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Chicken soup with vegetables. Ready for cooking. Healthy diet eating concept

Soup Up for Winter!

Soup and the colder months go hand in hand. As the temperature drops, even below zero in some places, there is nothing more comforting and satisfying than a bowl of warm soup which is full of your favourite foods. However, it appears that there is much more to soup than comfort.
There is emerging evidence to suggest that chicken soup (consisting of chicken breast meat, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery and parsley) has an anti-inflammatory effect. Studies have suggested that one of the key ingredients in chicken soup is a compound called carnosine.
This nutrient is present in chicken breast meat and is composed of two amino acids – beta-alanine and histidine.
It appears that carnosine mediates the overreaction (excessive inflammation) of our immune response to an invading virus like influenza A or a rhinovirus causing the common cold.
Studies have shown that people with an upper respiratory tract infection who regularly eat chicken soup have less inflammation, and therefore less symptoms of blocked sinuses and runny nose.
Interestingly, chicken soup has been “prescribed” for the treatment of respiratory tract symptoms as far back as the 12th century, and has continued to the present day to be recommended as a remedy for a cold or ‘flu.
Nourishing homemade soups are a great way to stay healthy over winter.
Hearty soups including lots of colourful vegetables, with barley or legumes and lean cuts of meat or skinless chicken or tofu, are ideal.
Soups packed with vegetables are an easy way to fill you up and help meet your daily recommended 2.5 cups of cooked vegetables (Australian Dietary Guidelines).
Vegetables are packed with fibre and contribute little to your energy balance and therefore will assist in maintaining a healthy body weight. Soup rehydrates you and keeps your bowels healthy and moving, reducing the risk of constipation.
Vegetables assist with nutritional adequacy, as they are a source of iodine, non-haem iron and calcium, three of the most commonly reported nutrient deficiencies in developed countries including Australia (ABS 2012 Australian Health Survey). A lack of vegetable intake is a major risk factor for chronic disease.
Eating well means providing the body with the complete nutrition and hydration requirements to support healthy immune system function.
A deficiency in any one or more nutrients will have a cascade effect within the body reducing the immune system’s ability to respond effectively and overcome disease.

Tips for a nourishing soup:

  • Include dark green or cruciferous/brassica vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, spinach, and snow peas as they are packed with vitamins C, beta carotene (vitamin A), vitamin K, source of calcium, iodine, magnesium and non-haem iron. A single cup of bok choy meets the daily nutritional requirement of vitamin A.
  • It is important to add a quality protein food such as lean red meat, skinless chicken, eggs, tofu or legumes/lentils. Meat may need to be cooked before adding to soup depending on cooking time of soup.
  • Add your favourite herb or spice to soup to give it flavour and in some cases putative health benefits such as reducing cholesterol absorption (decreasing cardiovascular disease risk), and anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. Options include: garlic, ginger, onions, turmeric, lemongrass, rosemary, cumin, dill, fennel, paprika, bay leaf, thyme, basil, coriander, and curry.
  • Use sour cream as a garnish for soups such as pumpkin, sweet potato, and broccoli.
  • Red lentils are easy to add to a soup as they don’t require pre-soaking or cooking and they cook quickly. Allow 1-2 tablespoons per serve.
  • If using canned or powdered soup add extra vegetables (fresh/frozen), rice noodles, barley, or legumes/lentils.
  • Crunchy bread rolls, toast with melted cheese or croutons go well with soup.