy-easy prep? Throw some cut-up veggies and some no-salt vegetable juice (or water) into your Vitamix and follow the manufacturer’s directions to make a steaming soup in minutes.
Sonnenburg ED, Sonnenburg JL. Starving our microbial self: the deleterious consequences of a diet deficient in microbiota-accessible carbohydrates. Cell Metab 2014, 20:779-786.
Royston KJ, Tollefsbol TO. The Epigenetic Impact of Cruciferous Vegetables on Cancer Prevention. Curr Pharmacol Rep 2015, 1:46-51.
Higdon J, Delage B, Williams D, Dashwood R. Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacological Research 2007, 55:224-236.
Palermo M, Pellegrini N, Fogliano V. The effect of cooking on the phytochemical content of vegetables. J Sci Food Agric 2014, 94:1057-1070.
USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors Release 6. Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 2007.
Rolls BJ, Roe LS, Beach AM, Kris-Etherton PM. Provision of foods differing in energy density affects long-term weight loss. Obes Res 2005, 13:1052-1060.
Flood JE, Rolls BJ. Soup preloads in a variety of forms reduce meal energy intake. Appetite 2007, 49:626-634