A warm embrace – the physical and psychological comfort of soup. Fiann Ó Nualláin
I am a big fan of soup, I love it as a meal choice and love it as a wellness provider. Soup is such a nutrient dense delivery mechanism that it facilitates not only hunger satiation (fullness) but also energizes our own perception of wellbeing. The fuel aspect of soup raises our energy levels and that has a knock on effect of making us feeling charged and able - which then increases our positive brain chemistry and decreases stress markers within the body.
A hearty bowl of soup does this quickly as it is registered, absorbed and assimilated digestively with minimal digestive effort. The warmth and the nourishment instantly felt. But the ingredients of the particular soup may also deliver an increase in physical stamina, peripheral circulation and cognitive function - further leading to endorphin releases that make us feel good.
Just look at some of the basic ingredients of soup; Chicken stock alone is long repudiated as a health broth and vegetable stock is vitamin rich and nurturing. Carrots and sweet potato supply the potent antioxidant beta-carotene which reduces free radical damage to brain cells, potatoes are linked to a rise in serotonin (happy hormone) production, onions and shallots are quercetin-rich and so not only lessen allergies but help lower high blood pressure and eradicate stress markers from the bloodstream.
Tomatoes supply lycopene which helps prevent the buildup of pro-inflammatory compounds linked to low mood and depression, grains help to regulate a whole array of brain neurotransmitter functions while pulses and lentils deliver plenty of the B vitamin folate, which further assists the production of serotonin. Celery boosts the digestion and assimilation of all these ingredients. That’s all before you add mood and immune enhancing herbs such as pepper, turmeric, thyme or parsley.
Beyond the rich nutrition or the individual nutrients in soup, its filling nature is key to our positive associations with it and it is those positive associations that also do us the world of good. So a full belly is a happy mind and a full belly is a well maintained physical self but soup a second trick up its sleeve – the comfort of it; a bowl of soup is often called a hug in a bowl and as it turns out it is.
When you think of it, from our first feeds as a baby right through to going for a meal with friends, dates or family, food is imprinted in our psyche with social interaction. Eating is emotionally loaded and perhaps a lot of the current obesity crisis may not just be down to poor standards in food products and less than helpfully personal food choices but to personal socio-psychological issues.
So soup as that hug actually is a warm embrace because psychological we perceive it as such. The physical warmth and the comfort connection both ping intimacy receptors in the brain and evoke positive mood and a feeling of security and wellbeing. But with that flood of emotional resonance comes also the fulfilment of a meal and the health bolstering ingredients, all ticking the right boxes in unison. Seriously, what’s not to love about a meal that loves you back?