Dietitian Spotlight: Tuscan White Bean Soup

There is nothing like a warm bowl of soup on a chilly fall evening! This recipe for Tuscan White Bean Soup, full of Italian inspired flavors and hearty nutrition, is sure to warm you to the core! Beans are an inexpensive ingredient that add bulk to recipes, along with an array of nutrients that will keep you full and satisfied throughout the day.

Beans, including the cannellini beans used in this recipe, are a part of the legume family. Other legumes include lentils, peas, chickpeas, peanuts and soybeans. Legumes are considered a nutrient-rich food, as they provide a large variety of nutrients and only a moderate amount of calories. Beans are a great protein source, and can serve as a meat alternative. Additionally, beans are full of folate, iron, potassium and magnesium. A couple of things you won’t find much of in beans are fat, sodium and cholesterol, but we are just fine with that!

The impressive fiber content of beans (an average of 7 or more grams of total dietary fiber per ½ cup serving!) as well as the nutrition facts previously mentioned make beans a great food to consume for reducing the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Fiber content helps to keep you feeling full, and it is also an important part of the digestive system. Along with the heart healthy benefits, consuming fiber can help decrease the risk for developing diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal diseases! When buying canned beans, a low-sodium or no-salt-added variety is the best choice, as it leaves you in control of the amount of salt added to the recipe! Buying reduced sodium chicken or vegetable stock will also help lower the sodium content of this soup.

Ingredients:

4 ounces bacon, finely diced

1 small white onion, peeled and diced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

8 cups low sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock

4 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 bay leaf

1 large sprig fresh rosemary

salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat bacon in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Cook until crispy. Transfer the bacon to a separate plate, using a slotted spoon, reserving about 3 tablespoons of bacon grease in the stockpot.  (Discard any extra grease, or you can substitute olive oil in place of the 3 tablespoons of bacon grease.)

Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, stirring occasionally.

Add chicken stock, beans, bay leaf, rosemary and half of the cooked bacon.  Stir to combine.  Continue cooking the soup until it reaches a simmer.  Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and let the soup simmer for 10-20 minutes so that the flavors will meld.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary.

Serve warm, topped with the extra bacon.  If desired, garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and serve with crusty French bread.

Recipe adapted from gimmesomeoven.com.

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