Mother Earth Living

Changing season of soups

Hot soup conjures the simple, fireside comforts of warmth, shelter, and nourishment. It’s so apt a connection that most of us forget the opposite but equal pleasure of chilled soup. Yet few foods stimulate the senses the way cold soup does during the cloying heat of summer or early fall.

Over the transitional months when days and evenings can alternate between dog-day heat and frigid night, this quintet of soups bridges the temperature shifts. All are equally good served hot or cold. All are easily and rapidly prepared and are packed with nutrients, rich in flavor, and low in fat.

A bowl of bonuses

If flavor isn’t enough of an inducement to try these vegetable-based soups, then consider this: All of them offer a bonus of micronutrients that sustain health. Please note, however, that while scientific investigations support the value of these phytochemical nutrients, quantities in these soups are generally below the level administered to test animals. Still, most nutritionists believe that in the aggregate, a phytochemical-rich diet provides the best road to health.


Broccoli is loaded with numerous sulfur-containing, chemoprotective molecules. A notable one is the antioxidant called sulforaphane, a breakdown product of glucoraphanin. Laboratory studies in animals have shown that sulforaphane induces the production of phase 2 enzymes that deactivate free radicals and inhibit early tumor growth. When added to tissue-cultured human prostate cancer cells, it inhibits the malignant process by both arresting growth and stimulating apoptosis (cell death). Numerous other preliminary studies suggest that sulforaphane may have much broader, chemoprotective value.


Laboratory and epidemiological studies suggest significant anticancer activity for lycopene, the carotenoid pigment that colors tomatoes red. Preliminary data indicates it may prevent the initiation of prostate tumors and reduce the rate of growth of preexisting cancerous prostate cells. Other evidence suggests that it inhibits the division of breast cancer cells as well. It also appears to decrease the incidence and size of chemically induced lung cancers in mice.

Cooking increases the bioavailability of lycopene in tomatoes. Heat breaks down cell walls (facilitating digestion) and converts lycopene from the less-active cis form to the more-active trans configuration.


Few foods pack as much nutritional value per minimal caloric dose as carrots. Full of calcium pectate, carrots may help reduce blood cholesterol levels. And as one of the richest sources of beta-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A) and other carotenoids, carrots are rich in antioxidants that enhance your body’s power to fight cancer.

Spicy complements

Ginger adds more than spicy flavor to foods. It inhibits platelet aggregation, lowers plasma cholesterol, and decreases the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, all of which promotes cardiovascular health. Beyond this, it may relieve motion and morning sickness, as well as reduce nausea following surgery and chemotherapy. Furthermore, its anti-inflammatory properties ameliorate ulcers and arthritis.

Citrus fruits offer more than a burst of flavor. Most zests (the outer, colored portion of the peel), and especially that of orange and lemon, are loaded with d-limonene, a molecule with significant anticancer properties. Studies indicate the compound has chemoprotective activity against mammary, liver, lung, stomach, and skin cancers. As an example, a study of older, highly sun-exposed Arizona residents showed a decreased incidence of squamous cell carcinomas in those who consumed citrus zest–not citrus fruit or juice. It is hoped that d-limonene will show further anticancer benefit in breast cancer trial studies now under way. Dill weed also contains d-limonene.

Turmeric is known for the brilliant yellow color it derives from curcumin (and related compounds), a notable antioxidant. It exhibits strong medicinal benefits on numerous tissue targets, as well as inhibits microbial growth, ulcers, and gallstones. It boosts cardiovascular health by inhibiting platelet aggregation and the oxidation of lipids and LDL cholesterol, while modestly decreasing total cholesterol and increasing the beneficial HDL form.

In addition, turmeric and/or isolated curcumin inhibit various cancers. Studies in India show that heavy turmeric consumption can reverse pre-malignant lesions in smokers’ mouths, whereas laboratory studies demonstrate curcumin’s cancer-preventive activities in the stomach, duodenum, colon, breast, prostate, lymphoid tissue, and skin. Further studies will no doubt reveal other beneficial effects, such as the very preliminary data showing a reduction in pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

Horseradish and wasabi (Japanese horseradish) do more than add fiery flavors. Preliminary studies with these hot molecules indicate that they, like sulforaphane, may inhibit cancer by stimulating the production of phase 2 detoxifying enzymes.

Cornelia Carlson holds a doctorate degree in biochemistry and is an avid grower and user of herbs. She is the author of The Practically Meatless Gourmet (Berkley, 1996). She writes from her home in Arizona.

The reference list for this article is extensive. If you would like a copy, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to “Soups,” Herbs for Health, 243 E. Fourth St., Loveland, Colorado 80537, or e-mail us at


Serves 4

11/2 pounds fresh broccoli
1 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups nonfat milk
1/4 cup sherry or Madeira, optional
Lemon juice to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Salt to taste
Wasabi powder to taste, optional
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the broccoli. Cut and discard the woodiest portion of the stalks. Peel and discard the skin of the stalks. Chop the broccoli and place it in a blender with the water. Puree to a coarse mince. Let the mixture stand while preparing the soup. Warm the oil in a heavy saucepan. Sauté the onion in the oil until the onion is limp and transparent. Add the broccoli with its water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the flame and simmer until the broccoli is soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Puree the broccoli mixture in the blender, then pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Add the milk and heat until very hot. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or chill and serve cold.

Per serving: 197 calories, 11 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 8 g total fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol.


Serves 4

2/3 cups dried black beans, or 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans
Water for soaking and cooking the dried beans
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 small organic orange
1 teaspoon ground coriander, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon rice or cider vinegar, or to taste
Salt to taste
Black pepper or cayenne to taste

If you’re using dried beans, rinse them well and then soak them for 8 hours in water, changing the liquid several times. Drain the beans, put them in a large, heavy saucepan, and add water to cover plus an extra cup. Cook over a medium-hot flame until tender (1 to 3 hours), adding water as needed to prevent the beans from sticking to the pan. When the beans are soft, strain them, keeping the liquid as well as the beans. Set aside. If you’re using canned beans, strain them and discard the salty liquid.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Sauté the onion until limp and transparent. Grate the orange zest. Add the zest and beans to the onion. Add 2 cups of water if you’re using canned beans, or 2 cups of bean juice if you’re using dried beans, adding extra water as needed. Heat over a medium-hot flame and cook for 5 minutes. Pour into a blender and puree. Add the spices, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Serve hot immediately, or chill and serve cold.

Per serving: 229 calories, 12 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 4 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol.


Serves 6

Tomatoes vary greatly in acid content. If your tomatoes are highly acidic, you’ll need to add a few grains of baking soda to neutralize the soup or the tomatoes will curdle the milk.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chopped, skinned vine-ripened tomatoes (4 extra-large tomatoes)
2 bay leaves
Sprig fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried leaves
4 large fresh basil leaves
1 to 2 pinches baking soda, optional
3 cups low or nonfat milk
1 pinch sugar
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic until fragrant. Sprinkle the flour over the garlic, stir to make a paste, and then add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme. Cover the pot and simmer over a low flame for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, add the basil, pour into a blender, and puree. Taste the soup and add baking soda (if needed), a pinch at a time. Whirl for a few seconds in the blender, then taste. If the soup is still very acidic, add another pinch. Pour the milk into the saucepan. Slowly stir the tomato mixture into the milk. Heat over a moderate flame. When the soup is very hot, taste, and add sugar, salt, and pepper as needed. Serve immediately or chill.

Per serving: 134 calories, 6 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol.


Serves 4

1 pound carrots (about 6 medium carrots)
1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot
1 cup water
3 cups nonfat milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and slice the carrots. In a heavy saucepan, cook the carrots, ginger, and water over a moderate flame. Remove from the heat when the carrots are tender, after about 10 minutes. Puree in a blender. Add the remaining ingredients, and whirl to mix. Serve hot, or chill and serve cold.

Per serving: 144 calories, 7 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 4 g total fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol.


Serves 4

1 pound fresh beets (about 3 medium-large)
2 cups water
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups buttermilk
1 to 3 teaspoons chopped fresh dill weed
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, or to taste, optional
Rice or apple cider vinegar to taste
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Peel the beets and cut them into eighths. Put them in a heavy saucepan with the water and onion. Simmer the mixture over a medium-hot flame until the beets are tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Puree the mixture in a blender until very smooth. Add the buttermilk and the rest of the ingredients. Whirl to mix. Taste and adjust seasonings to suit. Serve hot, or chill and serve cold.

Per serving: 92 calories, 5 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 1 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol.

  • Published on Sep 1, 2001
© Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved - Ogden Publications, Inc.