Is chicken soup really good for you?

January 23, 2001

Is chicken soup really good for you?

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Soup companies promote soup for all that ails you. For some of us, nothing tastes better or goes down easier when we're sick than a steaming hot cup of chicken soup or broth.

Is this just folklore or is there really something special about soup? Because broth-based soups, like chicken noodle and vegetable soup, are high in liquid content and easy to digest, they're a good choice when nothing else stays down. Broth-based soups also tend to be relatively low in fat and calories, yet offer a respectable dose of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Be aware, however, that not all soups are low in fat or calories. Creamy and cheese-based varieties, like New England clam chowder and cheddar cheese soup, may provide as much as 60 percent of their calories from fat.


Sodium is another dietary downfall of many selections. Except for specially marked low-sodium varieties, almost all packaged soups contain 600 to more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium per 8-ounce serving.

Whether you're ordering soup off a menu, selecting a can at a grocery store or stirring up your own creation, the choices are many. Here are some tips to help make your next bowl of soup a healthful one:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Read labels to evaluate sodium, fat and calorie information. Check serving sizes to make sure you're comparing similar sizes.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> To better control fat and sodium, make your own soups, then freeze leftovers in meal-size portions.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> A good way to defat homemade and canned soups is to chill them until the fat congeals on top; then remove this layer and heat to serving temperature. Canned soups can be chilled in the can.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> When making homemade soup or heating canned soups, boost carbohydrate and fiber content by adding leftover pasta, potatoes, rice, vegetables, beans or lentils.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Use skim or 1-percent milk instead of 2-percent or whole milk when making or reconstituting cream soups.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If calories are a concern, be careful about soups dubbed "homestyle" or "chunky." These generally contain more fat and calories than traditional styles.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If sodium is a concern, try reduced-sodium versions of your favorite varieties until you find one you like.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Try adding a dash of cayenne pepper, basil, oregano or garlic powder to liven up the taste of low-sodium soups.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Make soup the focus of low-fat meals. Round out your meal with a salad and bread or plate of pasta.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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