If you’re reading this sitting in the hot summer sun, you may wonder why I’m posting a soup recipe in the middle of summer. But if you’re used to a British summer, then you’ll know that any day at this time of the year can be a soup day, as the weather is somewhat unpredictable. The same can be true of where I am in Portugal too as we have our very own special weather; the rest of the country can be baking hot and we’re covered with thick cloud being battered by a strong wind straight off the Atlantic ocean! But the sun always shines eventually, so whilst your waiting for it to come out, why not enjoy this tasty soup full of summer sunshine goodness?
For me, there are two ingredients to this simple soup – the red pepper and the basil garnish. It just finishes it off beautifully. For me, basil is the archetypal summer aroma and flavour; one whiff and I’m transported to a sunny summers day, even in the middle of winter! If you have time, try roasting the pepper to intensify the flavour; I’ve tried it both ways and whilst roasting makes it slightly sweeter, it’s equally delicious either way.
Sadly there are a number of people who cannot tolerate red pepper, or any form of capsicums. Being a member of the nightshade family, they don’t suit everyone and can cause an inflammatory reaction. For others, it’s indigestion. And of course there are those who just don’t like the flavour. Which is a shame, as red peppers are packed full of amazing nutrients and phytonutrients that can support the body in so many ways.
Red peppers contain various vitamins like B6, folate and even a bit of vitamin E. Their star nutrient however is vitamin C – there’s plenty found here. Not only that but a whole range of phytonutrients, including three key groups – carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols. What do all these little nutrients have in common?
They’re all antioxidants. Which means they can help quash free radical damage and reduce inflammation. In summer, this is particularly important for skin health if you happen spend too much time in the sunshine and expose yourself to an excess amount of UVA and UVB rays and get burnt.
But surely being in the sun is good for us? Yes it is; exposing skin to the sunshine is how we make vitamin D after all (something most people in the northern and most southern hemispheres are lacking). But as with everything in life, it’s the amount of exposure that makes the difference. Too much sunshine that results in burning creates a whole host of free radical damage that has the potential in the long run to damage the skin and can lead to skin cancer. Which is not something you want to happen.
Fortunately, foods high in antioxidants like red peppers can help as they provide Betacarotene , the pre-curser to vitamin A which is essential for skin health as well as helping to deal with the free radical damage. Limiting the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight and covering up when you’ve had enough is also important to protect your skin and stops your body working so hard!
Flavonoids also have fabulous anti-inflammatory effects; red peppers contain a range of them including quercetin and kaempferol. Quercetin helps reduce inflammation in many places in the body but has found to be particularly effective in the lungs (so helps with asthma and chronic lung disease) and the prostate. Kaempferol (which is really difficult to spell and type!) is known to help reduce the risk of cancer. Which is interesting as red peppers also contain a carotenoid called lycopene, which is known to help specifically with prostate cancer. Men – eat more red peppers!
The key thing here really is that phytonutrients work as a team; they have an overall anti-inflammatory effect and consuming a range of them throughout the day can help manage the level of inflammatory free radicals and support the body in all sorts of ways. This is why I always get so excited about rainbow eating – when you consume a range of colours during the day, you flood your body with a whole range of fabulous nutrients that the body know exactly what to do with. And they taste good too.
This soup is really simple and quick to make. The beans bulk it out and provide extra fibre and plant protein so it will keep you going all afternoon. If you make it, do let me know how you get on, and most importantly if you can feel the sun shine on your spoon as you go to it it. Enjoy!
Want to know more about phytonutrients and other amazing information about whole food plant-based eating? Then check out my courses. My next fully accredited course starts on 21st September 2020, but if you want to know more now you can take my more basic access any time course (although this one doesn’t come with CPD points). To find out more go to https://courses.thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com
Red pepper and bean soup
- 1 medium red onion chopped
- 2 medium carrots peeled and diced
- 1 large red pepper or two medium deseeded and diced
- 1 fat clove garlic finely chopped
- 2 medium fresh tomatoes chopped
- 600 ml vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp dried oregano or Italian herbs
- 400 gram tin cooked white beans
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh basil leaves roughly chopped for garnish
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the based or a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot and red pepper and sauté on a medium heat for 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add more water if the veg start to stick to the pan.
- Add the garlic to the pan and cook for one minute. Add the tomatoes and dried herbs then cook for 2 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Pop on the lid and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the beans to the pan and cook for another few minutes until the veg are soft.
- Turn off the heat. Blend with a stick blender to smooth - add a little more stock if it's too thick. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with the basil leaves on top and a glug of flaxseed oil if desired.