This time of year, produce aisles are brimming with winter squash, leeks, mushrooms, cranberries and a host of other seasonal items. While it may seem more convenient to pop open a can of processed soup, there are actually a number of simple recipes that incorporate a variety of fresh, healthy ingredients for the winter months.
Naturopathic physician Dr. Tara Nayak specializes in personalized treatment and nutrition for patients, ranging from those in moderately good health to those battling complex digestive issues and chronic diseases. She recommends several “clean” winter soup recipes that promote healing and overall wellness. Each recipe is rich in vitamins, minerals and probiotics that can help promote better gut health.
“The first step to a clean diet is to begin to choose whole foods,” Nayak says.
Whole food ingredients that Nayak recommends for winter soups include butternut squash, pumpkin, root vegetables, leafy greens, such as collard greens and turnip greens, and sweet potatoes. All of these are rich in vitamins and minerals and can help support the body’s immune system to prevent cold and flu.
“The cleanest diet you can eat is free of processed foods,” Nayak says. “If you eat a diet rich in whole foods your body will be nourished and ultimately feel better.”
Nayak’s flavor-filled broths, use of fresh produce and the mix of spices she incorporates into her soup recipes make these dishes delightful to a variety of palates.
“I try to use food as medicine to bring my patients a healthy alternative to pills whenever possible,” she says.
Butternut Squash Soup
This is a simple, seasonal soup made from ingredients generally available during the winter months. It is rich in carotenes and a great source of immune-supporting Vitamin A.
1. Melt 3 tablespoons of ghee or butter in a sauté pan.
2. Add 1 large diced red onion, 2 large minced shallots, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger.
3. Cook on low heat until onion and shallots are transparent, about 5 minutes.
4. Peel, seed and chop 2 large butternut squash into uniform size cubes or slices and add to a large crock-pot.
5. Cover butternut squash with 3 cups vegetable stock, 1 cup water (add more as needed to cover squash).
6. Add ghee/onion/shallot mixture to crockpot, cover, cook on low/medium heat until squash is soft, usually about 1 hour.
7. Transfer softened squash to a blender and blend until smooth, adding liquid to desired consistency.
8. For Topping: 1 cup walnuts, 1 cup pumpkin seeds, 1 cup pecans, 1.5 tablespoon maple syrup, cinnamon/nutmeg to taste. Chop nuts and seeds finely, mix with maple syrup, add spices, use as a garnish to top each bowl of soup.