HAPPY NEW YEAR 2024! This year (or any following year), you cannot tell me that Haitian Food is not healthy. I won't listen, especially on January 1, when we Haitians all over the world celebrate our Independence Day. We claimed the reins to our freedom in 1804 by cutting ties with France. How do we celebrate? We celebrate with Soup Joumou. This is a vitamin-rich hearty soup that is a symbol of our freedom and rich history. As a Haitian Dietitian, I am proud of my heritage and love to celebrate with this nutrient-dense (very nutritious) soup. My favorite thing to do on January 1 is go on a Soup Joumou tour visiting family and friends as we share bowls of soup. This is a day that globally brings all Haitians together. This unity is a powerful nutrient that keeps our culture strong & alive! In this article, I want to share insight into why this unifying Soup Joumou is a nutrition powerhouse. If anyone ever told you that Soup Joumou is unhealthy, you'll know what to tell them.
In French, giraumon means pumpkin. In Haitian Kreyol, we spell it this way: joumou. But this soup is not made with the "pumpkin" we are used to seeing around Halloween season. The round orange pumpkin that we are used to seeing is just one type of winter squash. Soup Joumou is normally made with other types of winter squash. Common types of squash used in Soup Joumou are kabocha, calabaza, butternut, & acorn squash, but it can be made with almost any winter squash such as:
A few unique properties of winter squash are its tough skin and large seeds. This squash contains high levels of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor (meaning it gets converted to) Vitamin A. As we all know, Vitamin A is great for skin and vision. So in essence, Soup Joumou helps promote vision and healthy skin. To put it into perspective:
Balanced & Filling
When I say "balanced & filling," I mainly refer to the macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein. Outside these groups, Soup Joumou also contains micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that boost health and optimal performance (especially vitamins A and C).
Here's a brief breakdown:
Fat: Meat, Oil, Avocado (not as common)
Carbs: Joumou, potato, noodles, carrots
Protein: Beef, chicken, cow/pig feet, beans, peas, etc.
Vitamins/Minerals: Joumou, cabbage, and all other vegetables.
Again, this is just an abbreviated list. Everyone makes their soup differently so when it comes to exact nutrition composition, it's almost impossible to provide a standard Soup Joumou nutrition label. Everyone's soup will have a different nutrient composition, and that's okay! Just know that this is legitimately a meal and does not need to be supplemented with anything else! Take soup as:
or whatever. Just drink soup.
After you drink soup joumou, you may experience some side effects. Nothing bad though. One side effect is the urge to use the bathroom. Don't worry, nothing is wrong. Everything is just right. Fiber is an indigestible nutrient in the carbohydrate family. Due to its non-digestible nature, it promotes bowel movements and helps to alleviate constipation. For people with diabetes, it can help promote healthy blood sugar. Fiber also helps decrease inflammation and can promote a healthy heart. As posted in the image above, soup joumou contains good fiber. Not only the squash, but the other vegetables that float around also add to the fiber score in this victory soup. I'll talk more about fiber in another article, but I just wanted to let you know that Soup Joumou is loaded with it.
Last year, I was very blessed to see my wife making Soup Joumou. For the very first time, she was able to purchase & prepare all of the ingredients and make the soup with the OG Haitian moms. It was wonderful seeing different generations come together and keep the legacy living. We are officially in 2024, & Haiti has been a free country for 220 now, As you probably see in the news, the country regularly undergoes unfortunate environmental, political, and social turmoil. In the midst of this, our culture is rich and our food is nutritious, I will do my part to always highlight that. Happy Independence Day, Haiti!
Gregory Lafortune, MS, RDN, LD