The power of soup stock, unexpected bone builders, and more…

by SARA on October 7, 2010

Lentil Soup Photo by Back to the Cutting Board

Greetings from an overcast and drizzly Manhattan. The past few days, I’ve found my mind wandering again and again to soup. So much so that I actually recently trekked out closing in on midnight to pick up some microwavable minestrone. Not my finest hour. But totally worth it. And not just for the taste, I’ve now learned. Soup stock is a great way to boost your mineral intake, according to Dr. Annemarie Colbin, founder and CEO of New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute (the first school of culinary arts dedicated to preparing chefs for a profession in health-supportive cooking). Read on to find out from Colbin exactly why soup can be so particularly nourishing, along with some fascinating things about building bones, why healthy fats are so important, and more (including two simple soup recipes).

We’re all trying to get more nutrients into our meals. What do you–and the instructors at the institute–teach students as far as that goes? Are there things we could be adding or substituting in common dishes to up the health factor–and hopefully taste, too.
The way I look at it, food is not about nutrients. But one thing you can do is to cook grains, beans, and soups with stock –vegetable, chicken, or beef bone stock. To increase mineral content, you can add a piece of kombu or a couple of tablespoons agar flakes per every 8 cups of stock (these are both sea vegetables rich in minerals). A good stock will also give more depth of flavor to the dish.

You’ve written a whole book about food for strong bones. I’d love a tip or two for what to eat–especially for people who don’t do well with dairy.
The animals with the largest bones (cows, horses, elephants, giraffes) eat green leaves–so, for a variety of reasons, a salad every day is very helpful. Remember that cows don’t drink milk–they eat grass! So: leafy greens, protein, whole grains (for the magnesium), good fats, and cooking with stock (for extra minerals) are good. Also, eat edible bones (sardines with bones, chewing on chicken bones like your grandmother used to do), and especially avoiding refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour.

On your website, you talk about how each of us reacts differently to food–there’s no one-stop diet. What are some things we should be mindful of when it comes to thinking about what kind of eating plan is right for us?
Pretty much everybody does well with eating real, natural, fresh foods, both of plant and animal origin. So being mindful of the quality of food is paramount. Eating plans change with time, as we do–we can be vegetarian for a year, macrobiotic for two, vegan for another, and suddenly be attracted to eating meat again. Because the body changes, our eating systems should change also.

Tell us a little bit about the philosophy at the Natural Gourmet Institute–how is it different from other cooking schools?
The Natural Gourmet was founded with a double mission: to teach people how to make delicious healthy food/meals; and to teach the uses of food as a tool for healing. That is what makes it unique: while we recognize the role of food as fuel, nourishment, and flavor, we also examine its uses for making and keeping us healthy, both by what we eat and by what we don’t eat.

I know you have an interest in the healing properties of food. What are some examples of foods that can really help us be well? Delicious things we should be eating more of.
Most people would do well eating plenty of vegetables, especially leafy greens, both cooked and raw. Some people do well being vegan, most others need animal protein for their well-being. It is also important to get enough good quality fats in the diet, necessary for important body functions (hormones, good skin, nails, hair, Vitamin D distribution, good moods). I look for extra virgin olive oil, organic coconut oil, organic unsalted butter, avocado, fish, and the natural fats of organically raised animals (chicken, turkey, grass-fed meats). Practice moderation, but choose some of these regularly. Fat-free eating is so depressing.

Most delicious good-for-you foods (to you)?
It depends on the season, but soup is my favorite food. I lived all summer on cold cucumber and avocado soup.

Here, Annamarie’s shared two of her favorite easy-to-make, healthful soup recipes–one cold and one hot.

Cold Cucumber-Avocado Soup
1 garlic clove, peeled (optional)
1 avocado, scooped out
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, cut up
1 quart chicken stock
sea salt to taste (1/2 – 1 tsp)
1 T lemon juice (optional)
If using the garlic, run the blender with the cover on, drop the garlic through the hole in the cover, and chop. Stop blender. Put the cucumber and avocado in the blender, add 1/2 the stock; run the blender, slowly add the rest of the stock until you have a nice consistency. Add a little salt, taste, add more if desired. Add lemon juice if you want a little tang. Serve cold. This keeps several days.

Lentil soup
1 cup lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
1 quart unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 organic carrot, peeled, sliced
1 organic celery rib, sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt or to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped parsley or cilantro

1. Put the lentils and stock in a 4 qt pot and bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover (lentils should cook 1 hr at least).
2. In a skillet, heat olive oil and add onions, saute a minute or two, add carrot and celery, cook another 5-7 minutes, and add to lentils. Add bay leaf. Re-cover and keep on a low simmer.
3. After an hour or so, add salt, taste and adjust. If desired, blend partially with an immersion blender. Serve hot with freshly ground pepper and some chopped parsley or cilantro.

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Jeanette October 9, 2010 at 1:52 am

I find soups are a great way to get nutrients into a person who isn’t feeling well. I make a lot of soups (lentil soup with whole grains and greens is a favorite) for people with cancer undergoing chemo. It’s a great way to get nutrient rich foods into a diet when your diet is diminished.

SARA October 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I agree. The brothiness makes it so easy to get down. And there’s something about the savoriness of soup that seems to make it really palatable, I think.

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