Beans and Vegetables the Perfect Way to Make Your Soup Super

by ANDREA NIKOLAI, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County

Right now, somewhere north of here and maybe even here, it is cold; therefore, it is time for soup and chili! Here in Florida, we can adapt and enjoy soup all year long, but this is the time when it shines. Soup can soothe the soul, warm the heart, and if you have a slow cooker, it can greet you with a delicious aroma when you walk in the door. Soups and stews bring flavors and people together.

Why Are Soups Super?

Soups and stews can be healthy, filling, one-pot (less dishes!) meals. The key is to include ingredients that add important nutrients and help you feel full and satisfied.

Key Ingredients for Your Super Soup

Whole grains: Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, bulgur, or barley are all great options. Whole grains have a nutty flavor and more nutrients than refined grains. Whole grains also help prevent diabetes and heart disease.

Beans: Any time you can add beans to soups, go for it! Every plant we eat has a little bit of protein, but some, like beans, have a lot, and they offer benefits that animal proteins don’t. I’m talking about black beans, black-eyed peas, great northern beans, pinto beans… Beans may help reduce cholesterol and risk of heart disease, add weight management, and have fiber to help you feel full longer. For those with diabetes, beans can raise your blood sugar because they have carbohydrates, but the American Diabetes Association still advises people with diabetes to add dried beans or no-sodium canned beans to several meals each week. Beans can help manage blood sugar levels better than many other starchy foods. 

  • Fun trick: If you want a creamier soup, you can puree your beans with broth and add them to the soup to give you a creamy liquid that is full of flavor.

Vegetables: Soups and stews are an ideal way to take in extra vegetables! Use one main vegetable, such as tomato, butternut squash, broccoli, or pumpkin, or a variety of vegetables such as onions, carrots, and celery. Vegetables reduce the risk of some cancers, help manage blood pressure, and reduce your risk for heart disease. 

  • Fun trick: Check your produce drawer for anything that needs to be used. You might invent your new favorite soup!

In addition to a rainbow of nutrients, soups also have a high-water content, leading to an increase in overall hydration. Hydration is important to help prevent infections, and being well-hydrated improves sleep quality and mood.

One more important reason soups are super: Soups are often easy to make in large batches and can utilize any in-season vegetables to make an affordable meal option that lasts or can be frozen for when you need it! 

Here is a delicious Tuscan Bean Soup, compliments of the American Heart Association. 

Tuscan Bean Soup

This beans and greens soup is sure to warm your soul, and if you let it, transport you to Italy.


Servings:  6   Serving Size:   1 cup

  • 1 tsp. olive oil (extra virgin preferred)
  • 1/2 small red onion (chopped)
  • 1 medium celery (chopped)
  • 1 medium garlic clove (minced)
  • 2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 15.5 oz. canned, no-salt-added Great Northern beans (rinsed, drained)
  • 14.5 oz. canned, no-salt-added, diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano (crumbled)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (crumbled)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the onion, celery, and garlic for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onion and celery are soft.

Stir in the broth, beans, tomatoes with liquid, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes so the flavors blend.

Stir in the spinach. Simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

Just before serving, sprinkle the soup with Parmesan.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 100 Calories, 7g Protein, 4g FiberNikolai can be reached at

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