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Five nourishing Soups

Is there any food more appealing during the long days of winter than a hot bowl of soup? Eating soup is not only a delicious way to warm up, but it can be a healthy food choice, too.

Doug Cook, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant at Wellness Nutrition in Toronto offers some advice on which soup to choose for your health goals.

Best soup to boost your immune system
A strong immune system can help you survive cold and flu season without having to take a sick day. And filling your diet with healthy foods is one of the best ways to get your immune system in tip-top shape.

"Soups with some lean protein, lots of vegetables, and a good whole grain starch like barley, whole wheat pasta or legumes," are ideal, says Cook. "[This kind of soup] would provide protein, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which are required for a healthy immune system."

Best soup when you're under the weather
While many people claim that chicken soup is a surefire way to get rid of a cold, any soup that's full of healthy ingredients is going to have the same effect. The important thing is to eat so you can give your body the nourishment it needs to recuperate.

A light, warm soup is just the thing to have when a cold weakens your appetite. Look for the same hallmarks in the immunity-booster soup mentioned above -- lean protein, vegetables and whole grains -- rather than relying on lackluster convenience food next time you're not feeling so hot. "You can't run a healthy immune system or launch a strong immune response on doughnuts and soft drinks or other nutrient-depleted foods," says Cook.

Best soup for weight loss
When your new year's resolution is to fit into your favourite dress again and you're looking for food that's low in calories but still tastes fantastic, soup is a great option. Cook recommends looking for broth-based, rather than cream-based, soups to keep your weight loss plans on track. He also suggests soups with some protein and lots of fibre, such as vegetables and legumes.

"Fibre helps to fill you up and protein increases satiety more than carbohydrates and fat." It also takes a little extra time to eat a bowl of soup, which gives your brain a chance to realize that you're stomach is starting to fill up.

Cook offers an added benefit as well: "Warmth appears to increase satiety better than cold food." So skip the salad and ask the waiter to bring you some soup instead.

Best soup to help you build some muscle
If you've decided that this is the year you're going to make weight training a regular part of your fitness regime and you want to build up some muscle to show for it, Cook suggests eating soup as an appetizer rather than the main event.

However, he adds, "If the soup is the meal in itself, then having enough protein is essential." So pile it up with meat and beans to get the best bang for your bowl.

Best soup for when it seems like spring will never come
Comfort food is ideal for the inevitable winter blahs, so choose your favourite soup to cuddle up with on the iciest of evenings. Cook's choice involves a host of root vegetables. "I like carrots, onions, celery and especially parsnip in soup."If your family recipe was written long before the days of counting calories and fat grams became part of the public consciousness, Cook suggests clever ways to lighten it up. "Any traditional recipe can be modified to include healthier ingredients, like using lower fat milk or low-fat evaporated milk instead of creams, leaner cuts of meat, and lower fat cheese or sour cream."

But even the original version of a favourite has a place. "Food is more than just basic nutrition or fuel, it's also part of tradition and social gatherings, all of which are important to overall health as it relates to emotional and psychological health via connecting with others," says Cook.

If making soup on a weekday evening seems like too large a task, make a double batch during the weekend and freeze individual portions for an easy fix on busy nights. Then gather your nearest and dearest and enjoy delicious and nutritious soup together.
By Tammy Sutherland

• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, finely diced
• 1 large carrot, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
• 1 rib celery, trimmed and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 8 ounces lean (8 percent fat) ground beef
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 4 cups low-sodium beef broth
• 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
• 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 dried bay leaf
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add the oil and heat over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the ground beef and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the beef is browned and cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and mix to combine. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with Parmesan. - Fly at a Smile-Price