January is National Soup Month, and what better time to cuddle up with a warm bowl of soup than during the cold winter months. Soup is an extremely versatile food. It can be a “cure,” a comfort or a quick meal.

With flu season upon us, many people will be filling up on chicken noodle soup. But can chicken noodle soup really fight the flu or cure the common cold? Researchers found that chicken noodle soup had a positive effect on clearing up colds. However, no one has been able to identify the ingredients in the soup that make us feel better. Some think it might simply be soup’s comforting characteristics.

Soup is among the most popular comfort foods. In fact, according to a national survey, the top comfort foods include soup, ice cream, pasta, mashed potatoes, cookies and hot chocolate. The survey also found that soup is the comfort food that people feel the least guilty about eating. Soup is warming, satisfying and filling, to help you stick to fewer calories.

According to the latest weight-loss research, having a bowl of soup before a meal will cause you to eat significantly fewer total calories. In fact, people who had soup before the meal ate an average of 100 fewer calories than people who skipped the soup.

Soup is easy and convenient. It makes a great appetizer, or it can be served as a quick meal. Plus, there are usually enough leftovers to stretch one batch into several meals.

Soup is very filling and can be low in fat. Just remember that all soups are not created equal. Broth soups are usually lower in fat than cream or cheese soups. Soup can also supply protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals to your daily diet. Most Americans do not consume enough daily servings of vegetables. Soup is an easy way to sneak in the vegetables you need every day.

Try the recipe below along with a warm whole wheat roll for a complete and satisfying meal.

Bean Soup

Serves 6

All you need:

1 whole onion, chopped

1½ c. chopped celery

1½ c. grated carrots

2 cans chicken broth

2 cans Northern beans

salt & pepper, to taste

All you do: Sauté onion, celery and carrots. Add broth and beans. Simmer. Add salt and pepper.

Daily nutritional values:

• 160 percent vitamin A

• 10 percent vitamin C

• 6 percent calcium

• 8 percent iron

Nutrition information per serving:

• Calories: 130

• Carbohydrates: 22 g

• Cholesterol: 0 mg

• Dietary fiber: 5 g

• Fat: 1.5 g

• Protein: 8 g

• Sodium: 640 mg

• Sugar: 5 g

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location. The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at tshaffer@hy-vee.com.