This soup fights the battle of the bulge
This soup is delicious and satisfying, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s just another pretty dish. It’s a carefully crafted arsenal of the most effective weapons to fight belly fat.
“My focus has always been on eating for the prevention of disease,” says Toronto dietitian Liz Pearson. So, when research started showing that belly fat, not BMI (body mass index), is the best indicator of a healthy body, Pearson set out to find the best foods to bust belly fat.
“I spent weeks looking at all the research, then I summarized it and tried to figure out how many of the best foods I could fit into a recipe.”
We’ll get to those foods in a minute, but perhaps first you want to figure out if you have belly fat.
“Ideally, you should be naked,” says Pearson. “And you shouldn’t cheat by sucking in your gut or anything.”
Then wrap a soft tape measure snugly around your waist, just above your hip bones and over your belly button. If you’re a woman and your waistline is 35 inches (88 cm) or more, you may have excess belly fat, says Pearson, quoting Health Canada guidelines. For men, the red flag goes up at 40 inches (102 cm).
If you’re over these numbers, even if you’re of normal weight, you’re almost at almost three times greater risk of dying from heart disease, and two times greater risk of dying from any cause, than people of normal weight with no belly bulge, says Pearson, citing a 14-year Mayo Clinic study of 12,000 men and women.
Exercise can help with the battle of the bulge, says Pearson — “don’t sit for more than 20 minutes at a time; sitting is the new smoking” — but so can eating the right foods.
Here are Pearson’s top five belly-slimming foods, all of them included in the soup (which, Pearson says, “really is delicious — every single person who has tried it has said they love it.”)
1. 100-per-cent whole grains: A study of nearly 3,000 men and women found that those who ate three or more servings of whole grains each day had 10 per cent less belly fat than those who ate no whole grains, says Pearson. Interestingly, if whole-grain eaters also eat refined grains (such as white bread or white pasta), it seems to counter the good of the whole grains.
“Look on the label,” says Pearson. “It has to say 100 per cent. ‘Made with whole wheat’ isn’t good enough.” She uses Catelli Healthy Harvest bows for the recipe. Source in the soup: 100-per-cent whole grain pasta.
2. High fibre: A North Carolina study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fibre eaten each day, abdominal fat was reduced by 3.7 per cent over five years. If you add in moderate activity, the result was a 7.4-per-cent decrease in the rate of belly fat accumulation.
Source in the soup: black beans. (You need to add the exercise.)
3. Healthy fats: Research involving more than 1,700 men and women in Ireland found that diets high in saturated fats and low in good fats were linked to a significantly higher risk of having a big belly. “Good fats — including omega-3s, oils, nuts and seeds, peanut butter, avocados, olives and fatty fish — also fight inflammation,” says Pearson.
Source in the soup: extra-virgin olive oil.
4. Flavonoids: The antioxidants found in colourful fruits and vegetables fight inflammation and preliminary research shows that they reduce belly fat too.
Sources in the soup: red onions, red pepper, tomatoes, spinach, dried cranberries.
5. Hot stuff: Early research shows that plant compounds from peppers also help bust belly fat. “The other reason that I love spices is that when you use them, you don’t need so much salt,” Pearson adds. “This soup is really flavourful with the chilis and the lime zest.”
Sources in the soup: chili powder and jalapeno peppers.
Fiesta Fit Soup
Makes: 8 servings
Preparation time: 25 minutes
■ 2 tsp (10 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
■ 1 small red onion, chopped
■ 1 red pepper, chopped
■ ¼ cup (50 mL) dried cranberries
■ 4 cloves garlic, minced
■ 1 tbsp (15 mL) mild chili powder
■ 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
■ ¾ tsp (4 mL) each salt and pepper
■ 8 cups (2 L) low-sodium vegetable broth (approx.)
■ 1 can (14 oz./398 mL) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
■ 2 cans (14 oz./398 mL each) no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
■ 2 cups (500 mL) whole grain pasta bows
■ 1 cup (250 mL) corn kernels, thawed
■ 4 cups (1 L) lightly packed baby spinach
■ 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
■ 1 lime, zested and juiced (approx.)
Chopped fresh coriander (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and red pepper; sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until softened.
2. Add the cranberries, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in 6 cups (1.5 L) broth and the tomatoes; bring to a boil.
3. Stir in the beans, bows and corn. Boil gently, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes or until pasta is tender.
4. Stir in the remaining broth, the spinach, jalapeno peppers, lime zest and juice; remove from the heat. (Add extra broth and lime juice to adjust consistency and acidity to taste if desired). Garnish with fresh coriander if desired.
Per serving (about 1 1/3 cups/325 mL): 234 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 396 mg sodium, 43 g carbohydrates, 10 g fibre, 10 g sugars, 10 g protein. Excellent source of folate. Good source of vitamin C and iron.