A pretty bowl of chilled soup is a nice way to start any spring meal. A cool soup made from beets and oranges with a little buttermilk is one good choice, both aesthetically and nutritionally.

Beets have been eaten since prehistory and are native to a wide region that spans Europe and Western Asia. They are exceptionally high in natural sugar, nutrients, dietary fiber and a range of cancer-fighting substances called phytochemicals.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, root vegetables such as beets contain substances that can not only help fight cancer, but also help strengthen resistance to other health problems. They contain calcium and several antioxidants, substances that seek out the damaging forms of oxygen (�free radicals�) that attack the cell�s membranes and contents.

Both beets and oranges provide flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals that seems to help lower risk of cancer and heart disease. Body cells are constantly exposed to free radicals and other highly reactive substances created by normal body processes and by external sources like smoke and pollution. These substances can damage cellular DNA, which can ultimately lead to the development of cancer. Flavonoids have been shown to prevent injury from free radicals by converting these reactive molecules to more stable, less-reactive forms.

Because beets, like most vegetables, contain large amounts of water, dairy products such as buttermilk or yogurt make a good, thickening base that provides smooth 'mouth feel' and body as well as a good source of protein. They also give the soup a tangy piquancy that complements vegetables.

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The following soup looks as good as it tastes. And with a garnish of fresh dilled and diced cucumbers, it makes a perfect beginning for an Easter brunch.

Orange-Beet Soup

Yield: Makes 8 servings.

  • 3 (15-ounce) cans sliced beets, drained, 3/4 cup liquid reserved
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1-1/2 cups fat-free or reduced-fat buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. finely snipped fresh dill (plus more for garnish)
  • 1-1/2 cups finely-diced peeled, seedless cucumber
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  1. Combine half the beets, half the reserved beet liquid and half the orange juice in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Blend in half the buttermilk and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped dill. Repeat with remaining beets, beet liquid, orange juice, buttermilk and 1 1/2 tablespoons dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Chill at least 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.) Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cucumber and additional dill.

Nutrients Per Serving:
99 calories,
<1 g. total fat (<1 g. saturated fat),
21 g. carbohydrate,
4 g. protein,
3 g. dietary fiber,
403 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Fruit, 1 Vegetable