Fall weather has finally started in Upstate NY and I couldn’t be more excited; one of the reasons being the shift in foods I will be cooking more often. I think most people think of soup when we talk about the colder months, and for good reason. It is certainly satisfying in warming us up, but there are actually some less obvious health benefits to this cold weather practice. More than just a comfort food, certain soups have quite the list of benefits:
● Feeling full – Studies have looked into why this is the case, when other liquified meals (like smoothies) tend not to fill us up as much as their separate ingredients. Most information points to the idea that soup is often sipped slowly, while smoothies can be consumed in a quicker manner. This reasoning stems back to many of my intuitive eating recommendations in eating our food at a slow and mindful pace. So, if you find yourself having a difficult time learning your hunger and fullness cues, start with soups to help better connect to your body and feel satisfied.
● Extra hydration – We often think of needing to increase our hydration in the hotter months, but it is almost more important to think of in the fall and winter, as we are not as naturally inclined to drink cold water. Soup can offer just another option of hydration at this time of year, and tends to be more comforting due to the warmth.
● Immunity support – We are coming into cold and flu season, while already in a pandemic, so we need all the added support we can get. Most soup recipes tend to start with some immune system favorites, garlic and onions. They work as natural antibiotics in the body, with garlic in particular being antifungal and helping lower cholesterol levels.
● Increased vegetable intake – Seasonal vegetables in the fall and winter like squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and other root vegetables are wonderful for digestion and are high in important antioxidants. And even if they are not your favorites, the blending of flavors in soup can be helpful in covering them up with something you might prefer. It is also a wonderful way to get more greens without much effort; whenever your soup is near done, just throw handfuls of spinach and other dark leafy greens in for them to cook down and be just another component of the dish.
● Inexpensive and easy to prepare – We tend to slow down in the colder months, not as motivated by complicated dishes (especially when it gets to be dark outside at 5pm), and soup is a perfect solution for this. Most of the effort lies in chopping vegetables, and even that could be done ahead of time and stored in the fridge until it is time to cook. An extra layer of ease is buying most of your vegetables frozen; they tend to be pre-cut and cheaper, while still holding the same nutrition content. And while you’re cooking, why not double the recipe, and store the leftovers in single-serving freezer-safe containers and keep in the freezer for later!
I wanted to share one of my favorite, simple soup recipes by the wonderful Angela Liddon. Her cookbooks helped me gain a serious appreciation for plant-based recipes at a young age, and I still find myself coming back to many of her recipes on a regular basis.
West African Inspired Peanut Stew
This dish is creamy, satisfying, and just a tad spicy. Add more cayenne if you like more spice!
● 1 tsp olive oil
● 1 medium sweet onion, diced
● 3 cloves garlic, minced
● 1 red bell pepper, diced
● 1 jalapeno, seeded if desired, diced (optional)
● 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces
● 1 – 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with their juices
● Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
● ⅓ cup natural peanut butter
● 4 cups vegetable broth, plus more if needed
● 1 ½ tsp chili powder
● ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
● 1 – 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
● 2 handfuls baby spinach or destemmed, torn kale leaves
● Fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, for serving
● Roasted peanuts, for serving
1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
2. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño (if using), sweet potato, and tomatoes with their juices. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season the vegetables with salt and black pepper.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter and 1 cup of the vegetable broth until no clumps remain. Stir the mixture into the vegetables along with the remaining 3 cups broth, chili powder, and the cayenne (if using).
4. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is fork-tender.
5. Stir in the chickpeas and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
6. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with cilantro and roasted peanuts.