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Nutritious, Delicious Favorite Soups

By Anne Palumbo

I hate being cold and, for me, nothing shakes a chill better than a steaming bowl of hearty soup.

Before we dip into some of my all-time favorites, let’s head down memory lane and learn a bit about the history of soup.

Based on archeological evidence found in China, it turns out the first example of a soup bowl was discovered in 20,000 BC. The ancient pottery showed scorch marks, which would suggest the soup maker was cooking a hot soup of sorts. While this is the first example of a soup bowl, other ancient soup makers may have simply dug a pit, lined it with animal skin, filled this “pot” with water and plunked in some hot rocks. The use of hot rocks to boil water was a known practice among clever Neanderthals back then.

After the invention of clay pots and bowls, however, making soup was easy and became a staple of cuisines all over the world.

Thanks to a change in fashion in the 14th century, slurping soup directly from the bowl ended. Stiff ruffles around the neck became fashionable, which made lifting the bowl to one’s lips downright impossible. Enter the soup spoon! Thank goodness the habit of eating soup with a spoon stuck, even without all the fussy ruffles.

Condensed canned soup was invented in 1897 by John T. Dorrance, a chemist at the Campbell Soup Company. It’s the only soup I knew as a kid, and my favorites — Campbell’s Tomato, Cream of Mushroom, and Chicken Noodle Soup — continue to be three of the most popular soups in America.

These days, I make my own soup, which allows me to control the ingredients, especially the sodium content. Plus, it’s the kind of versatile dish I can easily experiment with and never really ruin. I like that in a dish! One carrot? Give me two! Ground beef? Bring on the beans!

And while some folks don’t really see soup as a meal, our household certainly does.

In less time than it takes to create many well-balanced meals, we’ve got our proteins, our fiber-rich carbs, our vegetables, our fluids, and, of course, our crusty bread for sopping things up.

Soup prepared elsewhere — whether canned, take away, or restaurant-prepared — may contain considerably more calories, fat, and sodium than you might expect. On that note, be sure to check labels in stores and nutrition information in restaurants (when available) if this concerns you.

At The Cheesecake Factory, for example, a bowl of cream of broccoli soup has 630 calories, 33 grams of saturated fat, and 1940 mg of sodium; a bowl of baked potato soup has 800 calories, 34 grams of saturated fat, and 1940 mg of sodium. For the record, the American Heart Association recommends we have no more than 13 grams of saturated fat and no more than 2300 mg of sodium (both per day), with an ideal limit of 1500 mg sodium for most adults.

Ready to make your own? Here are a few of my favorites—favorites because they’re healthy, satisfying, fairly easy to make, and super delicious!


Hearty Vegetarian Chili

Serves 4-6

to 2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 large carrot, sliced or diced

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

to 2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes

to 2 cups vegetarian broth or water

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup corn

2 tablespoons lime juice

Garnishes: tortilla chips, sliced avocado, cilantro, grated cheese

1. In large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrot, and bell pepper; sauté for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper; stir for 30 seconds.

3. Stir in diced tomatoes, broth or water, both beans, and corn. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove cover and simmer for 10 minutes more, until chili thickens. Stir in lime juice; add more liquid if chili seems too thick. Adjust seasonings. Garnish and serve.

Why this soup is healthy

Low in fat and calories, this chili delivers a bounty of powerhouse nutrients: protein, fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and plenty of health-promoting antioxidants.


Mushroom Artichoke Soup

Serves 4-6

¼ cup butter or 3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup thinly sliced shallots or onions

2 large carrots, sliced

1 (20-ounce) box sliced white mushroom: rinsed, hard stems removed

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt; ¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

¼ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup 2% milk

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1.  In large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots or onions, and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and cook 10 minutes more, until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.

2.  Stir in flour, thyme, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Mix well. Add broth and cook until soup is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Stir in artichokes, dried tomatoes, and bay leaf. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Stir in milk and lemon juice; heat through. Discard bay leaf. Adjust seasonings. If soup seems too thick, add more milk or broth.

Why this soup is healthy

Thanks to its unique combo of garlic, onions, artichokes, and mushrooms, this soup is positively chockfull of antioxidants, which help neutralize harmful free radicals that can accelerate aging and increase your risk of heart disease and cancer.


Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Serves 4-6   adapted from loveandlemons.com

3 tablespoons butter

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper

3 garlic cloves, chopped

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups reduced-fat milk or unsweetened almond milk

2 cups vegetable broth

3 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets

1 large carrot, sliced or chopped

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons hot sauce (optional)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Croutons (optional)

1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, then sprinkle in the flour and stir continuously for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the flour turns golden. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking continuously.

2. Add the broth, broccoli, carrot, and mustard and stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the broccoli is fork-tender.

3. Gradually add the cheese, stirring after each addition, until all the cheese is melted and the soup is creamy. Add more broth or milk if soup seems too thick. Adjust seasonings and serve with croutons, if desired.

Why this soup is healthy

Brimming with immune-boosting vitamin C and bone-strengthening vitamin K—one cup has nearly all your daily needs for both—broccoli is also loaded with compounds that are believed to protect against cancer.



Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at avpalumbo@aol.com.