When a cold, dreary day keeps you cooped up inside, the perfect comfort food is a big bowl of piping hot soup. Soup provides a quick and filling meal, but not all soups offer the same nutritional benefits. Canned soups may taste as yummy as their homemade counterparts, but read nutrition labels carefully to choose the healthiest brand for your bowl.
Benefits of Soup
A bowl of soup may not keep the doctor away, but adding soup to your meal may help you cut calories from your day. A study published in 2007 in "Appetite" compared the caloric intakes of people who ate soup with their meal to people who ate the same meal without soup. The soup eaters consumed 20 percent fewer calories and reported feeling more satisfied with their meal than the people who did not eat soup.
That can of soup in your cupboard may seem like a healthy meal, but take a look at the sodium content before you pack it for lunch. Canned food manufacturers use sodium as a flavoring and preservative, and one can of soup often contains more sodium than you should eat In a single meal. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults limit their daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams, because a high-sodium diet is a risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease. One can of chicken vegetable soup provides 259 calories, 9 grams protein and a whopping 2,139 milligrams of sodium. To avoid this sodium overload, shop for low-sodium varieties of your favorite canned soups. One cup of low-sodium chicken vegetable soup contains 166 calories, 12 grams of protein and only 84 milligrams of sodium.
When you don't have the time to cook a full dinner, making a quick pot of homemade soup can satisfy your craving for a hot, soothing meal. Start by choosing low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, and bulk up your soup with leftover veggies from your fridge. You can make an easy homemade vegetable soup with low-sodium stock, chopped carrots, sliced onions, mushrooms, leftover cooked barley and basil. One cup of this delicious soup contains 186 calories, 2 grams of fat and 74 milligrams of sodium. The barley and vegetables also provide 8 grams of fiber, an indigestible plant carbohydrate that lowers cholesterol, maintains good digestive health, reduces heart disease risk and prevents constipation. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day.
To get the most nutrition from your soup bowl, steer clear of high-fat cream soups and choose broth-based varieties instead. Substitute high-fiber whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta for white rice or regular pasta in your recipes. Add a handful of frozen vegetables to your canned soups for extra vitamins, minerals and fiber. If vegetable soup is on your menu tonight, add a cup of cooked beans for protein and fiber. One cup of cooked kidney beans provides 11 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein.
- The Food Timeline: Soups and Stews
- Appetite: Soup Preloads in a Variety of Forms Reduce Meal Energy Intake
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Soup, Chicken Vegetable, Canned, Condensed
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Soup, Vegetable Chicken, Canned, Prepared with Water, Low Sodium
- King County: Vegetable Barley Soup
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Beans, Kidney, All Types, Mature Seeds, Cooked, Boiled, Without Salt
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.