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Simply Savor: Butternut Squash Soup

By Orly Elhanaty, Dietetic Intern

Looking for an easy-to-make, nutritious meal that is perfect for a chilly winter day? This butternut squash soup, that is full of vitamins, fibers and antioxidants, will be your go to recipe. This soup is healthy and nutritious and can be served for lunch or dinner alike. It is a gluten-free, vegetarian (can also be made vegan) dish, suitable for any occasion! With only 10 ingredients, it’s easy to make, and you can cook a big batch today, and enjoy the soup all week long.

The vegetables in this recipe can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as some cancers through their antioxidant activities. Micronutrients such as carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamin C and folic acid, can reduce oxidative damage and block the actions of carcinogens [i]. 

Spices are not only used to increase the aroma, flavor, and color of food, but are also considered for therapeutic purposes for their potential prevention of different acute and chronic diseases. Various bioactive compounds of spices are responsible for different types of therapeutic properties, thanks to their antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antitumorigenic, anti-inflammatory, and glucose and cholesterol-lowering properties [viii].

Ingredient Highlights

Butternut squash: Butternut squash has an orange-colored peel and flesh, a characteristic that is attributed to its’ high carotenoid content. Carotenoids are pigments found in nearly all colored fruits and green leafy vegetables. The consumption of carotenoids has been associated with various health benefits, including improved vision, absorption of iron, immune functions, decreasing inflammation, insulin resistance, and risk of cancer/ heart disease [i, ii, iii]. Butternut squash is also high in fiber, water and low in fat, making an excellent dietary source of nutrients that aids in controlling body weight, reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels and protecting against chronic diseases [ii, iv, v].

Tip: look for butternut squash that is heavy for its size. The overall size doesn’t matter, as long as it is heavy for its size.

Carrots and Celery: Carrot and celery are part of the root vegetable family. Root vegetables can help to control blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. They contain a lot of fiber. One of their most important features is their high content of carotenoids. In addition, they are rich in vitamin C, therefore, they are a superfood [vi].

Tip: The amount of carotenoids in carrots determines the color of the vegetable. The greater their content, the more intense the color. 

Garlic: Garlic is considered a functional spice because of its diverse array of nutritional benefits, phytochemicals, and fiber. It contains high levels of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and more [viii]. Garlic has a wide range of health benefits. It is known to support the function of the immune system. The active compounds in garlic help to reduce high blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels [viiii]. 

Turmeric and curcumin: Curcumin is the main active component of turmeric. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer effects [x]. Research on the mechanism of action of curcumin reveals that curcumin decreases anti-inflammatory properties and helps to reduce the pain of people who are suffering from arthritis, its antioxidants may help to protect the liver from being damaged by toxins, and it is an effective aid in reducing blood cholesterol. Other possible uses include benefits for cancer and diabetes [ix, x]. The underlying anticancer mechanisms of curcumin mainly depend on the inhibition of cancer cell growth, induction of cancer cell apoptosis, and suppression of cancer cell metastasis [xi]. 
Tip: Do not take curcumin/turmeric supplements without speaking to your doctor. It is recommended to take this in the food/natural form. By adding black pepper, the bioavailability of curcumin increases significantly. The piperine found in black pepper enhances curcumin absorption, making it more readily available to be used by your body. In addition, the combination of the two enhances their flavor [xii].

Recipe, Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp of garlic powder or 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 5 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks (about 2 medium butternut squash) 
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ inch chunks
  • 5 celery ribs, cut into ¼ inch chunks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 tsp turmeric  
  • Pinch of saffron threads (Optional)
  • other optional toppings: Greek yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, about 7 min. Add the garlic powder/cloves and sauté for another 5 min. Add the butternut squash, carrots and celery. Place a lid on the pot and allow the vegetables to cook for 20 min. 
  2. Add the salt, pepper, water and saffron, stir to combine all the seasonings and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 30 min; Stir occasionally). 
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the soup to cool for 10 min. Puree the soup, while in the pot, using an immersion blender (if one is not available, allow the soup to completely cool down and puree in small batches in a blender). 
  4. You can add a spoon of Greek yogurt and a pinch of saffron as topping before serving. 
  5. You can transfer the soup to another pot and reheat before serving. In addition, you can ladle the soup into individual serving bowls and reheat every portion before serving.

References:

[i] Eggersdorfer M, Wyss A. Carotenoids in human nutrition and health. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2018 Aug 15;652:18-26. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2018.06.001. Epub 2018 Jun 6. PMID: 29885291.

[ii] Armesto J, Rocchetti G, Senizza B, Pateiro M, Barba FJ, Domínguez R, Lucini L, Lorenzo JM. Nutritional characterization of Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata D.): Effect of variety (Ariel vs. Pluto) and farming type (conventional vs. organic). Food Res Int. 2020 Jun;132:109052. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2020.109052. Epub 2020 Feb 3. PMID: 32331650.

[iii] Saini RK, Prasad P, Lokesh V, Shang X, Shin J, Keum YS, Lee JH. Carotenoids: Dietary Sources, Extraction, Encapsulation, Bioavailability, and Health Benefits-A Review of Recent Advancements. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022 Apr 18;11(4):795. doi: 10.3390/antiox11040795. PMID: 35453480; PMCID: PMC9025559.

[iv] Aghajanpour M, Nazer MR, Obeidavi Z, Akbari M, Ezati P, Kor NM. Functional foods and their role in cancer prevention and health promotion: a comprehensive review. Am J Cancer Res. 2017 Apr 1;7(4):740-769. PMID: 28469951; PMCID: PMC5411786.

[v] Zaccari F, Galietta G. α-Carotene and β-Carotene Content in Raw and Cooked Pulp of Three Mature Stage Winter Squash “Type Butternut”. Foods. 2015 Sep 18;4(3):477-486. doi: 10.3390/foods4030477. PMID: 28231218; PMCID: PMC5224544.

[vi] Knez E, Kadac-Czapska K, Dmochowska-Ślęzak K, Grembecka M. Root Vegetables- Composition, Health Effects, and Contaminants. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Nov 23;19(23):15531. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192315531. PMID: 36497603; PMCID: PMC9735862.

[vii] Zaccari F, Galietta G. α-Carotene and β-Carotene Content in Raw and Cooked Pulp of Three Mature Stage Winter Squash “Type Butternut”. Foods. 2015 Sep 18;4(3):477-486. doi: 10.3390/foods4030477. PMID: 28231218; PMCID: PMC5224544.

[viii] Ansary J, Forbes-Hernández TY, Gil E, Cianciosi D, Zhang J, Elexpuru-Zabaleta M, Simal-Gandara J, Giampieri F, Battino M. Potential Health Benefit of Garlic Based on Human Intervention Studies: A Brief Overview. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Jul 15;9(7):619. doi: 10.3390/antiox9070619. PMID: 32679751; PMCID: PMC7402177.

[ix] Ajanaku CO, Ademosun OT, Atohengbe PO, Ajayi SO, Obafemi YD, Owolabi OA, Akinduti PA, Ajanaku KO. Functional bioactive compounds in ginger, turmeric, and garlic. Front Nutr. 2022 Dec 8;9:1012023. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.1012023. PMID: 36570131; PMCID: PMC9773837.

[x] Hasanzadeh S, Read MI, Bland AR, Majeed M, Jamialahmadi T, Sahebkar A. Curcumin: an inflammasome silencer. Pharmacol Res. 2020 Sep;159:104921. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2020.104921. Epub 2020 May 25. PMID: 32464325.

[xi] Xu XY, Meng X, Li S, Gan RY, Li Y, Li HB. Bioactivity, Health Benefits, and Related Molecular Mechanisms of Curcumin: Current Progress, Challenges, and Perspectives. Nutrients. 2018 Oct 19;10(10):1553. doi: 10.3390/nu10101553. PMID: 30347782; PMCID: PMC6213156.

[xii] Faclm MGM. Turmeric with black pepper: What it’s good for and how to take it. Nutritionfacts.org. Published April 11, 2022. Accessed October 5, 2023. https://nutritionfacts.org/blog/why-pepper-boosts-turmeric-blood-levels/
[xiii] Balaboosta: Admony, Einat: 9781579655006.

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