Dear Academy Q&A…

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Q. Are pre-made organic soups and ready meals good for me?

Rodney Lewis, London

HKA: Our bodies enjoy simple messages to be able to digest and absorb the foods that we eat. Foods that have gone through a lot of processing have moved away from their natural forms and been changed. Sometimes this is necessary to allow them to become more digestible, in other circumstances, they lose much of their nutritional qualities during processing.

Pre-made foods often have all kinds of undesirable extras, more salt, fat and sugar than you would naturally add to your own cooking. In the supermarket this week, I randomly picked up a ready meal of cauliflower cheese, when I turned it over to look at the ingredients, I had a long paragraph to read, in which I saw the word ‘salt’ 4 times.

Even though the original ingredients may have been produced organically, any pre-made foods need to have some kind of preservatives and flavourings in them to give them a shelf life.

If you were making your own meal, you wouldn’t need to add any kind of preservative, and those flavourings that give foods their ‘umami’ taste usually come from some form of MSG. Monosodium Glutamate is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death. MSG has lots of adverse effects, including numbness, headache, nausea, and rapid heartbeat…it’s a food to be avoided.

It can be a false economy to buy lots of pre-prepared foods. The ingredients to make those items would more often than not cost you less, allow you to make more and not necessarily save you much more time.

To make a delicious soup could take less than 30 minutes, you can make more than you need and so have several meals prepared that could be frozen or eaten over the next couple of days. Soup is so simple! Some tasty stock and a teaspoon of cider vinegar will transform your ingredients into something special.

Keeping a stock pot going so you always have stock available to add to soups or stews is a great time saving practice. Every time you chop the end off any vegetable or collect any peels, throw them into a pan of water. You can add a few whole peppercorns and any stems from herbs you may have used. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour. Discard the solids and retain the water to use as a base stock for a soup, full of nutrients and tasty too.

Take a look at this article in the Guardian that compares supermarket ready made soups…not one of them gets higher than 7 out of 10 for taste and most of them rank below 5 out of 10.

So in conclusion:
It’s worth avoiding processed foods that have become denatured and have added ingredients that we want to avoid.
Avoid excess sodium and fats and MSG by making your own.
Making tasty fresh soups is simple and quick and much more nutritious than anything we can buy in a can or a tetra pak!

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