October 15, 2019 – Appetite For Life @ Johnson & Wales University

Hearty Fall Soups & Stews
Sarah Hreyo
UNC Nutrition Research Institute

The NRI and Research

The science on food and nutrients and their relationship to health is complex. Individuals are unique and there are various factors that influence health outcomes. Researchers at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) are working very hard to understand the intricacies of diet and nutrients, and their relationship to disease prevention and progression with the goal that general dietary guidance will be replaced with personalized nutrition recommendations.

Why Soup?

• Soups can be a healthy source of vegetables. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day [1]. That’s about 4.5 cups! Adding fresh or frozen
vegetables to your soup will increase your daily intake of vegetables and add flavor.
• Making soup at home allows you to control the type and amounts of vegetables that you use to make your soup. Home cooking also allows you to monitor your sodium intake by choosing to use salt-reduced broths.
• Lighter soups can serve as an easy meal starter or side, while soups bulked up with beans, potato, or lean meats can serve as an entire lunch or light dinner. [2]

Our Soup Stars

White Bean Chicken Chile Verde


Legumes are plants whose fruit is enclosed by a pod. We commonly call legumes “beans.” Legumes include chickpeas/garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, as well as lentils, peas, soybeans, and peanuts. Beans are an excellent source of fiber and folate. A one cup serving provides more than half of a person’s daily requirement for each. High fiber diets and a sufficient intake of folate have been associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer. Legumes are also made up of other components that have potential anti-cancer effects including selenium, zinc, phytates, saponins, and isoflavones.

Did you know?  NRI Principal Investigators Natalia Krupenko, PhD, and Sergey A. Krupenko, PhD, study folate. Dr. Natalia Krupenko’s research is focused on the role of folate in promoting health and preventing disease in humans, while Dr. Sergey Krupenko’s research focuses on folate and its role in liver function and cancer disease.


All chicken meat is a good source of lean protein. Chicken provides important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins B3 (niacin), B6, and B12, selenium, phosphorus, and choline.

Did you know? NRI Director Steven H. Zeisel, MD, PhD is credited with the discovery of choline’s role as an essential nutrient, particularly for women during pregnancy. His studies on choline were the first to create an understanding of the nutrient’s critical role in brain development of infants.

Chorizo, Kale, and Sweet Potato Stew


Dark leafy green vegetables tend to be considered powerhouses of nutrition. They are mostly water and therefore, when cooked, their nutrient content becomes more concentrated. Kale, along with other leafy greens, packs in a hefty amount of nutrients like fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and magnesium. It also contains calcium, iron, and potassium. Lutein, a pigment and carotenoid antioxidant, is found in many leafy greens like kale and has been found to support brain and eye health. General recommendations are for at least 1.5 cups of dark green vegetables each week. For those taking blood thinners, it is recommended to consult with your physician or a registered dietitian, as a large amount of leafy greens may interfere with medications like Warfarin due to their high content of vitamin K.

Did you know? NRI Principal Investigator Carol L. Cheatham, PhD, is studying the effects of lutein on the development and functioning of the hippocampus and frontal lobes, brain structures that are integral to the formation and retrieval of memories and to higher-order cognition.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene, an antioxidant, is one group of red, orange and yellow pigments called carotenoids. Beta-carotene along with other carotenoids provide roughly 50% of the vitamin A needed in the American diet.[3] Pairing sweet potatoes with fat like olive oil, as we do in this stew, helps the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin A.

Vegan Tom Kha Gai


Ginger is often regarded as a “superfood” due to its many proven health benefits. Gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger, is responsible for many of its medicinal properties, including its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects [4]. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic [5] are currently conducting a study to examine the effect of ginger on the gut microbiome (the complex community of bacteria, yeasts, and viruses living in our intestines) – hoping to demonstrate a powerful connection between diet and the microbiome.

Did you know? NRI Principal Investigator Katie Meyer, ScD, is the recipient of a Research Scientist Development Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the gut microbiota, nutrient metabolites, and cardiovascular disease in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study.

[1] American Heart Association. About fruits and vegetables. Available at  https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/AboutFruits-and-Vegetables_UCM_302057_Article.jsp#.XZJKtiUpCi4

[2] Taste. The benefits of healthy soup. Available at https://www.taste.com.au/healthy/articles/the-benefits-of-healthy-soup/d0mqkui6

[3] National Institutes of Health. National Library of Medicine. Beta-carotene. Available at https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/999.html.

[4] Healthline. 11 proven health benefits of ginger. Available at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-ginger#section1

[5] Mayo Clinic. Clinical trials. Available at https://www.mayo.edu/research/clinical-trials/cls-20442902

Posted: October 15, 2019