Frighteningly Good Tomato and Pumpkin Soup

Halloween is nearly upon us and although the temptation may be to have lots of ‘treats’, scary can be healthy too!

Here we have a soup which is full of carotenoids, bursting with beta-carotene from pumpkins and lycopene from tomatoes.

Here are some cool facts!

1. Lycopene is found in many forms

Your body works many wonders, but it can’t produce Lycopene by itself. Instead, it must be introduced to your body from foods and/or supplements. Since it is a pigment, it can be found in a select number of fruits and veggies like tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guavas and papayas. The best source of Lycopene comes from tomatoes and tomato products.

2. Boost the benefits with olive oil

Both all-trans lycopene and tetra-cis are best absorbed by the body when mixed with oil because Lycopene is fat-soluble (it binds to fats easily). To get the best bang for your buck, make a tomato salad with a drizzle of olive oil. Not only does is help absorb lycopene faster, the combination of lycopene and oil may reduce the risk of serious health problems

3. Eating raw tomatoes may not be enough

There are no recommended dietary intake values for lycopene, but health organisations like the NHS recommend eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day to help ensure that individuals get enough of the beneficial carotenoids in their diets. If you are looking to get the full affects, you may be surprised to find that the best sources are prepared tomato products. When eating raw tomatoes, the body goes through a long process to break down the cell walls of the food to separate the Lycopene and convert it into a form that it can use and benefit from. In the nutritional world, we would say that the Lycopene in raw tomatoes isn’t as “bioavailable” to the body as processed sources. The magical benefits of Lycopene occur when tomatoes are either 1) heated up or 2) the lycopene is extracted or 3) eaten with olive oil, because the cell walls of the plants are broken down and lycopene is fat soluble. The most bioavailable sources are prepared tomato products like tomato sauce, tomato soup, salsa, ketchup, and tomato puree

We’ve made sure we get the most lycopene out of our tomatoes!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato purée

3 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

1 pumpkin, halved, seeds and pulp removed and flesh chopped (reserve the seeds)

1 litre vegetable stock

6-8 tablespoons double cream, to serve

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the chopped red onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the sun dried tomato purée, sliced peppers, and the chopped pumpkin.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, then add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Blend in a food processor (or use a stick blender) until smooth, then return to the pan to warm through
  • For Halloween, serve in bowls and make a spider-web pattern with cream by drizzling on two concentric circles plus a dot in the centre, then drag lines outwards from the centre with a skewer.
  • Top with baked pumpkin seeds which look like bugs, for a fun Halloween meal. (Bake your reserved pumpkin seeds in a preheated oven at 200°C, fan 180°C, gas mark 6, for 8 minutes until crisp. Or use ready-baked pumpkin seeds).

Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is one of your most powerful fat-soluble vitamin which relies heavily on fat absorption to get sufficient blood levels. The majority of vitamin E is stored in your fat cells with smaller amounts found in the heart, muscles, reproductive organs, and the adrenal and pituitary glands. D-alpha-tocopherol is the natural form, and the most abundant and biologically active form of vitamin E (the synthetic version of vitamin E is less biologically active).

Vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress.* Vitamin E is a key player in the body’s antioxidant network where it prevents free radical damage and oxidation from occurring, and once it has been used to neutralise free radicals, it can be recycled over and over again with the help of other antioxidants such as curcumin, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, glutathione and alpha Lipoic acid. 

Short term high doses of vitamin E can be useful in treating deficiency and a number of health problems which are caused by oxidative damage to a variety of body cells.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS 

Vitamin D

We all need vitamin D, not only to live but to help prevent a variety of medical conditions and diseases including osteoporosis, depression, brain functioning problems, bowel inflammation and related issues. If people exposed their skin to daily sunlight there would be no need for a dietary or supplementary intake, however as our skin ages, consumption is more and more important as skin becomes less able to react to sunlight.

Our current European recommendation is to consume 5μg of vitamin D3 a day, however the new draft from the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition guidelines suggest that everyone should take 10μg as a supplement every day, that’s 400IU of vitamin D3. It is possible to overdose and people should not exceed around 10,000 IU per day.

Although supplements supply a guaranteed whack of vitamin D, other sources that are promoted most frequently are fish because of their beneficial oils. Does anyone really know how much is in a fish and what fish to choose though?

Fish and fish products are regarded as the major dietary source of vitamin D. National food composition databases show values in the range of 0 to over 300 μg/kg of fish and fish products. A fish liver has the highest content with some as high as 1200 μg/kg of vitamin D.

The highest non liver amounts were found in fresh eel and shiokara, a Japanese fish product. The lowest are seen in highly processed fish. The vitamin D-3 content of the frozen fish and fish products ranged between <2 (shrimp) and 196 μg/kg (roe of vendace)

Contrary to general belief, vitamin D content may depend on the diet (i.e., the vitamin D-3 content of zooplankton and there is no significant correlation between fat and vitamin D content of fish ie it doesn’t matter how ‘oily’ the fish is!

So how much fish would you need every day to get the newly recommended 10 μg /400IU extra vitamin D3 per day?

  • ½ tsp codliver oil
  • 1.5 ounces of pink canned salmon
  • 2 ounces of cooked fresh swordfish
  • 2 ounces of fresh mackerel
  • 2.5 ounces of rainbow trout
  • 3 ounces of fresh sockeye salmon
  • 6 ounces of canned tuna, drained
  • Over 8 ounces of cod
  • 17 sardines, canned in oil and drained

So have a look at the above and you’ll see it’s quite hard and also expensive to attain extra vitamin D! This is probably why the government state a supplement and not food!

#reduceyourrisk

Menopause and Sleep

Hops have been known for their calming abilities for centuries. This is thought

to be partly due to the xanthohumol it contains, which induces mental and physical wellbeing, and enables sound and healthful sleep*.

Menopause, also known as the second puberty, is an important stage of women’s life associated with various complaints and distresses. Vasomotor symptoms (VMS), such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and fatigue, are the most common menopause symptoms affecting about 50% to 80% of middle-aged women. Although VMS generally subside after five-seven years, some women have to deal with these symptoms for much longer.  Along with psychological and physical effects, menopause can also cause VMS and these symptoms can affect the quality of life. Obviously, these symptoms, resulting from oestrogen deficiency during menopause, can exert negative effects on women’s health and quality of life and thus require to be managed through approaches such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, according to the Women’s Health Initiative and other clinical trials, HRT can increase the risk of various health issues in postmenopausal women. Oestrogen deficiency is associated with complaints that may increase the risks for both illness and early death, including increased cognitive changes and osteoporosis. For this reason HRT for menopausal women seems the most appropriate answer. However, other health conditions may result during its use.

During the past decade, growing attention has been paid to the use of herbal medicines for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Many herbal treatments for menopausal symptoms contain hops (Humulus lupulus L.) and its components such as 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN; a potent phytoestrogen), 6-PN and isoxanthohumol (two well-known flavanones), and xanthohumol (a prenylated chalcone). The high oestrogenic potency of 8-PN has the ability to interact with oestrogen receptors. For this reason it must be avoided by anyone with an oestrogen receptor breast cancer. On the other hand 6-PN showed a very weak estrogenic activity as isoxanthoumol did, while xanthohumol is inactive.

Hops containing terpenoid, flavonoid glycoside and catechin are widely used to treat tension, headache, sleep disorders (through impact on the central nervous system), activating the stomach and appetite. Other beneficial effects of this plant are for reducing joint pain, anxiety and nervousness, thus reducing and effect on kidney’s. Despite its confirmed benefits, the mechanisms through which hops relieves menopausal symptoms are not clearly understood. Considering possible negative effects of HRT, prenylated flavonoids extracted from hops can serve as a useful alternative treatment for the alleviation of sleep problems during the menopause.

*EFSA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list.

Xanthohumol and ageing

Aging is associated with a deregulation of biological systems that lead to an increase in oxidative stress, among other effects. Xanthohumol is the main preylated chalcone present in hops, whose antioxidative properties, amongst others, have been shown in recent years.

In the most recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the possible protective effects of xanthohumol on liver alterations associated with aging were evaluated. Half the artificially aged mice were treated with 5mg/kg/d of xanthohumol. A significant increase in protein levels of oxidative stress and proliferative markers were shown in old non-treated mice. The mice treated with xanthohumol did not have these changes associated with liver ageing. An earlier study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science investigated xanthohumol as a skin anti-aging agent via its beneficial regulation of matrix surrounding skin cells. When Xanthohumol was applied to skin cells, it showed potential to improve skin structure and firmness: it simultaneously inhibits the activities of elastase- the enzyme that breaks down the elasticity of skin, and stimulates the biosynthesis of fibrillar collagens, elastin, and fibrillins.

Other studies such as that published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry are now showing that xanthohumol treatment modulated the biological processes, exerting a protective effect on brain damage induced by aging.

The antioxidative properties of xanthohumol strengthen body cells in fighting oxidation induced aging*.

* EU Registers on nutrition and health claims and EFSA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list.