The chilly weather makes you want to pile on layers and sit down with a hot meal. But winter foods are often in the “comfort” variety, which can mean they’re high in calories and unhealthy ingredients.
Soup doesn’t have to fall into that category, however. Soup has a surprising number of health benefits if you prepare it correctly.
Check out these ways that soup can keep you healthy this winter.
1. Keeps You Full
When your stomach isn’t growling and feeling empty, it’s easier to refrain from unhealthy snacking. A satisfying meal is one way to curb cravings. Even though winter seems like hibernation time, you don’t have to put on extra pounds during this season. Soup is one meal that makes you feel full for a long period of time and can keep your weight in check.
Because of how your stomach digests food and water, soup keeps hunger at bay longer than an unblended meal does. A hormone called ghrelin lets your body know when the stomach is empty, but when you eat blended foods like soup, this process slows down. Essentially, your appetite responds to a full stomach and soup achieves that. Some studies show that those who eat soup can stay full up to an hour and a half longer than those eating a solid meal.
2. Provides You With Fruits and Vegetables
It’s no secret that vegetables and fruit boost your health through vitamins, fiber, and anti-inflammatory properties. And if you’d rather not take the time to chew, soup can be a convenient alternative. Vegetable soups can fill part of your daily serving of fruits and vegetables, and the recommended amount is at least five a day.
You can choose to include these by chopping them up for a chunkier soup like this Chunky Lentil and Vegetable Soup or by blending them together for a smooth one like this Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.
Either way, you are providing your body with healthy options. Also, some cooked vegetables can offer more nutrients than raw ones, like carrots which become higher in beta-carotene or cooked tomatoes which produce higher lycopene levels when cooked, which promotes strong bones and healthy skin.
3. Offers Extra Hydration
During the winter, you may not recognize when you become dehydrated because you aren’t overly hot or sweaty. But your body still needs certain levels of water to function. If you’re not paying attention to your water intake, you can become dehydrated even in a cold setting.
You can replenish your fluid levels by drinking water or by eating foods that have water in them. Soup is one food that contains a high amount of water and helps your body retain water.
Because broth contains sodium, broth-based soups can cause your body to hold water longer. This can lead to better hydration without constantly drinking water. You can dress up your broth-based soup with vegetables and protein, so your meal is well-rounded.
4. Gives Comfort for Cold Symptoms
Soup, particularly chicken soup, has been an age-old recommendation for colds and respiratory infections. But does it actually work as a remedy? Different kinds of soups do offer health benefits that can alleviate cold symptoms, but how much they help depends on the broth and ingredients. Soups also pack many nutrients into sick people that deliver nourishment when their appetite is low.
While studies are unclear on chicken soup’s benefits for colds, there is some evidence that it has medicinal properties. Hot chicken soup can increase the flow of mucus and clear nasal passages better than plain hot water. Chicken broth also can help control inflammation. The spices and temperature of the soup also help sinuses, and soup is considered comfort food for many people when they’re under the weather.
5. Boosts Immune System
Soups can bolster your immune system when you’ve been cooped up indoors during the winter. Your body’s defense mechanisms against illness need extra help when sickness is going around and temperatures are low. Chicken stock contains zinc, which could help the body repair itself, and it could restore damaged tissue. But more so than broth, the ingredients included in many soups increase your immune system.
Ingredients in soups can make it a beneficial addition to your winter menu. Garlic, which is in vegetable and bone-broth soups, protects your body from viruses and combats harmful bacteria.
Other additions that are high in vitamin C, like broccoli, spinach or potatoes, cause your body to resist pathogens and protect against immune system deficiencies. Fill your homemade soups with immune system boosters during the winter months to enhance your wellbeing.
6. Can Be a Source of Protein
When your soup has a high level of protein, you are providing your body with a crucial element for bones, skin, blood and more. Meats like beef, chicken, and turkey all are significant sources of protein that make tasty soups. You can also make a seafood soup with shrimp as your protein.
For meat eaters, protein is straightforward, but vegetable lovers can also benefit from protein-rich soups. Many leafy greens like spinach have a surprising amount of protein in them. Legumes are also packed with protein, as well as iron and magnesium.
7. Cuts Calories
You can control your weight gain with soup because it can reduce the number of calories that you eat in a meal. If you eat soup before a lunch entree your total calorie intake can drop substantially.
Regardless of the soup’s form, it can cause you to eat less during a meal but still have a variety of foods when soup serves as your first course. Creamy soups are more caloric, so avoid these if you’re trying to maintain a certain weight.
Include Soup as a Winter Meal
Rather than stocking up on greasy and unhealthy foods this winter, you can indulge in a nutrient-packed soup. Bone-broth and vegetable soups can satisfy your taste buds, stomach, and wellbeing. Make sure you add some to your meal plans this season so you can avoid illness and maintain your health.
Related Content: Can Winter’s Chill Actually Make You Sick?
Jennifer Landis, writer and founder of Mindfulness Mama, has been writing for the last decade and holds a BA in journalism. She is an avid goal setter and achiever.
Jennifer’s proudest accomplishments include two all-natural births, running a marathon, successfully making a croquembouche, and running two half marathons.
In addition to The Doctor Weighs In, her writing has appeared in VeryWell Family, Fortune, Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, and Women’s Running. Tweet her your favorite health tips @JenniferELandis.