This winter, give your body the warm, filling and nutrient-packed food it craves with this simple yet delicious soup recipe from nutritionist Lola Berry, author of Inspiring Ingredients.
What you need
- 2 cups butternut pumpkin, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup barley, rinsed
- 2 large handfuls baby spinach
- 1 head of broccoli, finely chopped
- 2 chillies, finely chopped
- 1 thumb ginger, grated
- ½ bunch, celery diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup kidney beans, soaked (or 1 can pre-cooked)
- 2 cups tomatoes, diced (or 1 can)
How to make it
- Drizzle olive oil into a big pot, then add garlic, onion and chillies.
- Cook until softened, then add ginger and celery and cook for several minutes, until aromatic.
- Add tomatoes, barley, pumpkin, kidney beans, plus two cups of water (three if you prefer a more dilute soup).
- Simmer for 20 minutes, then add broccoli and cook for a further five minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove from heat and fold spinach through soup.
Cooking tip: Switch the barley for quinoa for a gluten free alternative!
Let’s talk about the ingredients!
Fighting a winter bug or just want to boost your immunity? Here’s how these nutritious ingredients are here to help.
Pumpkin is full of beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A – a nutrient vital for maintaining healthy skin and mucosal cells (which line the airways, digestive and urinary tract) that act as a first line of defense against infection. “Lower pumpkin’s glycemic index by including the skin,” suggests Berry. “Chop it into small pieces first.”
This pungent member of the allium family has potent antibacterial properties, making it one of the best foods for fending off winter bugs. In one UK study, people who took garlic supplements during winter were less likely to catch a cold than placebo poppers – and they recovered faster if they did fall ill.
This chewy, nutty-tasting grain is a good source of zinc and selenium, minerals essential for optimum immune function. It also contains beta glucan, a type of soluble fibre that enhances the ability of immune cells to target bacterial infections, as well as promoting healthy cholesterol levels. “Go for hulled over pearled barley, as it’s less processed and higher in fibre,” adds Berry.
Baby spinach leaves
As well as immune-strengthening vitamins A, C and E, spinach contains nutrients that combat winter lethargy. One cup delivers a third of your daily iron, needed for mental sharpness, while providing several B vitamins important for energy production. It’s also rich in folate, which is involved in the metabolism of feelgood brain chemicals dopamine, noradrenalin and serotonin.
We tend to think of citrus fruit as the best source of vitamin C, but one cup of broccoli actually contains twice as much vitamin C as an orange. Vitamin C has also been shown to stimulate the production of infection-fighting white blood cells. Maximise its nutrients by limiting cooking time to five minutes at most.
Capsaicin, the fiery phytonutrient that gives chilli its kick, stimulates circulation and increases body temperature – ideal in the cold weather. What’s more, it may be an ally against dreaded winter weight gain, with studies showing capsaicin spikes metabolism and fat-burning, and promotes satiety.
Best known for relieving nausea, motion sickness and indigestion, ginger, like chilli, is also a circulatory stimulant. Its anti-inflammatory properties also make it a good tonic for stiff, achy joints that can flare up as the mercury drops. For the highest nutritional potency, choose fresh over dried ginger.
Despite its high water content, celery has a surprising range of health benefits, from reducing blood pressure and fluid retention to building bone strength. Recent research also suggests it can prevent age-related memory loss, thanks to its anti-inflammatory compound, luteolin. Go for a tight bunch and use the nutrient-rich leaves. “Add them to the soup when you’re throwing in all the other vegetables, to reduce their bitterness,” says Berry.
Like its allium cousin garlic, onion has germ-fighting antimicrobial properties and acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of good bacteria in the gut, in turn supporting digestive and immune health. It’s also a standout source of quercetin, an antioxidant thought to protect against cancer and heart disease.
This bean gives you two key hunger-busting nutrients, fibre and protein, for minimal kilojoules – one cup contains a mere 584kJ (about half that of lean beef). Kidney beans also contain the amino acid tyrosine – a precursor to the alertness neurotransmitter dopamine – so enjoy your soup at lunchtime to beat afternoon brain fog.
Technically a fruit, tomatoes are high in vitamin C, concentrated in the jelly-like liquid around the seeds Lycopene, the substance that gives tomatoes their red colour, is linked to a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration, and eating tomatoes cooked – in this case, in a soup – will give you even more of the star carotenoid.