A dietitian's guide to supercharging your soup this winter

A simple mix of broth, vegetables, legumes, herbs and spices ticks the box on a range of key nutrients.
A simple mix of broth, vegetables, legumes, herbs and spices ticks the box on a range of key nutrients. Photo: Marina Oliphant

It is not by chance that a nourishing bowl of homemade soup is sought for its medicinal properties.

A simple mix of broth, vegetables, legumes, herbs and spices ticks the box on a range of key nutrients known to help benefit those recovering from colds and flu, whilst also offering potential immune-boosting benefits.

Like all foods, the range of soups you can find is wide and constantly expanding, with bone broth mixes, green soups and organic varieties some of the latest varieties to hit supermarket shelves.

So, if you are one of the many soup-lovers out there, here are some simple ways you can supercharge your own soup recipe to help power through the chilly winter months.

Arabella Forge's cold-busting chicken soup.

Arabella Forge's cold-busting chicken soup. Photo: Eddie Jim

Leaving the skin on any vegetables you use will help to significantly increase the dietary fibre of any soup.

Get your base right

A closer look at the research into soup and immune function has identified that there is in fact some evidence to show that chicken soup is a good choice of food when you have a cold.

The key is the choice of broth, with bone-based broths containing a molecule called carnosine, which has been shown to play a direct role in immune response by working to inhibit the migration of infected cells around the body.

This means that if you are looking to maximise the nutrient content of your own soup, the choice of broth is important.

Advertisement

Whether you use your own leftover chicken or beef bones to make your own stock, or pay a little extra for the bone broth you can now find in supermarkets, it will help to naturally increase the carnosine content of your favourite soup.

Triple tomato soup by Nagi Maehashi aka RecipeTin Eats for Good Food.

RecipeTin's triple tomato soup. Photo: Nagi Maehashi

Go for super vegies

When it comes to vegetables, the truth is you can't go wrong, with all types of vegetable offering a range of key nutrients, especially when simmered in a pot where all the nutrition is retained.

In saying that, there are a few vegetables that do offer especially important nutrients – tomatoes offer the antioxidant lycopene, for example. and bioavailability is enhanced when the tomatoes are cooked.

Leafy greens including kale and spinach are exceptionally rich in some anti-cancer molecules found in few other foods, while a base of onions and garlic offers some specific immune-boosting compounds.

Most importantly, leaving the skin on any vegetables you use will help to significantly increase the dietary fibre of any soup you are making, which is of benefit to both the gut and the fullness factor the soup offers.

***EMBARGOED FOR GOOD FOOD x SUNDAY LIFE, June 6, 2021 ISSUE***
Masterclass: Jill Dupleix's Roast pumpkin soup with chickpeas and merguez
Photography by William Meppem (photographer on contract, no restrictions)

Jill Dupleix's roast pumpkin soup with chickpeas and merguez. Photo: William Meppem

Add the legumes

Making a soup into a meal can mean adding protein, but before you reach for the ham leg or chicken thigh or bacon, consider swapping for legumes – cannellini beans, chickpeas, lentils, all protein- and fibre-rich options that add much nutritionally for very few calories.

Diets that include legumes regularly are associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as digestive health and still very few Australians get anywhere near enough of these natural superfoods.

Legumes are also extremely cost effective, making them a smart addition nutritionally and from a budget perspective.

Sweet potato and carrot soup with toasted seeds and pomegranate. Soup recipes for Good Food May 2018. Please credit Katrina Meynink.

Katrina Meynink's sweet potato and carrot soup with toasted seeds and pomegranate. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Season right

Let's not forget the herbs and spices including chilli, turmeric, ginger and peppercorns that can add much nutritionally to any soup. Chilli for example, is one of the few foods that offers a natural metabolic boost, whist also helping to clear blocked airways.

Consuming black pepper with turmeric helps aid in the absorption of the active molecule curcumin, known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, while ginger and garlic offer natural antiviral and antibacterial properties.

So, before you reach for the salt shakers, go to town with your favourite herbs and spices.

Susie Burrell is an accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist and holds a master in coaching psychology.