In the heart of winter, nothing seems to take the chill off like a steaming bowl or mug of soup. Cooking a soup meal can be a lovingly drawn out affair, or as simple as opening a can. Many people have found a happy medium by buying ready-made beef, chicken or vegetable broth, and adding their own fresh root and green vegetables in a slow simmer.
Whatever your soup strategy, you can enhance the health benefits of your meal by adding any of three flavorful ingredients.
Garlic. Sulfur-containing compounds in garlic (Allium sativum) have been tied to cardiovascular health. Why not chop up a few cloves to add benefits to your pot of soup? For family members who can’t get enough, be sure to serve a small dish of extra chopped garlic to sprinkle into the bowl.
Olive Oil. With the right ingredients, even a basic cook can create a richly flavorful soup with no added fat. However, when serving your creation, drizzling a small amount of oil onto your finished product provides added health benefits. Rich in monounsaturated fats, olive oil is less prone to oxidation than many other oils. Consuming monounsaturated fats can help lower low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “bad cholesterol.”
Basil (Ocimum basilicum), which is plentiful in gardens in the summer, may be just the herb you need to bring Mediterranean warmth to a cold-weather soup. With more than 60 varieties, including the subtle flavors of lemon and cinnamon, basil is rich in flavonoids and volatile oils, and has been shown to possess antibacterial properties and to provide protection at the cellular level. The herb is also a good source of heart-friendly magnesium, which helps promote muscle and blood-vessel relaxation.
If you can find fresh basil, place slivered leaves as garnishes atop your soup before serving. If dried basil is more available, sprinkle it into your soup after cooking. You can even combine it – along with the garlic – in olive oil for an even more delicious drizzle.
What’s your favorite soup add-on? Share it with us in the comments below.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness.