Soup vs Rasam

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“The number of kids affected by obesity has tripled since 1980, and this can be traced in large part to a lack of exercise and a healthy diet.” -Virginia Foxx

We live in a hectic world where we like to eat fast food and, this is the reason for the popularity of canned and ready-made soups. The most frequently reported reasons* for eating at fast-food restaurants were: fast food is quick (92%), restaurants are easy to get to (80%), and food tastes good (69%). Have you ever realized that the so-called “healthy” soups lose their nutritional value due to added preservatives. The ready-made foods also include ingredients which lead to obesity.

So why not take a few minutes of your time and prepare a healthy soup at home or try the lesser known alternative, the South Indian rasam? Soup or rasam, both are exemplary in taste, have excellent nutritional value and are easy to digest. Which one do you deem is better? We want to get a healthy ‘Soup vs Rasam’, debate started, and also get some answers on what nutritious snacks complement either.

Origins of Soup:

Soup is a primarily liquid food which originated in France. The traditional homemade soup became commercial with the invention of canning in the 19th century. Dr. John .T. Dorrance, a chemist with the Campbell Soup company, invented condensed soup in 1897. Tomato soup, cream of mushroom and chicken soup are the most standard soups in America with about 2.5 billion bowls of soups being consumed there annually!

The three main varieties of soup are - clear, thick soups and national or specialty soups. Soups are now portable, dehydrated and/or semi cooked. Soups have fibers, vitamin B, vitamin C, and vitamin K, dietary of minerals, which helps to regulate digestive tract and make you feel lighter. Soups also help to reduce the risk of blood pressure and heart disease.

What about Rasam?

Rasam is also known as the South Indian soup prepared using tamarind juice as a base with wholesome spices. Black pepper and tomatoes are the main ingredients of Rasam. Pepper Rasam helps to absorb different nutrients, acquire clear skin, clear stuffy nose, and also helps you lose weight. Pepper is an anti-depressant and helps to calm your mood swings.

Rasam is a little brother of the well-known South Indian Sambhar (thick lentil based gruel, served piping hot) often eaten mixed with white rice or used as a side-dish for idli, dosa and chapathi. There are many other varieties of rasam available in India, each with its own unique taste and nutritional value. Lentil rasam is one of the most popular, rich in protein; garlic rasam cures toothache, acne, and allergy, while horsegram rasam is beneficial for obese patients and those with ulcers, conjunctivitis, and piles. Rasam has thiamin, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin and riboflavin, minerals, antioxidants, and also aids in digestion, as well as is hale and hearty. Rasam precludes constipation, acidity, diarrhea and cancer.

Rasams and soups can also be prepared from various fruits, vegetables and non-vegetarian foods. Tomato in soup or rasam improves vision, prevents gallstones and urinary tract infection, cuts down cholesterol levels and counters bad effects of cigarette smoke. Chicken in soup or koli saaru (rasam) is easily digestible, strengthens your body and is beneficial for people with tonsils.

So what is the battle all about?

Soup though primarily a western primary food has gained enormous influence over the standard Indian Thali, while rasam though having a superior taste suited to Indian taste buds has not been able to beat the commercial-grade soup, why so? Rasam also has not been able to find a place in other cuisines.

The superior marketing and branding of the soup stands out against the vastly underrated rasam. Hey, even good old green herbal tea has been able to make inroads in India with an accent on the medical value and healthy living.

According to a quick survey we conducted for this article among Chennai college students, while most felt rasam was quite yummy, they were not enthused with the idea of rasam being a standard item on their plate. South Indians usually have rasam at home, but find it difficult to prepare a soup, which may be a good reason for opting for a soup at a restaurant. Rasam also needs to be mixed with white rice for a fine culinary experience while soup stands out on its own.

The points about the nutritional efficacy of canned soups and the long preparation time that home made soups take are the factors that go against it, but for now soups are the clear winner in the restaurant market while rasam still stands tall in South Indian households.

Looks like a tie so far, but do we have a winner?

One evening, my mom gave me hot vadas, soaked in rasam which I bit into hungrily. It was luscious with lip smacking flavor and aroma. I wondered then which snacks other than vadas would go well with rasam. Even in the a foresaid survey, most of the students chose to have vadas with rasam and some of them liked potato chips and savouries (mixtures/karasev). Snacks which tend to pair well with soup (apart from the obligatory bread crumbs and soup sticks) according to the survey were crispy crackers and veggie salads. My personal preference is the flavored bread, both garlic and cheese, which I feel complement soups very well. Grilled vegetables, baked potatoes and sandwiches served with soup or rasam would be great for those on a diet.

Where nutritious snacks are concerned, Snackexperts is the clear winner. We recommend snackexperts's Savouries each are unique and delicious. They have re-introduced the forgotten ingredients "millet" and other traditional ingredients which offer a wide range of healthy savouries each with its unique taste. Kodomillet crispies along with a hot cup of filter coffee, makes for a simple yet a perfect evening for me !

Soup or rasam, whatever your choice may be, do make sure it is home-made and healthy. Enjoy it with your favorite snacks and share your tasty experience with us.

*Why Eat at Fast-Food Restaurants: Reported Reasons among Frequent Consumers (2008) - Sarah A. Rydell, MPH, Lisa J. Harnack, DrPH, J. Michael Oakes, Ph, Mary Story, PhD, RD, Robert W. Jeffery, PhD, Simone A. French, PhD - University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

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