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Soup-erfood: is souping the new juicing?

December 6th 2015 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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If you thought soup was boring, think again. A more balanced meal in a bowl, here’s why both experts and A-listers are starting to see it in a whole new light

With the weather getting colder, a steaming bowl of soup sounds like the perfect winter warmer. Tasty and easy to make, it also appears its list of lesser well known benefits could give your glass of green juice a run for its money in the healthy eating stakes too. According to dietitian, nutritionist and member of the British Dietetic Association, Dr Sarah Schenker, “There’s more variety. With soup, there are a number of ways to incorporate different types of vegetables - you can put in pretty much anything that is going off in the fridge - whereas with juicing, there are often certain vegetables which aren’t suitable." She adds, “You can also include more of the whole vegetable in a soup, so you’re getting more of their full goodness; plus the added fibre makes them a lot more filling (for less calories) compared to juices.”

Counting fans such as Gwyneth Paltrow and yoga expert Tara Stiles for both its health-boosting properties and nutritional content, it seems there’s more to soup than meets the eye. An unsung hero of the health food world, soup could soon give the juice craze some serious competition and prove better for taste buds, balanced diets and bank balances too. Here’s why soup just became a whole lot more interesting...

Why are soups better than juices?

Ultimately it’s their ability to include a more extensive range of nutrients to provide a meal that is better balanced. “I think soups are better than juices (even the Nutribullet types) because with a soup, you have the chance to add chunks of protein (meat, fish etc.) and wholegrains or pulses such as quinoa and chickpeas. This adds texture and will be more filling," says Sarah. "They will stay in the stomach longer too while they are broken down, whereas if you add ingredients to a Nutribullet, they are already broken down and will empty from the stomach quickly, so you lose that long-term satisfaction.”

She adds, “In terms of nutritional benefits, soup is generally low in calories and the high volume of fluid means you feel fuller more quickly. Research has shown that veggie soup remains in the stomach longer than the equivalent amount of vegetables eaten with just a glass of water, so you also feel fuller for longer.”

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Is homemade always best?

Ultimately, yes, however that doesn’t mean extra expense or additional wastage. “It’s actually cheaper,” says Dr Schenker. “You can use up what you haven’t used in the fridge.

“Secondly, you can control the portion size,” she adds. “When from a carton, you can’t always be sure how much to use. Making it yourself leaves you in control. Plus, you can decide which flavourings to use too. If you’re not too keen on too much salt, you can use alternatives such as paprika, herbs, lemon, lime juice etc. Also sometimes, some of salt added in manufactured soups are there as a preservative; whereas if you’re making your own, there’s no need for it.”

Furthermore, they offer the perfect opportunity to let you creative culinary juices run wild. “They provide a great chance to try things that you normally don’t like. Try adding kidney beans, nuts etc. or something you already have but aren’t sure what to do with. The fact that so much can go into a soup, means it’s a chance to use healthy ingredients that you normally wouldn’t think about having.”

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What if you don’t have time to make your own soup?

If time is short, there are still some healthy alternatives that you can pick up from the supermarket during your lunch break. The order of preference runs like this: 1) homemade, 2) carton and 3) tin. “If you can afford it, go for the freshly made ones in cartons as they’re the closest to the ones you can make at home,” advises Dr Schenker. “If not, a tin of vegetable soup isn’t a bad second choice as they contain chunks of real vegetables. You’ll probably lose some of the nutritional benefit but certain components, such as fibre and minerals, are not affected by the canning process. You may lose some vitamin C though as it’s one of most sensitive vitamins around, lost during the cooking process when heat is used.”

Not all supermarket soups carry the same healthy eating seal of approval though, with powdered varieties offering next to no nutritional value whatsoever. “They’re more like making a hot drink than a nutritious meal,” cautions Dr Schenker.

Similarly, not all carton or tinned alternatives are created equal. “If you’re eating a fresh soup from a carton, it’s worth checking what the ingredients are. If you’re concerned about the fat content, look to see that they’ve not wacked in full fat cream for example. Quite ‘posh’ fresh soups also contain ingredients like chorizo which, although are nice to have, are quite high in salt and fat. However now, a lot of manufacturers are a lot more careful about the salt content in their soups due to many being criticised in the past.”

One of our favourites at GTG HQ is Soupologie - a superfood soup brand lauded for its range of innovative nutrient-packed flavour combinations (think ‘Spirulina Greens,’ ‘Beetroot and Pomegranate’ and ‘Spinach & Kale with Garlic’). Tasty, extremely filling (one pot equates to around two meals), dairy-free and gluten-free and thankfully, cheap (with prices starting from £2.99), they make for the ideal healthy work lunch to suit both budgets and busy work schedules alike.

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What are the best juice to soup swaps?

Much in the same way that juices can be chosen for their targeted health and beauty boosting benefits, so can soups. Here are Dr Schenker’s top recommendations:

The energiser: “I’d recommend a bean soup such as a ‘Five-bean Soup,’ as beans are a good source of slow release carbohydrates and protein, so you get quite a balanced meal out of it.”

The metabolism firestarter: “A spicy Pho soup. There’s a small rise in metabolic rate when eating spicy food.”

The complexion pick-me-up: “A Laksa, due to the vitamin E from the coconut.”

The immunity booster: “Butternut squash soup, as it’s a good source of vitamin A which is important for the immune system.”

The antioxidant medley: “Watercress soup is a really good one due to watercress's very high antioxidant content.”

Could you theoretically have soups for every meal?

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Most definitely. “You could have soup at every meal but I wouldn't recommend it as it would get boring!” says Dr Schenker. “Better to look forward to a soup and enjoy it.”

“Think of it as a lunch option instead of a sandwich a couple of times a week,” she adds.

Follow Ayesha @Ayesha_Muttu and Dr Schenker @SarahSchenker.

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