Soup Benefits and Recipes

When the outside temperature goes down, you can turn the heat up inside with a steamy bowl of soup. Soup is the perfect shape-shifter at your table, appearing as either an appetizer, main dish or a satiating between-meal snack.

Besides being delicious, soup carries a bowl of benefits for a variety of reasons.

[READ: Heart-Healthy Soups.]

6 Reasons to Eat Soup Now

1. Soup is a perfect vehicle for veggies.

Whether fresh, canned or frozen, you can add any kind of veggies to soup because you’re not necessarily looking for a crisp texture or mouthfeel. Buying frozen and canned produce could be particularly important these days, when we tend to want to shop less often and store foods wisely at home. Produce in the middle aisles are often less expensive than their fresh counterparts, although fresh veggies in that are in season can be reasonably priced.

And if you’re not a veggie lover — but you’d like to make an effort to increase your intake — try using an immersion blender. This inexpensive tool is perfect for pureeing veggies right within the pot in which you cooked the soup. It’s easy to use, clean and store — and turns a chunky soup into a creamy one in minutes.

2. What lays in soup stays in soup.

Some foods, particularly vegetables, lose valuable nutrients when they are cooked in water that later gets discarded. But when beans, vegetables or proteins (chicken, beef) are cooked within a soup, important nutrients are retained in the liquid.

3. Soup can healthfully hydrate.

Soup is composed mostly of water, so you can include this food your list of those that help you meet hydration needs. You might need to proceed with caution when it comes to the sodium in soup.

Read labels carefully to check serving size since some canned soups may show half a can as a portion, in which case you’d have to double all of the numbers listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel. To help keep sodium in check, use a low sodium-based broth and jazz up your dish with flavorful savory spices and seasonings instead of using salt.

4. Cook now, sip later.

It’s easy to cook up a large pot of soup and store portions in small containers in the freezer. This practice will help you have hearty, warm meals you can easily pull out if recipe fatigue strikes.

5. Soup can halt hunger.

A bowl of broth-based soup before a meal could help you eat less at that meal and thereby help you meet weight loss goals by feeling satiated instead of restricted. A bowl of soup as a between-meal snack could provide valuable nutrients and replace an otherwise empty calorie snack. If you’re interested in lighter versions of soup, try to limit those made with a cream base.

[READ: Best Soups for Weight Loss.]

Below you’ll find the most popular soup recipe on my website, along with other soup-er recipes from a few dietitian nutritionist friends to help you warm up your winter.

Vegan Split Pea Butternut Squash Soup

When I have a bowl of my split pea butternut squash soup in front of me, I never want it to end! I add almond milk for a creamy texture and hearty taste, without adding having to add dairy for those who follow a vegetarian, vegan or lactose-free lifestyle. This soup provides fiber, protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals, with the natural hint of sweetness from the butternut squash and cider. It’s so thick and rich, you can practically eat it with a fork!

Ingredients:

— 1 package green split peas.

— 1 package yellow split peas.

— 2 cans (48 oz. each) vegetable broth (low sodium type, if possible).

— 1 large butternut squash.*

— 1 small onion, chopped.

— 2 cups carrots, chopped.

— 6 garlic cloves, chopped.

— 1 cup Almond Breeze almond milk — original unsweetened. (Bonnie Taub-Dix is a consultant to Blue Diamond Almond Breeze.)

— 1 cup apple cider.

— Salt and pepper to taste.

— Sliced almonds for garnish, optional.

— Cooking spray.

*Note: If you’d like to save time, you can use canned (two 15-ounce cans) or frozen (two packages) of butternut squash and begin with step 4 below.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

3. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and bake (cut side facing down) on cookie sheet for about 30 minutes or until fork tender. Set aside.

4. While squash is baking, combine, rinse and sort yellow and green peas.

5. Pour broth into large (8-quart) soup pot and add split peas, onion, garlic, carrots, almond milk, apple cider and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer for one hour or until peas break apart easily. Stir regularly throughout. (Spoon off and discard any “foam” that forms during the process.)

6. If you prefer a thicker consistency, place an immersion blender inside the pot of soup and blend briefly for no more than for one to two minutes (or skip this blender step altogether if you like your soup very thick). If you a prefer smoother, creamier consistency, blend until you reach the desired texture.

7. Spoon soup into bowls and serve hot, or pour into containers to refrigerate or freeze until needed.

8. Garnish with sliced almonds if desired.

Servings per pot of soup: approximately 20. Serving size: 1 cup.

[See; Vegan Breakfast Ideas.]

Thai Sweet Potato Soup

Chef Julie Andrews, a registered nutritionist based in Appleton, Wisconsin, says, “This Thai sweet potato soup is packed with vitamin A and fiber from the sweet potatoes and prebiotics from the garlic and ginger. You’ll get a mouthful of flavor from the curry paste and fresh lime juice and a rich, creamy consistency from the coconut milk.”

Ingredients:

— 1 tablespoon olive oil.

— 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced.

— 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced.

— 3 tablespoons green or red curry paste.

— 2 ¼ teaspoons coarse salt.

— ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper.

— 4 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes (from about four medium potatoes).

— 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock.

— ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped.

— 15-ounce can full fat coconut milk.

— Zest and juice of two medium limes.

— 1 ½ teaspoons honey.

Instructions:

1. Heat olive oil to medium in a Dutch oven or stock pot. Stir in garlic, ginger, curry paste, salt and cayenne. Add sweet potatoes and stock and bring to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are very soft.

2. Remove from the heat, add the cilantro and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Add coconut milk, lime zest and juice and honey and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Instant Pot Directions:

1. Add the garlic, ginger, curry paste, salt, cayenne pepper, sweet potatoes and stock into the bowl of the Instant Pot.

2. Secure lid on the Instant Pot with toggle on sealed. Set on high pressure for eight minutes. When complete, carefully use a wooden spoon to push toggle to venting to release the steam. Carefully remove the lid.

3. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until very smooth. Stir in the cilantro, coconut milk, lime zest and juice and honey. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Spinach and White Bean Soup

This soup recipe by Chicago-based registered dietitian Amanda Izquierdo supplies more than 12 grams of fiber per serving provided by the white beans and farro. This soup is also a great way to use up spinach that may be starting to wilt in your fridge. It’s the perfect way to warm up on a cold day.

Ingredients:

— 2 tablespoons olive oil.

— 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced.

— 3 15-oz. cans cannellini or white beans.

— 2 cups vegetable broth.

— 1 cup farro, drained and rinsed.

— ½ teaspoon dried rosemary.

— 1 teaspoon thyme.

— Salt and pepper to taste.

— 1 8.5 oz jar of julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil.

— 3 cups spinach.

— Red pepper flakes (optional).

Makes about six to eight servings.

Directions:

1. Cook farro in water, according to directions. Drain and set aside. (This can also be prepped a day before).

2. Add 1 can of beans with liquid to a blender and blend until smooth. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the two remaining cans of beans and the farro, in two separate colanders.

3. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about one minute or until fragrant, stirring frequently to avoid burning.

4. Add the pureed beans, drained beans, broth, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix and bring to a boil. After reaching a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

5. Mix in the farro, sun-dried tomatoes with oil and spinach. Let simmer for two to five minutes.

6. Serve immediately with optional red pepper flakes.

Instant Pot Vegetarian Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

Kara Lydon, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Boston, says, “Traditional Vietnamese pho takes an entire day to make; this version only takes under an hour! Instant Pot vegetarian pho is perfect for a quick refreshing and comforting weeknight meal. This recipe is vegetarian, but you could easily add chicken or beef to this recipe if you’d prefer. Lydon adds baked tofu instead.

Ingredients:

— 12 ounces dried wide rice noodles.

— 2 tablespoons olive oil.

— 2 large onions, halved.

— 4 inch piece of fresh ginger, halved.

— 2 cinnamon sticks.

— 2 star anise.

— 4 whole cloves.

— 2 teaspoons coriander seeds.

— 4 cups vegetable broth.

— 4 cups water.

— 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce.

— 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, pressed, cut into 16 squares.

Toppings: Fresh herbs like cilantro, Thai basil or mint, lime wedges, scallions, bean sprouts, Thai chili peppers or jalapenos, hoisin sauce or chili garlic sauce (like sriracha).

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cook noodles according to package instructions.

3. Add olive oil to Instant Pot and set to saute for 7 minutes. Add onion, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and coriander seeds. Stir occasionally, letting the onions and ginger char.

4. Add vegetable broth, water and soy sauce. Secure lid on and set to manual pressure for 15 minutes (making sure valve is set to sealing).

5. Spread tofu in single layer on nonstick baking sheet (or baking sheet lined with parchment paper) and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

6. Let Instant Pot naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before using quick valve to release remaining steam.

7. Once pressure is released, open lid and using a fine mesh sieve remove and discard solids from broth.

8. To build your pho, add noodles and tofu to a bowl and pour broth over top. Add desired toppings.

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Soup Benefits and Recipes originally appeared on usnews.com

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