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Mom Was Right Soup Can Make You Feel Better!

January 01, 2013

Do you have fond memories of a time in your childhood when you were ill and your mom or another person who loved you made homemade soup for you? Well, it turns out the healing properties of soup go beyond the psychological comforts.

"I've done some research into the history of soup-making, and I've found that for a long, long time, soups were made for people who were ill," says Maggie Villagomez, RD, a registered dietitian in Washington Hospital's Food & Nutrition Services Department.

"First of all, soups don't require much chewing, and they are easily digested," she explains. "Plus, soups are easy to make, and once the soup is simmering, the caregiver can watch over the sick person, rather than the soup. More recently, we've discovered additional benefits of soup for people who are ill. A team of scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center actually studied chicken soup, and they found it contains anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe sore throats and also slow the release of mucus. So mom was right! Chicken soup really is good for colds."

And it doesn't necessarily have to be chicken soup to have a healing effect.

"You can make soups with a variety of spices that release antioxidants that may help protect your body's cells," Villagomez says. "For example, the herb rosemary may help prevent damage to blood vessels that can raise your risk of heart attacks. Ginger is known to aid in digestion and prevent nausea. Paprika has anti-inflammatory properties."

Villagomez notes that many kinds of vegetables often used in soups have healing properties, too. Some examples include:
* Carrots are a good source of Vitamin A, which is good for the health of your eyes and skin.
* Tomatoes also are a good source of Vitamins A and C, and cooked tomatoes actually provide more antioxidants than raw tomatoes.
* Celery is a good source of antioxidants and a study from the University of Illinois indicates it may help reduce inflammation.
* Some studies indicate garlic may help disrupt the metabolism of cancerous tumor cells.
* Beans can serve as a source of protein that is lower in fat and cholesterol than meats, as well as a good source of fiber that helps lower cholesterol and blood-sugar levels.

"Vegetables may help reduce the risk of disease by promoting healthy body cells," she says. "The key is to simmer soups slowly - especially the vegetables. Simmering releases the vitamins and minerals into the soup, whereas boiling the soup actually leaches out the vitamins and minerals by half or more."

To help women learn more about preparing a variety of soups that can help "cure what ails you," Villagomez will be giving a soup-making demonstration at an upcoming Lunch and Learn seminar at the Washington Women's Center at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. The demonstration - which includes a chance to taste samples of the soups - is scheduled for Wednesday, January 16 from noon to 1 p.m. To register, call (800) 963-7070 or visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter. Space is limited, and the seminar fee is $5.