Convenience foods like canned soup often get a bad rap when it comes to eating healthy. Some canned soups can actually be quite healthy. That doesn't mean you should make it a staple of your diet. But if you're feeling ill or just need to whip together a quick meal, canned soup can be a fairly healthy choice, as long as you choose wisely.
One of the biggest concerns about canned soup is sodium content. Aim to keep your sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams per day. Reduce that to no more than 1,500 milligrams per day if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, if you're African American or if you're 51 or older, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many canned soups are very high in sodium. For example, one commercial brand of chicken noodle and vegetable soup contains a whopping 890 milligrams of sodium per 1/2 cup condensed serving. Opt for reduced-sodium varieties to keep your salt intake under control. Many popular brands offer canned soups that have fewer than 600 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Energy density refers to how many calories are in a gram of food. Foods with a high water content have a lower energy density, while fattier foods have a higher energy density. You can consume more of foods with a lower energy density than foods with a high energy density for the same amount of calories. Broth-based canned soups have a lower energy density than cream soups, because they have more water and less fat. Consuming a small portion of broth-based soup before a meal can help you lower you calorie intake and keep you feeling full. A 2007 study conducted by researchers at Penn State University found that participants ate 20 percent less calories at a meal when they had a serving of low-calorie soup as a first course.
Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals
If you're going to eat canned soup, choose varieties with at least 10 percent of your daily value of fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals, recommends "Fitness" magazine. Men aged 19 to 50 need about 38 grams of fiber per day, while women of the same age need 25 grams, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Beans and vegetables are high in fiber and nutrients. Choose soups made up primarily of beans, lentils and veggies in a low-sodium broth for a filling, healthy choice.
BPA, a chemical used in cans that interferes with hormone production and may increase the risk of certain cancers, is a concern for even the healthiest canned soups. A study published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association" in 2011 found that participants who consumed canned soup for five days had 1,221 percent more BPA in their urine than participants who didn't eat the soup. To avoid BPA in prepared soups, choose varieties packaged in Tetra Pak, a type of carton made from cardboard, PET plastic and aluminum, recommends MSN Healthy Living.