Soup. It's there for you when you're feeling under the weather. It warms you up when it's chilly outside. Most of all, it gives you something to make with odds and ends veggies in your kitchen.
While many people consider soup as an appetizer, the following staple ingredients prove that a hearty, nutritionally balanced bowl can make one heck of a filling entree!
Here are eight ingredients to ensure your soup is the star of the show.
1. Fresh or frozen greens
If you find it challenging to consume your daily dose of greens, make it easier on yourself and add them to your soups! Stir leafy greens, such as arugula, spinach or kale, into broth. Enjoy as is – mixed with your favorite veggies – or, use a blender to combine it all into a creamy soup.
Keep in mind that greens reduce in size when cooked, so add double (or even triple) to maximize the nutrition content.
Rich in antioxidants, spinach is also high in lutein, a phytonutrient that reduces inflammation and protects your eyes. Kale, a member of the cruciferous family, is loaded with calcium and packed with cancer-fighting properties. Recipe idea: Combine kale, seaweed and tofu into a quick miso soup for a delicious, calcium-rich entrée.
Low in calories and high in fiber, carrots are excellent sources of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant found in orange vegetables. Fun fact about carrots, their skin is rich in nutrients. Unfortunately, many of us discard this healthy top layer, which results in losing around 1/3 of the phytonutrients. Instead, was the carrots well, leave the skin on and add to your soup for an extra nutritional boost.
3. Onions & garlic
Sneak in even more nutrition by adding onions to your soup. The smaller the onion, the less water it contains and the more phytonutrients it has. Red and yellow onions have the most antioxidants.
Garlic is also an antioxidant powerhouse and can add a deep and rich flavor to your dish. Just like carrots, most of the phytonutrients in garlic and onions are found in the skin. Rather than throwing away those outer layers, toss them into your soups and remove once you’re done cooking.
4. Coconut milk
With its nutty flavor, coconut milk is an excellent alternative to dairy when looking for a rich and creamy consistency. Add a healthy serving of this non-dairy milk to coconut curry, cream of broccoli and butternut squash soup. If you want to avoid the saturated fat but still want a creamy texture, try cashew milk for the same results.
High in both protein and antioxidants, legumes are a fantastic high-fiber food. Lentils are one of the highest antioxidant-containing legumes. If you choose canned lentils over dried, opt for cans with little to no salt added and always rinse them before you cook.
It’s always an great idea to keep nuts on hand for a healthy snack, but they can also be used as a soup base or garnish. A fantastic source of healthy fats, minerals, proteins and vitamins, nuts will also make your meals heartier. Recipe idea: Add peanuts to a Thai-inspired soup or grind cashews for a dairy-free cheesy-style soup such as cream of broccoli or butternut sage.
7. Nutritional yeast
An excellent source of B vitamins, nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that pairs well with cashews for dairy-free soups. Whether you’re replacing Parmesan cheese in your minestrone or just in the mood for a savory soup, nutritional yeast adds a “cheesy” flavor wherever you need it.
8. Vegetable broth
Have you ever wanted to make soup only to realize you don't have any broth or stock on hand? Keep a few containers stocked in your pantry. This way, they're there when the cravings strike!
You can also easily make your own vegetable stock. Instead of discarding or composting vegetable trimmings, store them in a bag or container in the freezer. When you’re ready to make broth, combine the frozen trimmings with water in a slow cooker for a couple hours with some water, spices, onions and garlic. Voilà!