When I started doing long distance endurance hiking, I had to come up with food that was efficient to carry. So it needed to be high in nutrition, and low in weight, yet able to satisfy my 6’2″ husband and week long trips of 100 miles or more over the challenging terrain of the Appalachian Trail. The freeze dried meals found at REI, while lightweight, were not tasty and full of preservatives and jars of peanut butter and cans of tuna were extra weight that I was not willing to carry. Over the years, I had become very fond of soup for lunch because it was deeply satisfying and usually incorporated a lot of foods that I otherwise would not be eating at lunchtime. A cup of soup always satisfied my hunger and kept me from eating impulsively during the day. I really wanted to make my own soup to take on the trail, but without being able to commercially freeze dry it, I thought I was out of luck. Then I bought myself a food dehydrator and my whole world changed. I now could make a huge batch of my favorite soups and preserve them for over a year maintaining all of their goodness for whenever I wanted it, at home or on the trail. The proof in my belief that 2 cups of a nutritionally dense soup containing 300 calories or less was enough to satisfy my husband after 20 miles on the trail came the first time I whipped a batch out of my pack after 20 miles of rigorous hiking and fed it to him. Not only was it delicious, it was comforting and satisfying. You see, I believe that much of our hunger comes from the lack of nutrition in the food that we eat. Our body NEEDS more nutrients and to get them, it signals hunger so that we consume more food. But this strategy is making us fat. More calories to get more nutrition only puts us over our caloric needs and stores fat. Having homemade, nutritionally dense soup is one of the best ways to transition you to eating healthier without deprivation and to reduce hunger. Here are some of the amazing reasons why this is true:
Nutrient Dense Fall Harvest Soup…..only 300 Calories for 2 cups of soup.
Why are blended soups so excellent? Here are a few reasons why including more blended foods into your diet can help your rejuvenation and weight loss process:
a) They are pre-digested.
Unfortunately one of the consequences of years of poor eating habits and eating poor quality foods is that our digestive systems weaken. That combined with the decline in intestinal absorption of nutrients as we age creates a starvation for nutrition. When we don’t absorb enough nutrition, our body calls out to be fed which often leads to additional calories without much addition of nutrients. We then find ourselves gaining weight and unable to lose it. If we try to eat more healthy with whole foods, we often still cannot take advantage of those nutrients because our intestinal capacity to break them down and absorb them is weak. Bringing in highly nutritious blended soups is a great way to saturate the body with lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes in a way that is totally easy to absorb.Then the body and intestinal system will grow stronger and be able to extract more nutrition from nutritious whole foods.
b)Good chewing is a discipline most people have yet to acquire.
Rarely do we chew our food until it is totally liquified. How many times do you find yourself eating all of your food so quickly that you know you didn’t chew half of it well. The truth is that digestion begins in your mouth. Chewing and enzymes start the breakdown process in your mouth so that the stomach receives food that it can completely liquify and present for absorption in the small intestine. The more liquified the food is, the more nutrients have a chance to be absorbed. Food should be completely chewed in the mouth into a liquified state before swallowing. Try it. Its REALLY hard to do. But especially with our food being nutrient poor and our capacity to absorb diminishing over time, this is CRUCIAL to both losing weight and optimal health.
c) Soup has a high water concentration.
We are chronically dehydrated. Our bodies are 50% water. Our physiology requires our bodies to be fully hydrated for our cells to live and function optimally. Soup is a great way to boost your hydration that isn’t drinking pure water.
d) Soup is an excellent way to incorporate foods we might not normally want to eat.
Vegetables are super foods filled with phyto nutrients and fiber and healthy carbohydrates. But for people not accustomed to eating vegetables, eating them raw or plainly cooked is sometimes not as appealing as eating other foods that are nutrient poor. The great thing is that the more you eat vegetables, the more your body wants to eat them. Combined with all of the flavorings and textures of soup, vegetables take on a whole another life and become super delicious even to the non-veggie eater. Plus you can eat them in abundance in soup because they shrink down once the water comes out of them so the nutrients become super dense and available to your intestines.
e)Blended soups can help us to lose weight.
One of the biggest reasons people often snack and overeat is because they are malnourished. Nutrient dense blended soups help us lose weight for 2 reasons, a) it is so well broken down and digested, and b) we are absorbing much more nutrition while spending less energy on digestion. This means that we are often satisfied with much less food than we might have been normally. Often we will find ourselves not hungry for many hours after eating a blended soup! Anyone who has trouble with lots of snacking and binging will often find blended soups to be a huge relief. We are constantly depriving ourselves of nutrients when we deprive ourselves of calories in an attempt to lose weight. This just puts us in a cycle to eat more because our body needs more nutrition not more calories, but the only way to get more nutrients out of nutrient poor food is to consume more calories. No one feels deprived after eating a hearty, flavorful, nutritionally dense soup. And you can take it anywhere. Which means less impulsive eating when the body is hungry. Then fiber content of a 300 calorie portion of soup is through the roof which keeps us satisfied and cleans out our gut allowing the proper bacteria to flourish and keep our systems in balance. Through this we can lose weight and enjoy optimal health.
f) Blended soup can be gently warmed and adapted to our environment.
Those living in colder environments often struggle trying to eat all raw foods. Why is this? Its typically because they often eat only fruit and salads, most of the time right out of the refrigerator. And while a salad or fruit can be eaten at room temperature, it is still kind of awkward to warm those foods up. With blended soups, on the other hand, we can put them in a pot and gently warm it up until it is just over 100 degrees (this is easy to tell with your finger tip). This ensures that none of the nutritional value/enzymes are lost or destroyed but at the same time the soup has a lovely warming quality. Those who struggle eating raw in colder climates will often find that this alone will make a huge difference in their ability to stay warm and feel satisfied/ balance and to eat an abundance of seasonal nutrients.
g)Soups are highly adaptable
Soups can take on any ethnic or seasonal flavor and you can make them infinitely variable. How many ways can you eat a steak? Soup is never boring and always satisfying.
The Basic Formula for Blended Soups
There is about a cup of liquid in 2 cups of nutrient dense soup. I like to use 2 bases to my soup for flavor. One is tomato based and one a clear vegetable base. Additionally, if you are a meat eater, I like to boil down a roast chicken or ham bone to use in soups that are not vegan. The broth I then use from that boil, acts as the liquid for the soup base. Bone broth is excellent from a nutritional standpoint. Besides it’s amazing taste and culinary uses, broth is an excellent source of minerals and is known to boost the immune system and improve digestion. Its high calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus content. Bone broth also supports joints, hair, skin, and nails due to its high collagen content. In fact, some even suggest that it helps eliminate cellulite as it supports smooth connective tissue. Broth is very high in the amino acids proline and glycine which are vital for healthy connective tissue (ligaments, joints, around organs, etc).
Everything and anything you can imagine here. And the more the better. In my house not one piece of vegetable goes to waste. If something is starting to go bad in the fridge, I chop it up and throw it in the freezer to be used later. Since most vegetables are tough, they may need to be cooked a bit to soften for the soup. But varying texture is good and so experiment with what different textures you would like to achieve with your soup. Me, I don’t like any crunch to my celery, but I do like an al dente potato, so I add my celery first and my potatoes last. Totally up to you although if you are completely at a loss, most soup recipes will give you a standard process for creating typical balance with texture in a soup. Veggies lend an enormous amount of soluble and insoluble fiber to the soup which modern women desperately lack not to mention all of the vitamins, and phytonutrients that abound in veggies.
2) WATERY FRUIT
The best thing about Watery fruits are the fact that when their water comes out it adds intense flavor to the base of the soup, as does the concentrated fibrous pulp that is left. Oh, and the nutrients are out of this world. Phytonutrients abound and are key to counteracting the damage that our cells undergo everyday in normal life. Also, they create a texture and fullness without the need for creams and oils. Plus you can play with seasonal variations which makes a soup special and more nutritious. Using seasonal vegetables also keeps costs down since they don’t need to be imported from so far away. Some great examples of watery fruits are tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, all kinds of squash, apples, etc.
3) HEALTHY FATS
We need fats in our diet, but soup doesn’t need alot of fat to make it taste good, and using healthy fats that benefit us are an easy addition. Think a little bit of coconut oil to a Thai flavored soup. Not alot, just enough to get the benefit. Most of my soups that make 12 servings have less than 4 tsp of healthy fats in them. We need fat….period.
4) HIGH FLAVOR INGREDIENTS
Soups can be amongst the most flavorful meals you eat. Herbs, onions, garlic, spices, sea salt, etc. There is no end to the depth of flavor you can create with soup which makes it infinitely versatile as well as satisfying. With such strong ingredients, add one at a time and then taste. Add more layers as you go. Leafy green vegetables are also great for flavor and nutrition, but they can overwhelm a soup so just be aware before you decide to make this addition. Think that whatever leafy green you add will end up being the title of the soup….ie: Butternut Squash and Kale soup…
5) NUTRIENT DENSE TOPPINGS/CHOPPED INGREDIENTS
One of my favorite ways to boost the nutrition of soup is to grind some fresh seeds, herbs/spices, and nuts in a grinder and sprinkle into the soup. If you want the feel of crushing crackers into your soup, put the grind just on the top and a similar texture will be created. If you wait until the final grind to add a bit of salt, that is nice too. Freshly ground seeds are often one of the best ways to get our essential fatty acids, minerals and amino acids in a form that is super easy to digest. Some of my favorites are sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley. Any kind of nut is great as well. Check out the bulk aisle in your health food store where you can buy small quantities at a time to experiment.
This is a picture of me with my Nutrient Dense Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup as I pulled it out of the dehydrator! And below is the same soup for storage.