A warm bowl of soup can hit the spot on a cold day. It can also be a healthy way to start off a meal because it tends to be high in vegetables, filling and low in energy density. Homemade soup is a better choice than canned soup, however, because canned soup often contains the chemical BPA and is high in sodium.
It Increases Vegetable Consumption
Many Americans don't get the recommended amount of vegetables. Adding soup to your diet can help you increase your vegetable intake, especially if you choose a vegetarian soup, such as gazpacho, a tomato-based soup that is served cold. A study published in "The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry" in March 2006 found that eating gazpacho every day for two weeks helped increase vitamin C levels in study participants. Cooked soups, however, aren't usually high in vitamin C because it is a heat-sensitive vitamin. They do provide other nutrients. For example, ready-to-serve vegetable soup and chicken noodle soup each have almost 50 percent of the daily value for vitamin A and more than 10 percent of the DV for selenium and potassium.
Unlike many liquids, soups can be about as filling as solid foods, according to a study published in "Physiology & Behavior" in January 2005. This means you can serve soup as a meal without worrying you'll be hungry again shortly after you finish eating. If you make a meal out of soup, however, be sure to choose one that contains protein.
It's Low in Energy Density
Soups that are broth-based are also low in energy density, meaning they have relatively few calories per gram. Choosing foods low in energy density can help you fill up with fewer calories, making it easier to lose weight. A study published in "Obesity Research" in June 2005 found that eating soup twice a day as part of a low-calorie diet led to 50 percent more weight loss than eating a more energy-dense food containing the same number of calories.
Choosing the Right Soup
Cream-based soups can be high in fat and calories, so they are less healthy than broth-based soups. For example, New England clam chowder has 201 calories and 10 grams of fat per cup, compared to 90 calories and 0.8 gram of fat in vegetable soup. Regularly eating canned soup can increase your levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical that may increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes, notes a study published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association" in November 2011. Canned soups are also one of the major sources of sodium in the American diet. Even reduced-sodium soups can have almost 20 percent of the DV for sodium. Make your own soup at home using fresh ingredients, and you can avoid the BPA and limit the sodium in the final dish.