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Cold Soup Can Enhance Your Health

If you live in much of the U.S., a warm bowl of soup is wonderfully warming and heartening in the chilly months of fall and winter, but when spring and summer arrive, something lighter and cooler seems much more appealing.

Soups contain numerous vitamins, minerals and valuable micronutrients contained in the veggies, fruits, nuts, herbs and spices that nourish your body. The perfect way to resolve the lack-of-soup dilemma is easy: cold soup. Fresh ingredient blends can liven up traditional gazpachos and ho-hum vichyssoises to pique your imagination.

Cold soups (usually) incorporate raw vegetables that can be diced or otherwise put together using a blender or food processor without heating your stovetop, oven or kitchen. It's one of the most nutritious and convenient aspects of cold soup; these modern contraptions render produce the ultimate "fast food."

Soups of any temperature are a nutritious way of preparing vegetables because the entire essence is consumed rather than being boiled away or drained as is often done with other methods of food preparation.

Avocado, ground almonds and yogurt work well as a stand-in for stocks or broth — meat isn't always a prerequisite — adding body, flavor and nutrition. Other popular ingredients include watermelon, mint, cashews and cucumber.

Blending up your favorite combo may even change the way you set your table during the dog days of summer.

All About That Spice: Can Spices Help You Lose Weight?

Plant-based foods are very healthy for you, and when they're raw, they're (usually) most nutritious. The same goes for fruits, spices, herbs and nuts, most of which fall into the "plant-based" category. Other than the natural juices in these soups, there's also a vital ingredient: water, the original appetite suppressant.

Each one has a unique set of attributes, both flavor-wise and nutritionally. Combinations can bring unique flavors you may never have thought of combining, such as onions sautéed with Granny Smith apples, but spices work even harder; a little can go a long way for more than just your taste buds.

Certified nutrition specialist and Nutrition Diva1 Monica Reinagel wrote about a friend of hers who claimed to have lost amazing amounts of weight after starting a new diet based on spices, namely cumin, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne, to flush toxins and speed up metabolism.

While it's true that cinnamon is known for stabilizing blood sugar levels, and turmeric, ginger and garlic can lower inflammation, the claim that these spices melt pounds in this way is not quite accurate, Reinagel says.

In reality, as tasty as they may be, adding spices to your meals alone will probably not trigger dramatic weight loss.2 That being said, it certainly can't hurt, either.

For instance, capsaicin, the compound that gives cayenne pepper its heat, may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body.3

Black pepper, meanwhile, contains a substance called piperine, which not only gives it its pungent flavor, but also blocks the formation of new fat cells.4

Ginger is another good choice, as it has thermogenic properties that help boost your metabolism, as well as has an appetite-suppressant effect when consumed, suggesting a "potential role of ginger in weight management."5

So, there's good reason to add plenty of spices to your cold soups. Use your imagination and let your taste buds be your guide.

Antioxidants: Necessary for Health

Raw, plant-based foods are high in antioxidants, but while it may seem surprising, "more" antioxidants aren't actually beneficial after a point. It's even possible to get too many antioxidants, Reinagel asserts, although she believes that's usually in regard to supplements rather than spices.

The root word in "antioxidants" is oxygen, but there's also the "anti" part; you can't survive without oxygen, but too much damages your cells and causes early aging throughout your system very similar to the way an apple slice turns brown from exposure to air.

Exposure to environmental toxins such as household cleaners, cigarette smoke and radiation leads to the production of harmful oxidative molecules called free radicals in your body. Free radicals are also formed with energy production caused by exercise, metabolism and even inflammation.

A free radical is a highly reactive metabolite, produced during metabolism, but missing one or more electrons. That missing electron is what kick-starts biological oxidation, which can attack other molecules to forage for missing electrons.

Once stolen, that electron morphs into a new free radical, which continues to attack other molecules.

That's why free radicals are so insidious: They damage your cells and DNA, and worse, tend to gather in cell membranes, compromising the lipids in cell membranes. Oxidized cell membranes become perforated, brittle and useless.

Antioxidants are molecules that can prevent another molecule from oxidizing by giving up their own electrons to feed free radicals without becoming free radicals themselves.

Antioxidant nutrients in your body also produce enzymes that further protect from free radicals, but this ability declines as you age. Daily exposure to damaging substances in the air you breathe and foods you eat contributes to oxidative stress, which occurs when free radicals outnumber your natural antioxidants.

Whether you like soups that are smooth and silky or thick and chunky, you'll be inspired by the following five cool recipes, incorporating sensational and mouthwatering ingredient combinations, plus a hearty dose of antioxidants in every refreshing bowl. Choose organic ingredients whenever possible.

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