Come On Everyone! Soup’s On!

New England Clam Chowder
Photo by pointnshoot via Flickr

I’m a firm believer that one of the most satisfying things to eat on a cold, winter day is soup.  It helps warm us up from the inside and brings a sense of comfort while nourishing us.  Soup is a very popular lunch or dinner item all year round.  You can find soup and sandwich places springing up all over.  If you went to the original New York shop of the famous “Soup Nazi,” portrayed in Seinfeld before it closed in 2006, you actually had to wait in lines sometimes close to an hour just to get a bowl of soup.  Now he’s franchised the business and there are 28 restaurant locations in North America and hundreds of stores that sell his soup as well.  That’s how popular soup is.

Because most canned or packaged soups are low in calories and easy to prepare, individuals trying to lose weight tend to resort to eating soup to help ward off hunger.  However, most soups are predominantly water, about 90%.  That’s why they are low in calories and also why they are lacking in nutritional content.  So, making a meal from most of these soups might not be the healthiest choice.  But, there are exceptions to this rule.  Soups made with legumes (beans, lentils or peas) and chunky vegetables actually have less water and more nutrients.  These types of soups will provide you with more vitamins, protein, fiber and minerals than other soups.

Watch out for sodium
There is one pitfall that you have to watch out for, even in the healthier preprepared soups.  Sodium is definitely one thing these soups don’t lack.  Some have 850mg or more per eight ounce (237 mL) serving. That means if you eat a whole serving of soup, which most of us do, and then eat other high sodium foods throughout the day, you will easily go over the recommended daily allowance of sodium, which is 2400mg.

To put in perspective how much soup is in a serving, a prepared can of Campbell’s Soup has 2.5 servings.  If you ate a whole can of Campbell’s Chunky Chicken soup, that would be 2225mg of sodium right there. Remember, a diet high in sodium is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, so you don’t want to eat that much of any item that is that high in sodium.

Now, I’m not suggesting you give up soup.  I’m sure not going to.  But, I do have a few suggestions to help you reduce your sodium exposure from the soups you eat:

  1. Buy low sodium soups: You will probably cut your sodium at least in half by buying low sodium soups, if not by much more.  Often, you’ll see a noticeable drop in flavor because the companies that produce soup seem to have no idea how to properly flavor a soup.  They just salt them heavily.  But, if you add a few spices, the flavor will improve dramatically and often taste better than the original, higher sodium version.  My favorite spices for enhancing these soups is pepper, garlic, paprika and oregano.  Which spices I choose depends on the type of soup.  Experiment and see what flavors you like.  And no, salt is not one of the spices you can use.
  2. Make your own soup: Preparing your own soup will give you control of how much salt you add.  Try substituting some spices to flavor the soup, such as, garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper and parsley, instead of adding extra salt.  Also, if you’re using a preprepared base, which already has sodium in them, use less than is suggested by the recipe.  They often encourage you to use too much.  It’s a little like the toothpaste companies that want you to use so much toothpaste that it is falling off the brush.  They just want to sell more.  If you cook the soup a little longer, the flavors of your ingredients will saturate the water and it will taste great!  Trust me.  Often, the soups I make at home actually taste better the second day because the ingredients have been sitting and cooking in the water longer.

Watch out for fat
Salt isn’t the only thing you have to watch out for.  Creamy soups, such as New England clam chowder are high in saturated fat.  This type of soup has so much saturated fat because they tend to be made with whole milk rather than water.  The creamy soups aren’t the only ones high in saturated fat though.  Soups made with tropical oils like palm, palm kernel and coconut oils, or with chicken, beef fat or butter will also be high in saturated fat.  So, read your labels and try to stay away from or at least limit your consumption of these varieties because a diet rich in saturated fat is linked to increased cholesterol, heart disease and stroke. Now, if you want to to minimize the fat content of your soups, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Stick with vegetable, legume or noodle soups: These types of soups are lower in fat.
  2. Chill your soup: This is one way to get rid of some of the fat.  The fat will congeal on top, so you can take a spoon and scoop off the congealed fat before you heat the soup.  If you’re thinking that would get rid of all the flavor, imagine that congealed fat causing a similar layer in your arteries.  Not a nice thought, is it?  Now scoop off that fat.  You can add in some olive oil to replace it, if you decide that the soup is missing flavor after you taste it.
  3. Use low fat or non fat milk: If you are making a milk based soup use a lower fat milk.
  4. Eat tomato based brands: Some clam chowders are made with tomato base, such as Manhattan clam chowders.  Choose those over the milk-based clam chowders, such as New England clam chowders, which are higher in fat.

The bottom line is, choose your soup wisely.  Otherwise, you can end up with a soup that has little nutritional value or is high in sodium and saturated fat.  There are nutritious soups and soup recipes out there.  Seek them out and you will end up with a bowl of steaming, hot soup that is not only tasty, but good for your health as well.  Soup’s on, everyone! Eat up!

Comments (5)

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  1. You are so right about soup. Everyone ought to have at least one good soup recipe that they can make.
    Making your own stock is a wonderful thing to do and very easy. I have a video that shows how to do it easily and quickly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=be2Ip9zeVFI&feature=channel_page. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can do it in a pot on top of the stove in about an hour.

  2. PeppersGhost says:

    That looks so good right about now. New England Clam Chowder is probably my favorite soup of all time.

  3. It’s not really soup weather here in Sydney! But I do love a bowl when the weather gets colder. I love miso based soups, Vietnamese pho and my fav (not as healthy) – pumpkin, chorizo and chickpea.

    The recipe is on my site if you’d like it!

    Hope you have a lovely break, Christie x

  4. Likesanta says:

    you are right about the sodium and fat in the soups! I either make my own batch, so I can control all that stuff or I buy them at Trader Joe’s. They have great low fat low sodium soups ‘with’ all the flavor still!

    Happy new year X

  5. Maria Isabel says:

    I agree with you. We make a big pot of vegetable soup once a week to have it at every dinner meal. This is due to my family having soup during the winter months as I grew up. Thanks for another confirmation of what I enjoy eating and that it is good for me and my family.

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