If you’re in the mood for some healthy comfort food or just crave a warm meal, then soup may be precisely what you need.
Enjoying a bowl of soup may be an easy, quick, and tasty way to add more nutrients to your diet.
However, though it may be a very versatile and flavorful dish, not all soups are as healthful as you’d think.
This article explores what makes a healthy soup, reviews the health benefits of eating soup, and explores a few different varieties in detail.
When prepared with the right ingredients, soup can be a truly healthy dish with multiple nutritional benefits.
For example, soups made with bone-, vegetable-, or meat-based broths provide vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, such as collagen.
They also deliver great flavor while keeping added fats and calories to a minimum.
Additionally, eating soup is an easy and tasty way to increase your vegetable intake.
High vegetable intakes are associated with a reduced risk of weight gain, which is a risk factor for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers (
Furthermore, vegetables provide numerous health benefits due to their high content of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant compounds (
Moreover, soups can be made with almost anything you have available in your kitchen.
That said, there are certain ingredients to look out for — such as thickeners and condiments — which may increase your soup’s calorie and sodium content and turn it into a somewhat unhealthy meal.
Vegetable- and broth-based soups may provide plenty of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber while being low in calories and fat.
Aside from helping increase your vegetable intake, eating soup is associated with other potential health benefits.
For starters, it may help you manage your weight. Studies show that daily calorie intake tends to be lower for people who eat soup (
For example, one observational study showed that people who regularly ate soup had lower body weight and waist circumference than people who didn’t (
It also found that they had better diet quality, characterized by reduced fat and increased protein and fiber intakes (
Studies have also shown that eating soup may reduce hunger and increase fullness. This may be due, in part, to cognitive factors where people believe the soup will make them full. Some soups may also be high in fiber (
Fiber is known to increase feelings of fullness by delaying gastric emptying — the speed at which your stomach empties after eating — and increasing stomach volume by absorbing water and swelling once it enters the stomach (
Delaying gastric emptying and increasing gastric volume leads to your stomach being fuller for longer, which translates to reduced hunger.
Lastly, eating soup can help you stay hydrated. Water is essential for your health, and your total water intake may come from drinking water, water in beverages, or water in food — as is the case for soup, fruits, and vegetables (
Eating soup may provide additional health benefits, including lower body weight and increased fiber and water intake.
Just as choosing nutrient-rich ingredients will lead to a healthy soup, some ingredients used to improve texture or taste may produce an unhealthy dish that you might want to eat less frequently.
Some of the most popular ingredients used to thicken soups include full fat milk, heavy cream, coconut cream, cornstarch, bread, cheese, egg yolks, and roux — a mixture of butter and flour.
In small quantities, these ingredients can be part of a healthy lifestyle, but it’s the amounts used in cream-based soups you need to be wary of.
Most thickeners are high energy density foods — foods that provide high amounts of calories per gram.
Consuming large amounts of high energy density foods can mean that you consume more calories than your body needs, which may lead to weight gain (
Additionally, some of those ingredients tend to be high in saturated fatty acids (SFA).
While some research suggests that SFA aren’t a risk factor for heart disease, other evidence deems them a risk factor when consumed in high amounts (
Although it’s fine to have a creamy soup made with these ingredients once in a while, aim for the healthier varieties most of the time, especially if you frequently eat soup.
If you wish to improve your soup’s texture without high calorie thickeners, you could add yogurt or mashed legumes such as beans, chickpeas, or lentils. That way, you’ll enhance your soup’s nutritional profile even further (
Other types of soup you should watch out for are instant and canned soups, which are often loaded with sodium.
High sodium intakes are associated with high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart and kidney disease, and stroke (
While adding salt is the most common way to improve a dish’s taste, you can also rely on spices such as oregano, garlic, basil, or onion powders to upgrade your soup while keeping it on the healthier side.
Many thickening agents used in cream-based soups may increase your soup’s calorie and fat content. Similarly, instant and canned soups often lead to excessive sodium intake.
The health benefits of soup vary based on the type and ingredients used.
Here are some popular types of healthy soups and how they may benefit your health.
Tomato soup’s health benefits come mostly from lycopene, the antioxidant pigment that gives tomatoes their red color.
Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps fight off the negative effects of free radicals in your body. High levels of free radicals have been linked with the development of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes (
Research also suggests it may help stimulate your immune system, improve male fertility and heart health, and lower the risk of certain types of cancer (
While there are plenty of ready-to-eat tomato soups commercially available, some may come with unwanted ingredients such as thickening agents, added fats, and sugar.
Making a homemade version of your favorite tomato soup is simple and will allow you to skip those ingredients, which will most likely improve its nutrient quality.
Here’s an easy and dairy-free tomato and basil soup recipe for you to try.
Chicken noodle soup
Chicken noodle soup is an American favorite and often claimed to be a remedy for the flu. In fact, an older study determined it may help you relieve a stuffy nose (
However, canned versions tend to be very high in sodium, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure in people sensitive to dietary salt (
For example, a 1-cup (106-gram) serving of canned chicken noodle soup may provide up to 80% of the recommended daily intake for sodium (
However, by going for a homemade version of this all-time classic, you may enjoy a health benefit or two.
As a high protein ingredient, the chicken will increase your meal’s protein content — a nutrient often neglected in vegetable-based soups.
Increasing your protein intake may help you regulate your appetite, boost your metabolism, and even reduce body fat (
Additionally, by having full control over its ingredients, you may add more vegetables to your soup and opt for whole-grain noodles or pasta to further increase its fiber content.
Try this recipe for a wholesome chicken noodle soup.
Bone broth-based soups
Bone broth has regained popularity due to its highly nutritious nature.
It’s made by simmering bones, which produces a broth filled with the bones’ nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, and collagen — the most abundant protein in your body (
By being rich in collagen, bone broth may improve joint, bone, and skin health (
While bone broth is already used as a base for many soups, it can also be enjoyed on its own.
Here are a couple of chicken bone broth recipes you can follow if you want to try a homemade version.
Homemade versions of some popular soups, such as bone broth, tomato, and chicken noodle soup, may provide numerous health benefits. However, commercially available ones may be filled with unwanted ingredients.
Soup is generally an easy-to-make dish that may help you pack a whole lot of nutrients into your diet.
When it comes to choosing the best one, it all comes down to its ingredients.
When made with nutrient-rich ingredients, such as vegetables and lean proteins, soup may provide numerous health benefits.
However, you may want to watch out for cream-based, canned, and instant soups, as they tend to have a higher calorie and sodium content.