It is the time of year for gathering with friends and family with some full meals, heavy soups, and high sugar treats. These things can be detrimental to your health when they are not supported by useful sources of nutrition. Good news! You get to be creative in the kitchen. As I say: Most things in moderation, some restricted.
While you’re preparing those leftovers from Thanksgiving, throw in some fresh vegetables! It is the season for broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic, onions, spinach, kale, cabbage, and lettuce! All these things work well as garnishes, on sandwiches, in casseroles, and soups. Well, I wouldn’t put lettuce in soup, but cabbage soup is pretty tasty!
As it cools down, think soup! Soup is nice and warming, has the potential to provide you with several nutrients (it is all about what you toss in), and supplies your body with HYDRATION. We tend to remember to drink water in the summer while we are hot; yet, forget in the winter while we are hermits. You need hydration all year long. Soup to the rescue!
Which brings us to the stars of the show… these winter vegetables.
Garlic and Onions: Antimicrobial (bacteria, fungi, and viruses); High in sulfur which replenishes glutathione essential for detoxification; High in Manganese, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C
Broccoli and Cauliflower: High in Vitamin C; good source of fiber and potassium; contains isothiocyanates that reduce oxidative stress
Carrots: Excellent source of beta-carotene; good source of threonine which is an amino acid used to treat neurological disorders and helps thymus growth and immune cell functions
Spinach: High in vitamin K; high in beta-carotene; high in Vitamin C; good source of Manganese
Kale: Same as spinach with additional anti-cancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. I add kale to all my recipes!
Cabbage: Great source of vitamin C
These vegetables (plus, many more and fruits) are sources of metabolites and biologically active components that are found to be beneficial to overall health and several immune functions.
Phytochemicals: aid in detoxification, stimulate the immune system, prevent DNA damage, repair DNA damage, regulates hormones, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic
Flavonoids: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, inhibits neurodegeneration, regulates the immune system, antimicrobial
While cooking some vegetables, be careful not to boil your soup. Why?
– Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It cleans up waste within your body by capturing free radicals. Free radicals are unstable, highly-reactive particles that cause cell damage. You want to limit these!
– Because Vitamin C is water-soluble, it is excreted in your urine. This means that you must constantly replenish this vitamin for use. It also means that Vitamin C escapes foods when exposed to heat and water. Boiling as preparation for vegetables high in vitamin C breaks down this vitamin, and it can get lost in the liquid. That is obviously okay in soups! If you are worried about the heat, just add your vitamin C rich vegetables LAST and be careful when reheating leftovers. Or, you can do what I do and just save some vegetables and add them in each time you reheat your soup.
Vitamin C is also tolerable in high doses with no upper limit toxicity. The only documented side effect is abdominal discomfort and bowel flushing in frequent mega-doses.
Yet, some vegetables love the heat!
A gentle sauté before tossing them in soup can bring out the flavors and do wonders for carotenoids found in carrots and deeply colored root vegetables! These are excellent vegetables in soups.
Beta-carotene: This is a mineral that is converted to Vitamin A. Beta-carotene has anti-cancer properties specific to the gut, lungs, and leukemia. Dietary beta-carotene is safe in high doses as the body will not convert more beta-carotene than needed. Retinol (another form of vitamin A) is already converted and can be absorbed in toxic amounts as it is readily stored in fats. Vitamin A protects your skin and mucous membranes (your first line of defense!). Vitamin A fortifies the immune system and is essential for eye health and vision.
Most of all, have fun combining flavors and find what works for you and your family. Some vegetables are a pain to prep; some are easier. Some people cannot tolerate certain flavors; some put garlic in EVERYTHING (guilty!). I capitalize on naptime for veggie prep. Hours in the kitchen may save you hundreds in the stores seeking out illness remedies. A fortified immune system is well-equipped to fight off those “seasonal” invaders!
Shalom, light, and love.
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