Healthy Chinese Soups Deconstructed

Healthy Chinese Soups Deconstructed

Healthy Chinese soups are not the same as Chinese herbal decoctions. These emphasized flavour as much as health. They are delicious “medicine”. So, how do we make healthy Chinese soups delicious?

Did you know?

Since ancient times, man has discovered that boiling meat and vegetables in water cause their nutrients to be released into the water. The body can absorb and assimilate these nutrients quicker because it didn’t have to digest and break down the meat and vegetables.

The earliest nation to drink soup is Ancient Greece. It has been said that during the Olympics, every athlete brings a goat or calf to the temple of Zeus to participate in the rituals. During the rituals, these animals were killed and cooked in a huge pot. The meat was distributed to the non-athletes present while the soup is given to the athletes to drink to increase their strength.

Dietary Therapy

The Chinese have a well-developed philosophy and approach to dietary therapy in which healthy Chinese soups play a big role.

Healthy Chinese Soups Deconstructed
A bowl of light herbal soup

According to traditional Chinese medicine, all ingredients have medicinal properties. Combining certain ingredients together in soups can target certain ailments or be general health tonics, all the while observing good cooking practices to keep the soups delicious.

Keeping the flavour

To keep the flavours varied, Chinese soups incorporate a number of Chinese herbs and spices with clever balance of ingredients. Chinese soups come out tasty enough to continue eating throughout the week. That’s the whole point, because for most people who have made the decision to eat healthy, flavor can make or break it for them. 

Pairing ingredients with medicinal properties

What can be simpler than boiling water with a few choice fresh vegetable ingredients along with a few herbs or spices.

While traditional Western soups are usually heavy with cream and meats, healthy Chinese soups are usually broths with healthy ingredients.

Ingredients in many popular healthy Chinese soups are carefully and deliberately combined together to address a number of conditions. Different ingredients determine what the soup can do for the body.

Chicken – the hero against flu and colds

Healthy Chinese Soups Deconstructed

There is something comforting about a bowl of chicken soup. It is not just the Chinese who likes to use chicken to make soup many cultures have also recognized its efficacy, especially for colds and flu.

Some people have expressed skeptism and I can understand that. But I want to add that although it is not clear how chicken soup alleviates cold symptoms but if it works for you, does it matter?

The Chinese are firm believers and have discovered that certain Chinese herbs work well when paired with chicken.

Bones – fight against osteoporosis

Healthy Chinese Soups Deconstructed
Pork bones

Have you noticed how people seem to shrink with age? It is a sign of aging and osteoporosis. As people age, their bones become thin and compressed under pressure, resulting in the loss of height. Women face greater risks of osteoporosis, especially those who seldom exercise or do strength training.

Doctors have advised high risk people to start taking calcium supplements and to drink more milk. The problem is many of us, especially Chinese, are lactose-intolerant. We can’t drink a lot of milk as we are unable to digest the lactose in milk. I have personal experience of how uncomfortable lactose indigestion can be.

But there is a happy solution. Soups made from bones contain calcium ions, which is more easily absorbed by the body. To me, drinking soups is more enjoyable than taking calcium supplements or suffering from lactose indigestion. What do you think?

Bones also contain collagen, proteins, fats and natural salt. All these enhance micro-circulation. Better micro-circulation means better cell production. Better cell production means delayed aging. And who doesn’t want that?

The Chinese usually use pork bones and chicken carcasses to make bone soups. Make sure to trim off excess fats.

Vegetables – the natural detoxifier

How I lost weight drinking Chinese soups

The body has a natural and constant process to detoxify and transport toxins via the bloodstream to the kidneys and liver to be eliminated from the body.This detoxifying process requires blood to be slightly alkaline in ph in order to eliminate toxins effectively.

However, modern day living with stress and unhealthy diets have increased the acidity of our bodies. To restore the balance, drink soups made with vegetables. They help to restore the weak alkaline ph. Daikon and napa cabbage are great detoxifiers and cook really well in soups.

Constipation traps toxins in the body. An important part of a detoxification program is to ensure good bowel movements. Bowel movement can be encouraged by consuming large amount of soluble fiber through vegetable soups. I think it is a better natural remedy for constipation than taking oral laxatives.

People on strict diets to control their weight can also try vegetable soups. When hunger pangs strike, people can become irrational and go on a binge. Relieve the hunger pangs with good nutritious soups (especially light clear broths with lots of chunky vegetables).

Vegetable soups provide more nutrients, eliminate toxins and excess fats from the body and may give dieters more energy.

Research has shown that certain vegetable fibres stabilizes the ratio of blood lipids and cholesterol. Good news for people with high cholesterol caused by high-fat diets!

Start drinking vegetable soups and check with your doctors frequently. You may be surprised when the doctors reduce the dosage or even stop your cholesterol medications.

Go gluten-free with rice

Celiacs cannot consume gluten because they are allergic to it. It is tough to try to avoid gluten as there are so many food items with gluten in it. 

The Southern Chinese fondness for rice meant that there are many food items made from rice that can replace wheat items. Rice noodles, rice vermicelli, milled rice, rice cakes, and rice pudding. Replace egg noodles with rice noodles, or vermicelli and make some rice congee.  

Two tips for drinking healthy Chinese soups

Drink soups before and during meals

Nutritionists believe that drinking soups before and during meals is good because it reduces the occurrence of gastritis and esophagitis.

Drinking a warm broth before a meal lubricates the throat and esophagus so that food passes through more easily. This prevents any dry food from irritating the sensitive membrane of the digestive tract.

Sipping soup during a meal helps to mix the food in the stomach aiding digestion and nutrition absorption. It takes up space and may reduce the amount of food consumed.

Chew the soup ingredients

Some people like to add soup to cooked rice and slurp both soup and rice without chewing. This is not good because it creates undue stress on the stomach trying to digest unbroken rice grains. Chewing breaks the rice grains down into smaller pieces. The digestive enzymes in saliva would have also pre-digested the rice during chewing. Your stomach will have an easier time.

Chewing also slow down eating speed. Weight gain has been linked to how fast a person eat. It seems that when a person eat slowly, the “gut hormones” has sufficient time to tell the brain that it is full and to stop eating. It is also argued that eating slowly has a psychological effect. 

I remember a friend telling me to chew my food 13 times before swallowing. That’s a lot of chewing. I tried it a couple of times and it did seem to help me eat less. 🙂 

We have come to the end of this post. I hope you found what you are looking for. If you have found it useful, let me know. It is a form of encouragement to me.

Happy cooking!


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