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Vegetable Soup Medicine

November 15, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Whenever possible I like to combine nutritional strategies that address more than one objective at a time. Eating more vegetables is a common goal for many of my clients. Likewise, drinking more water and curtailing overeating rank highly on their “to do lists”. It just so happens that there’s a simple technique that can support all three of these objectives and more. My Healthy Monday tip of the week is to include more homemade soup in your winter time routine.

There are many reasons to recommend homemade vegetable soup. Firstly, it’s a delicious way to consume large amounts of vegetables without much effort. Another advantage is that the antioxidants and nutrients that are often lost during processing are retained in the cooking liquid or soup base. Finally, you can make any kind of vegetable soup you like at home at your convenience. There’s no need to eat lentil soup or minestrone if you don’t like legumes or pasta. This final point will be illustrated in tomorrow’s column. (1,2)

In the 21st century, vegetable soup generally isn’t thought of as a medicine. But perhaps it should at least be considered a medicinal food. Several studies dating back as far as 1995 have determined that vegetable-based soups are capable of promoting very serious physiological changes in the human body. Two trials conducted at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University have reported that drinking 500 ml/day of a Mediterranean vegetable soup is capable of significantly increasing Vitamin C concentrations and “decreases oxidative stress and biomarkers of inflammation, which indicates that the protective effect of vegetables may extend beyond their antioxidant capacity”. These results are supported by an Indian and Spanish study as well. The Indian trial went on to document positive changes in cardiac enzyme levels in patients who had recently suffered a heart attack. (3,4,5,6)

Losing excess weight and/or preventing weight gain are powerful tools in the fight against the leading causes of disease and mortality worldwide – cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Numerous studies have shown that “preloading” with vegetable soup at the beginning of a meal is an effective means of reducing appetite and caloric intake by up to 20%. The added fiber and liquid in the vegetable soup probably makes one feel fuller longer. However, the real significance of using this ploy is that the nutrition contained in the soup more than makes up for the reduction in subsequent food intake. (7,8,9)

Soup “Preload” Lowers Daily Caloric/Food Intake
Source: Appetite. 2007 November; 49(3): 626–634. (link)

In my experience, there is also an intangible dimension to consuming soup. Drinking warm liquids soothes my body and mind. The relaxing effect is similar to how I feel when I sit in a jacuzzi or take a hot bath. It’s not quite that intense. But when I take the time to engage in this mind-body practice, there’s clearly a calming sensation. The trouble is that I can’t find any direct scientific evidence to substantiate this feeling. The closest I’ve come is finding several studies that report a mood elevating effect of a traditional Japanese sauce base/soup known as “dried-bonito broth”. Still, I feel it’s worth mentioning in the hope that some of you might find a similar “comfort effect” which may ultimately translate into greater control over your meal time selections. (10,11,12)

Tomorrow I’ll offer an example of a low carbohydrate vegetable soup that I make regularly in the Healthy Fellow test kitchen. What’s important to note is that vegetable soup recipes are exceedingly flexible. You don’t necessarily have to rely on a step-by-step formula found in a froufrou cookbook or presented by a famous chef on a cooking program. Simply use ingredients that you like. Just don’t forget to keep it health conscious by going easy on the salt and focusing on non-starchy vegetables. Instead of relying on added sources of sodium, boost the amount of culinary herbs and spices. In terms of vegetable selection, some of my top choices are: asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, green beans, kale, radishes, spinach and tomatoes. Choose whatever suits your palate while keeping nutrient density in the forefront. Until tomorrow …

Be well!


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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutrition

14 Comments & Updates to “Vegetable Soup Medicine”

  1. Jen Says:

    Thanks for sharing. My mother has been boiling black fungus with red dates soup for my family recently as she says that it helps to lower cholesterol. I have also read somewhere that it’s true.

  2. A Daddy Blog Says:

    JP, this is really good stuff. Glad you found me on twitter or I’d not have benefited from it. I’ll definitely be back. You’re making a difference buddy. Thanks!

    –Michael (aka: http://adaddyblog.com)

  3. A Daddy Blog Says:

    I just re-read what I wrote above and thought it sounded canned or disingenuous. Totally not. I’m working on loosing weight and improving my health. I thought the soup idea is brilliant, and wondered why I didn’t think of it. Guess I’m not as brilliant as you. Anyway, thanks again.

  4. John La Puma MD Says:

    Love the science in this post.
    See also “soup and satiety” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15639159 which involves the cognitive and sensual components of the satiety.
    It is interesting that the soups you quote as doing good are primarily gazpacho, which is served cold in Spain (and the U.S.): some of satiety comes from the pleasant warmth of the liquid, which of course is absent here.
    You might also enjoy my other site, http://ChefMD.com: similar philosophy, lots of recipes and videos.
    Warm regards
    author, ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine

  5. JP Says:

    Thank you, Jen.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, Michael. I appreciate your kind words!

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Dr. La Puma! I appreciate the added link and your thoughtful comments.

    I’ll definitely check out your site.

    Be well!


  8. Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,
    My wife loves your recipes!
    It makes her and me feel good that the way she has been feeding me is so healthy! It reinforces her self esteem too!
    It looks that the traditional Mediterranean cuisine is gaining more and more medical recognition.
    It is great that that you spread the wisdom through the blog and twitter networks!
    Congratulations for a great job!

  9. JP Says:

    Thank you for your kind words and support, Paul!

    I’m very happy to hear that you have a happy and healthy household! It’s an invaluable part of life to be sure! 🙂

    Be well!


  10. Lynn Lotto Says:

    Thanks for sharing. Many studies show that hot soup prior to a meal helps you eat less later and what better way than to have a soup that is packed with nutrient dense vegetables.

  11. Michael Cohen Says:

    Anyone heard of “Bieler Broth”? A steamed and pureed mixture of zucchini,sting beans celery and parsley that dr Henry Bieler used as
    an alkalizing, mineral restoring detox broth?

  12. JP Says:


    I’ve come across reports about it online. I haven’t tried it but it seems quite healthful – provided that you use organic ingredients. For instance, celery often contains a significant quantity of pesticide residues:


    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Tip: Try easing up on the salt when making homemade vegetable soup. You probably won’t even notice the difference!


    Food Nutr Res. 2014 Oct 6;58.

    Salt reduction in vegetable soup does not affect saltiness intensity and liking in the elderly and children.


    Reduction of added salt levels in soups is recommended. We evaluated the impact of a 30% reduction of usual added salt in vegetable soups on elderly and children’s saltiness and liking evaluation.


    Subjects were elderly and recruited from two public nursing homes (29 older adults, 79.7±8.9 years), and preschool children recruited from a public preschool (49 children, 4.5±1.3 years). This study took place in institutional lunchrooms. Through randomization and crossover, the subjects participated in two sensory evaluation sessions, on consecutive days, to assess perceived saltiness intensity (elderly sample) and liking (elderly and children samples) of a vegetable soup with baseline salt content and with a 30% salt reduction. Elderly rated perceived liking through a 10 cm visual analogue scale [‘like extremely’ (1) to ‘dislike extremely’ (10)] and children through a five-point facial scale [‘dislike very much’ (1) to ‘like very much’ (5)].


    After 30% added salt reduction in vegetable soup, there were no significant differences in saltiness noted by the elderly (p=0.150), and in perceived liking by children (p=0.160) and elderly (p=0.860).


    A 30% salt reduction in vegetable soup may be achieved without compromising perceived saltiness and liking in children and the elderly.

    Be well!


  14. JP Says:

    Update: Gazpacho, a cold Mediterranean soup, may reduce blood pressure and hypertensive risk …


    Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Oct;23(10):944-52.

    Gazpacho consumption is associated with lower blood pressure and reduced hypertension in a high cardiovascular risk cohort. Cross-sectional study of the PREDIMED trial.

    BACKGROUND AND AIM: Hypertension is a major public health problem and a leading cause of death and disability in both developed and developing countries, affecting one-quarter of the world’s adult population. Our aim was to evaluate whether the consumption of gazpacho, a Mediterranean vegetable-based cold soup rich in phytochemicals, is associated with lower blood pressure (BP) and/or reduced prevalence of hypertension in individuals at high cardiovascular risk.

    METHODS AND RESULTS: We selected 3995 individuals (58% women, mean age 67 y) at high cardiovascular risk (81% hypertensive) recruited into the PREDIMED study. BP, weight, and dietary and physical activity data were collected. In multivariate linear regression analyses, after adjustment, moderate and high gazpacho consumption categories were associated with reduced mean systolic BP of -1.9 mm Hg [95% confidence interval (CI): -3.4; -0.6] and -2.6 mm Hg (CI: -4.2; -1.0), respectively, and reduced diastolic BP of -1.5 mm Hg (CI: -2.3; -0.6) and -1.9 mm Hg (CI: -2.8; -1.1). By multiple-adjusted logistic regression analysis, gazpacho consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of hypertension, with OR = 0.85 (CI: 0.73; 0.99) for each 250 g/week increase and OR = 0.73 (CI: 0.55; 0.98) for high gazpacho consumption groups compared to the no-consumption group.

    CONCLUSIONS: Gazpacho consumption was inversely associated with systolic and diastolic BP and prevalence of hypertension in a cross-sectional Mediterranean population at high cardiovascular risk. The association between gazpacho intake and reduction of BP is probably due to synergy among several bioactive compounds present in the vegetable ingredients used to make the recipe.

    Be well!


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