Low sodium can soup


Although sodium is essential in any diet, you only need a small amount per day. Food manufacturers rely on sodium as a flavor modifier, ingredient binder, color enhancer, stabilizer and preservative in processed foods. Canned soup contains a lot of sodium. For example, a serving of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup contains 910 mg of sodium, and your body only needs about 500 mg a day. However, you don’t have to swear off canned soup if you want to reduce the sodium in your diet. There are several things you can do to lower the sodium content in canned soup.

Dilute the soup with water or low-sodium broth. Most canned soups are condensed and require the addition of water when you prepare them. If you add more water than is recommended, you’ll decrease the amount of sodium per serving. If adding water dilutes too much of the flavor, add a low-sodium broth instead.

Add fresh vegetables to the soup. You can use canned soup as a base and then add fresh vegetables and water to the canned soup. A combination of celery, onions and carrots called “mirepoix” imparts a lot of flavor when it’s added to soups. You can also use whatever vegetables are in season in your area.

Peel and quarter a potato and add it to the soup. Remove the potato when it is tender and fully cooked. As it cooks, the potato absorbs liquid and sodium from the canned soup. Add water, let the soup simmer for a moment and serve.


  • Certain varieties of soups contain more sodium than others. Look for the word “healthy” on the label. Canned soups must have 480 mg of sodium or less per serving to be able to use the word “healthy” on their labels.

Salt in Soup Gives You More Than Flavor

Canned soups are loaded with salt. Why is there so much salt in soup? Because it’s a lot cheaper than the flavorful vegetables, chicken, herbs, and spices that you would use at home.

Plus, when commercial soups are cooked at a high temperature for a long enough time to kill potentially harmful bacteria, some of the natural flavors evaporate. Salt is a cheap, convenient way to make up for the loss.

It’s not just soup. All canned foods are cooked to within an inch of their lives at the packing plant. It’s not because companies don’t know how to regulate their ovens. Canners need to use a temperature high enough for a long enough time to kill any harmful germs. Out with the heat goes taste.

Salt in soup gives you more than flavor

What is the problem with all this salt in soup and canned goods? Salt raises blood pressure, which boosts the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And high blood pressure, or hypertension, is epidemic in the United States. What else would you call a problem that afflicts more than half of people over age 60?

Nevertheless, the food industry keeps dumping salt into our food, especially restaurant food, as though advice to cut back – from the Surgeon General, the American Heart Association, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute—didn’t exist.

Soup is one of the worst offenders because it crams so much sodium—roughly 1,000 milligrams per serving—into a food that often has just 100 calories.

But soup also has its good points. Your body doesn’t ignore the calories in soups, as it does the calories in beverages. In fact, people eat fewer calories—and feel less hungry—on days they’re fed soup than on days they’re given either beverages or solid foods.

Researchers aren’t sure why. “Soups may make us feel full,” says Purdue’s Richard Mattes, “because they’re viewed as nutritive and substantial.”

How can you enjoy soup without all the salt?

Make your own soup, buy lower-sodium soup, or try this:

  1. Start with a carton of an Imagine Organic Light in Sodium soup (or other soup with around 300 milligrams of sodium or less per cup).
  2. Then dump in fresh or unseasoned frozen vegetables. (Sauté them lightly in olive or canola oil first, if you prefer.)

Voila! It may have more sodium than homemade, but you get less salt in soup this way—and more vegetables—than in canned soups.

From salt in soup to salt in bread

There isn’t much that goes better with a bowl of soup than a wedge of fresh, hot bread. But can you cut the amount of salt in bread? Are you worried that lower-salt bread won’t taste good?

When researchers offered 38 young people bread that was gradually cut in salt each week, first by 31 and then by 52 percent, they ate no less bread than 39 young people offered bread with no sodium cuts. Only when the researchers cut salt by 67 percent did the people eat less bread.

However, when the scientists replaced some of the bread’s salt (sodium chloride) with potassium chloride and yeast extract, even a 67 percent drop in sodium didn’t curb bread intake.

What to do

Look for lower-sodium breads. Aim for about 100 milligrams or less per slice. Many breads hover around 200 mg per slice.

Fortunately, grocery stores still sell real foods and homes still have real stoves. It’s time to buy basic ingredients, read labels carefully, and take greater control over what we eat.

Sources: J. Nutr. 141: 2249, 2011.

Sneaky Canned Soup: Tips To Keep It Healthy

Snack Girl has been asked multiple times about canned soup and I couldn’t bring myself to research the topic. Why?

Well, I make this chicken noodle soup (see: Low Calorie Comfort Food – It Exists!) and I don’t like canned soup. BUT, I understand that there is a need (college students without kitchens, people who hate to cook, etc.) to eat them.

I went out and spent some time in the soup aisle at my local supermarket. In fact, I was there for such a long time that the management called security 🙂 Yeah, there are a ridiculous number of brands, flavors, prices…..aaaah!

What did I find out? The first thing that hit me over the head when looking for a low calorie soup was this:

See that cute bowl of Campbell’s in the top photo? It states “60 CALORIES” on the front of the soup container – but there are 120 CALORIES in that bowl. The container looks like one serving but it is actually TWO.

This was true of all the soups that I looked at – there are 2 servings in a can of soup. Most of us would eat the entire can at once – it fills a standard size bowl – and what are you going to do with the leftovers?

Secondly, there is a serious issue of sodium amounts in these soups. On average your daily amount of sodium should be between 1500-2300 mg. If you ate the entire bowl of “Select Harvest Vegetable and Pasta” soup – you would consume 1300 mg of sodium or over 50% of your recommended daily amount.


This was also true of soups that said “low sodium” on the front of the can. They had between 400-500 mg of sodium PER SERVING – which means about 800-1000 mg for the can. (someone actually filed a lawsuit against Campbell’s because of their bogus low sodium claims)

Finally, I tried the Campbell’s Vegetable and Pasta and I subsequently poured it down the drain. I have one word for this soup – yuck.

I kept searching for something healthy (would I give up on you guys?). I visited the “Natural Foods” area of the store and scoured the shelves for a healthy soup – and I found one!

See the “Health Valley Organic” in the above photo? It has no salt added (really) and was packed with vegetables that actually tasted like vegetables. I ate the whole can after I added a wee bit of salt.

Here are the nutritional facts for the ENTIRE can:

200 calories, 5 g fat, 36 g carbohydrates, 6.0 g protein, 8 g fiber, 100 mg sodium, 5 Points+

I have to say that for a canned soup this was great! You could mix it with other higher sodium canned soups for a saltier (but not too salty) canned soup experience.

What about cost? The Campbell’s Select Harvest set me back $2.65 and the Health Valley Organic was $2.99. I think that was 34 cents well spent.

Here are my tips for choosing a canned soup:

  • Stay away from CREAM soups
  • Watch the serving size on the package
  • Avoid high sodium soups or just don’t eat them very often
  • Find one that you really like

How do you deal with the canned soup aisle?

Health Valley Organic No Salt Added Soup, Minestrone, 15 Ounce (Pack of 12)

$40.44 $31.80


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28 Dietitian-Approved Low-Sodium Canned Soups and Stocks

If you’re watching your sodium, you know that canned soups can easily send you over your daily limit — at times almost hitting the daily recommended amount in a single can! But there are plenty of off-the-shelf options that are lower in salt if you know where and how to look. We’ve rounded up more than two dozen canned soups, broths, and stocks that will keep the sodium in check.

Low-Sodium Canned Soups

Campbell’s Chunky Healthy Request Chicken Noodle

At 410 mg of sodium per cup (that’s 820mg per can or 36 percent of what’s recommended for the day), this chicken noodle soup is at the higher end of a healthy range for sodium, but it is much lower in sodium than traditional canned chicken noodle soups. For example, the Campbell’s Classic version of this chicken noodle soup contains 1580 mg (69 percent) per can. So, while it’s definitely a sodium savings, you’ll still want to watch the sodium for the rest of the day.

Health Valley Organic No Salt Added Chicken Noodle

For an even lower sodium chicken noodle soup, opt for this version from Health Valley with only 135 mg of sodium per cup — that’s only 270 mg (12 percent of the daily limit) in the whole can — unheard of in the world of soup! Now that’s an amount that can fit into any heart healthy day. Plus, with 10 grams (g) of protein per can, it will keep you feeling satisfied, too.

Amy’s Organic Light in Sodium Lentil Vegetable

With only 340 milligrams (mg) of sodium per cup (keep in mind that there are usually 2 cups per can), Amy’s Organic Light in Sodium Lentil Vegetable soup is lower in sodium than most other canned soups. Plus, it’s made with nutritious organic vegetables and seasonings and is a good source of protein. Lentils are a type of legume and are an excellent source of fiber as well. Together with the other vegetables, they contribute 16 g of fiber per can of soup — that’s 64 percent of the daily recommended amount.

Health Valley Organic No Salt Added Minestrone

Health Valley offers a handful of soups that contain around 100 to 170 mg of sodium per can (yes, the whole can!). With only around 200 calories for the whole can, it’s a low-calorie food to boot, making this soup a great choice for those who are watching their blood pressure and their waistlines. In addition to the minestrone, look for the tomato, vegetable, chicken and rice, and mushroom barley varieties.

Pacific Natural Foods Organic Light in Sodium Creamy Tomato

With only 380 mg of sodium per cup and a short list of ingredients you can actually pronounce, this one puts other tomato soups to shame! Plus, it has 5 g of protein per cup to help keep you feeling full. Remember that tomatoes naturally have carbohydrates in them and, with a bit of sugar to cut their acidity, this soup has 32 grams of carbs per can or two carb servings if you’re counting.

Zero- and Lower-Sodium Bouillon and Broth Bases

Herb Ox Sodium-Free Bouillon

It doesn’t get lower than 0 mg of sodium! The flavor of broth without any of the sodium in this bouillon is a home run for anyone on a low-sodium diet. While this can be a great low-sodium option, keep in mind that it doesn’t contain the most natural ingredients. So, if whole foods are more your style, you may want to look for another broth option.

Orrington Farms Low Sodium Broth Base and Seasoning

Available in both chicken and beef varieties, this broth base contains a mere 140 mg of sodium per cup. Starting this low in sodium helps keep the whole soup as low in sodium as you’d like. Plus it’s made with natural ingredients and contains no MSG.

Low-Salt Stocks and Broths

Low-Sodium Broths

Making homemade soup is a quick and easy way to add nutrient-rich items like vegetables and whole grains to your diet. But if you don’t have enough time to make the broth from scratch, starting with a canned or boxed low-sodium broth or stock is key to keeping things healthy. For a good, low-sodium broth, look for:

  • Swanson unsalted beef broth (75 mg per cup) or unsalted chicken broth (45 mg)
  • Pacific Natural Foods low-sodium chicken broth (70 mg), low-sodium vegetable broth (135 mg), low-sodium beef broth (140 mg), and chicken or turkey bone broth (95 mg)
  • Trader Joe’s organic free-range low-sodium chicken broth (70 mg)
  • Imagine free-range low-sodium chicken broth (115 mg)
  • 365 organic low-sodium chicken broth (140 mg)

Low-Sodium Stocks

What’s the difference between a stock and a broth anyway? A stock is made by boiling mostly bones while a broth is made by simmering meat. A stock tends to have a richer and fuller flavor as a result of the collagen released by the simmering bones. Stocks can make a delicious base for a homemade soup. Look for these low-sodium options:

  • Swanson unsalted beef stock (150 mg) and unsalted chicken stock (130 mg)
  • Pacific Natural Foods simply stock unsalted chicken (100 mg), simply stock unsalted vegetable stock (65 mg), unsalted chicken stock (70 mg), unsalted chicken and turkey bone stocks (125 mg)
  • College Inn unsalted chicken stock (50 mg) and unsalted beef stock (105 mg)

Health Valley Organic Soup No Salt Added Vegetable — 15 fl oz

Ever wish you could lose weight without having to go on an actual diet? With just a few small behavior adjustments, you can make that wish come true.

Research shows that simple steps like checking in with our bodies to find out how hungry we are, slowing down our eating speed, choosing more nutritious foods and engaging in some well-timed exercise may be all we need to get us on the path to lean.

“We have within us the wisdom to eat well, but people have lost touch with their bodies,” says Jan Chozen Bays, MD, an Oregon-based pediatrician and mindful eating teacher. She and other healthy-eating experts believe a mental approach to weight loss is more effective than dieting. “People only lose eight to 10 pounds on average and then gain it back. Getting too focused on numbers is not a good way to go,” Bays says.

Here’s the inside scoop on how eating more mindfully can help you shed those extra pounds.

No. 1: Take it slow

“You can’t binge if you are eating mindfully,” Bays says. “Binging is actually a way to go mindless.” It takes roughly 20 minutes to feel full from the time you start eating, so if you eat faster than that, you may be overriding your body’s signals of satiety.

A study published in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that faster eating is associated with weight gain. Researchers analyzed the eating habits of more than 1,500 middle-aged Australian women and determined that for every one-step increase in eating speed in a five-step scale, the women’s body mass index increased by 2.8 percent—the equivalent of a four-pound weight gain.

Best way to try it: Chew each bite at least 10 times.

No. 2: Beware of portion distortion

Cutting down on serving sizes can be a relatively painless way of shaving off calories while still eating the foods you love. Larger portions have become the new norm, and can add a huge amount of calories under the guise of a legitimate serving size.

Brian Wansink, PhD, a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantam, 2010), noted in the May 2007 issue of The Journal of the American Dietetic Association that the surface area of the average dinner plate has increased 34 percent since 1960. Because people tend to be very impressionable when it comes to how much they eat, Wansink says larger portions can encourage us to eat more.

Best way to try it: Instead of super-sizing, try portion sizing. Help your meals look appropriate in scale, says Wansink, by replacing large tableware with smaller plates, bowls and glasses. Using smaller serving bowls and serving spoons, while also keeping large packages or containers off the table and out of sight, can also help you downsize your appetite.

No. 3: Make some smart swaps

Sometimes smaller portions don’t totally succeed in making you feel satisfied—go figure. Another way to tap into your sense of satiety? Opt for higher-volume noshes that are low calorie, such as foods with a lot of water content. According to Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan (William Morrow, 2007) this translates as soups, salads, vegetables and fruits.

Best way to try it: When a snack attack comes on, think strategically on how to pump up your munch quota, not your waistline. Instead of fried, greasy chips, try popped or baked snacks. Air-popped popcorn can be a muncher’s best friend.

No. 4: Cut out the late-night snacking and get more sleep

Turns out you have to be mindful about not only what you eat and how much, but how late you eat it. A study done on mice that was published in the October 2009 issue of the journal Obesity suggests that late-night eating is worse, in terms of weight gain, than consuming food during normal waking hours.

This dovetails nicely with other research that shows that people who sleep more weigh less. In a study published in the January 2005 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers examined approximately 1,000 people and found a link between body mass index and amount of sleep. Typically, the people who were overweight slept 16 minutes less a night than those of normal body weight. The theory? Sleep deprivation affects how your body’s hormones regulate appetite.

Best way to try it: Instead of aiming to get energy from a late snack, aim for hitting the sack. Seven to eight hours of sleep per night is a good rule of thumb.

No. 5: Exercise before you eat

Recent studies have shown that exercise may help curb hunger. Research published in the October 2008 issue of The American Journal of Physiology suggests that intense physical exercise can lower levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, and raise levels of peptide YY, a hormone that suppresses appetite, says lead study author David Stensel, PhD.

Best way to try it: Aerobic exercise has more impact on appetite than weight training, so try to break a sweat before you tuck into your meal.

No added salt chicken broth can help anyone on a low salt diet enjoy soup again. Soups are often one meal that is avoided by anyone who has been told to lower their sodium intake. Commercial canned soups are super high in salt. Homemade soups may be better, but not always a great alternative because commercial broths used as the base are high in sodium (even low salt versions). Homemade broth is really easy to make and can be flavored without using any salt.

The reason this broth is called no added salt chicken broth and not salt-free broth is that I used chicken bones. Chicken has salt added to it frequently. According to Cooking Light, many varieties of chicken purchased at grocery stores are injected with a mixture of water, sodium, and other additives to make the meat more tender and juicy.

I use the chicken bones from chicken pieces or a rotisserie chicken carcass. I have usually used all the meat already, but if there is any meat left or salt was absorbed into the bones I can’t say that this broth is sodium-free.

How to Make No Added Salt Chicken Broth

  • Start with a variety of vegetables. I use onion, carrots, and celery, however, you can add any veggies you wish.
  • You can also use veggie scraps.
  • If you suffer from IBS and follow a low fodmap diet do not use onion. You may use the green parts of scallions or leaks.
  • You may use any chicken bones you have. I use the carcass of a rotisserie chicken.
  • Even though I leave no meat on the bones you could use a whole chicken or chicken pieces and allow the meat to cook in the broth. This will leave the broth with more salt and higher fat content especially if you leave the skin on.

0 from 0 votesNo Added Salt Chicken Broth Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 2 hrs Total Time 2 hrs 10 mins

Homemade chicken broth made without added salt can allow anyone on a sodium-restricted diet to enjoy soup again.

Course: Soup Cuisine: American Servings: 8 cups Calories: 19 kcal Author: Jennifer Lynn-Pullman Ingredients

  • 4 stalks Medium stalks celery Cut in half
  • 4 Medium to large carrots Cut in half
  • 1/2 Large Vidalia onion sliced
  • 12 cups water
  • 8 Peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp Dried parsley
  • 1 Chicken carcass Remove all meat


  1. In a large stockpot place chicken bones.

  2. Place celery, carrots, and onion on top and around the sides of the chicken.

  3. Cover with water.

  4. Sprinkle in peppercorns and parsley

  5. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

  6. Once the broth begins to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

  7. Turn off heat and allow the broth to cool in the stockpot.

  8. When the broth is cooled remove the chicken bones.

  9. Pour the broth through a strainer to remove the vegetables and seasonings.

  10. Place broth is storage bags or containers.

  11. Use within 2-3 days or freeze for later use.

Recipe Notes

You may use a whole chicken if you wish and cook the meat right in the broth. You can then use the meat for other recipes. Keep in mind that the broth will be higher in salt and fat if the meat cooks within the broth.

Nutrition Facts No Added Salt Chicken Broth Amount Per Serving (1 cup) Calories 19 Calories from Fat 9 % Daily Value* Fat 1g2% Saturated Fat 1g6% Sodium 57mg2% Potassium 165mg5% Carbohydrates 4g1% Fiber 1g4% Sugar 2g2% Protein 1g2% Vitamin A 5185IU104% Vitamin C 3mg4% Calcium 33mg3% Iron 1mg6% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Items you may need to make homemade no added salt chicken broth (affiliate links)

Homemade chicken broth would be perfect in these recipes:

Chicken Noodle Soup

Minestrone Soup

Chicken Verde Chili

The best supermarket soups for winter

While fresh is always best, there is also a growing number of fresh soup options in the supermarket that tick a number of key nutritional boxes.

Not only is consuming vegetable/broth-based soup linked to both calorie and weight control, but soup is the ultimate nutritional boost especially when based on nutrient rich vegetables and good quality stock.

In an ideal world, we would all cook our own pot of delicious soup each week but the truth is that making a large batch of soup, which you do not always get around to eating, can be expensive and time consuming.

So, if you do need some quick and easy soup options to grab on the run, here is a summary of the different types, and some of the best choices nutritionally thanks to their vegetable, sugar, sodium and protein contents.


Packet soups or ‘Cup of Soups’ are the cheapest and most processed soups which simply require you to add water for a low calorie, powdered soup that is quite salty and does not offer much nutritionally.

The new La Zuppa range is significantly better from an ingredient perspective, but you would argue that in general packet soups are not an overly nutritious food option. In general anything with 600mg sodium or more per serve is high, and some varieties may also use MSG (621) as a flavour enhancer.

Packet soup from La Zuppa.Source:Supplied

La Zuppa Vegetable & Bean

Vegetable Broth (41.7%), Vegetables (43%), Legumes (6%), Chicken Stock, Water, Tomato Paste, Salt, Pepper

The breakdown: 65 calories;

Continental Sensations Roast Chicken

The breakdown: 98 calories; 1.6gm protein; 13gm carbs; 1.6gm sugars; 835 mg sodium.

Continental Italian Minestrone

The breakdown: 145 calories; 2.5gm protein; 31.2gm carbs; 8.0gm sugars; 815 mg sodium.


As a general rule, soups found in tetra packs tend to be better options nutritionally as they require fewer additives to keep them fresh and textured. Look for options that contain plenty of vegetables and less than 20g total carbs per serve or the soup becomes a meal.

Again be careful of the sodium amounts as these can be as high as 1300mg per serve or more than half your upper daily recommended limit.

The bowls in particular tend to have the highest levels of sodium and again, the fewer the ingredients, the better and La Zuppa Pouches (not bowls) which are also gluten free are the standout nutritionally.

McKenzie’s From the Kitchen tetra pack soup.Source:Supplied

La Zuppa Kale, Quinoa & Vegetable

Chicken Stock, Lentil, Onion (8%), Sweet Corn (5%), Kale (4%), Brown Rice, Quinoa, Herbs

The breakdown: 92 calories; 5.2gm protein; 12.2 gm carbs; 2.9gm sugars; 694 mg sodium.

Campbell’s Simply Soup Healthy Greens with Kale

The breakdown: 105 calories; 5.5gm protein; 13.9 gm carbs; 6.2gm sugars; 650 mg sodium.

McKenzie’s From the Kitchen Country Pumpkin & Lentil Soup

Vegetables (52%), Water, Sugar, Rice Flour, Salt, Vegetable Protein Extract, Curry Powder, Thickener, Black Pepper

The breakdown: 160 calories; 7.2gm protein; 26.4 gm carbs; 14gm sugars; 1320 mg sodium.

Heinz Soup of the Day 7 Veg with Garden Herbs

The breakdown: 97 calories; 2.4gm protein; 17.6gm carbs; 5.2gm sugars; 492mg sodium.

Campbell’s Chunky Beef

The breakdown: 227 calories; 15.4gm protein; 27.4gm carbs; 5.3gm sugars; 1264mg sodium.

La Zuppa Creamy Chicken & Vegetable Bowl

Chicken Stock (59%), Vegetables (37%), Chicken (4%)

The breakdown: 146 calories; 9.2gm protein; 20.2gm carbs; 0.8gm sugars; 1386mg sodium.


The nutritional quality of canned soups differs significantly with some containing plenty of sodium and fillers and others packed with high levels of protein (less than 10g) and vegetables so you are always best to go back to your labels. Canned foods will always contain more sodium than fresh foods.

This canned soup has more than 50 per cent veggies.Source:Supplied

Rosella Classic Australian Chicken and Vegetables

The breakdown: 107 calories; 5.8gm protein; 19gm carbs; 3.0gm sugars; 750mg sodium.

Heinz Chunky Beef

The breakdown: 144 calories; 11.1gm protein; 15.6gm carbs; 3.7gm sugars; 860mg sodium.

Campbell’s Roast Chicken & Winter Vegetable

The breakdown: 134 calories; 5.1gm protein; 19.2gm carbs; 4.7gm sugars; 602mg sodium.

Campbell’s Country Ladle Butternut Pumpkin

The breakdown: 99 calories; 3.3gm protein; 13.0gm carbs; 8.2gm sugars; 673mg sodium.

Campbell’s Café Chicken Mushroom

The breakdown: 134 calories; 7.0gm protein; 16.8gm carbs; 2.0gm sugars; 675mg sodium.


With the exception of the La Zuppa Tetra range, fresh soups tend to be the pick of the bunch for both clean ingredients and veggie content.

Check your labels though as a number have pasta and rice to bulk them up and you are always better to spend on vegetable and protein content rather than high carb options to get the most out of your soup.

Woolworths chicken & vegetable soup.Source:Supplied

Woolworths Home style Chicken & Vegetable

The breakdown: 152 calories; 12.9gm protein; 13.5gm carbs; 3.9gm sugars; 630mg sodium.

Pitango Pumpkin with Ginger

The breakdown: 94 calories; 3.0gm protein; 19.5gm carbs; 9.0gm sugars; 777mg sodium.

Darikay Chicken Noodle Soup

The breakdown: 91 calories; 9.1gm protein; 10.8gm carbs; 1.6gm sugars; 735mg sodium.

*A range of different soup flavours was randomly chosen for this comparison.

**Soups selected were sourced at local supermarkets.

***The author of this article is not affiliated with any of these products, nor was she paid by any of these companies for product review

We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on, or near) themselves with the help of an expert.

This edition: Campbell’s Chunky Sirloin Burger with Country Vegetables Soup, which is made from 17 separate ingredients, some of which have ingredients lists of their own, that we’ve broken down in the exact order they appear online.

The Ingredients

1) Water: This falls from the sky when it rains.

2) Carrots: Carrots are a particularly good source of beta carotene, an antioxidant your body converts into vision-boosting vitamin A.

3) Beef Stock: This imparts serious flavor and is made by simmering various parts of a cow, including the bones, in a mixture of spices and water.

4) Potatoes: When eaten with the skin on, potatoes are especially high in potassium, which promotes heart health.

5) Seasoned Beef Sirloin Burgers (Sirloin Beef, Reconstituted Onions, Potato Extract, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Flavoring, Mustard): Starting from the beginning, sirloin beef is taken from the back of the cow and is often considered to be a budget cut. Reconstituted onions, meanwhile, are just onions that have had the water removed, which increases their shelf life up to two years. Likewise, potato extract is simply a concentrated flavor enhancer.

Moving on to salt, which is abundant in this soup — one can contains 1,720 milligrams, which is close to what the American Heart Association recommends consuming in a whole day. Of course, too much salt is seriously bad for your health.

Monosodium glutamate, otherwise known as MSG, is a naturally occurring amino acid (one of the building blocks of protein) that’s added to foods as a savory flavor enhancer. Despite having a bad reputation for causing insatiable hunger, the food industry has no problem using it because it occurs in nature. While physician and biochemist Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, sort of agrees, there’s some room for worry. “Eating MSG without a high-protein ingredient in the food is a huge blast of MSG all at once, and some people are very sensitive to that,” she told me during my analysis of Doritos. “They’ll get headaches, and some people who get seizures say they’ll get a seizure aura .” Researchers, however, haven’t come to any decisive conclusions about the negative effects of MSG.

Flavoring is a broad term referring to any added flavor, natural or otherwise — the FDA allows manufacturers to use this term to protect their recipes. Speaking of flavor, mustard adds even more of it.

6) Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste): Again, more flavor. Also important to note: In some ways, tomato paste is healthier than uncooked tomatoes. To wit, a 2002 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that heating tomatoes, which is necessary when making tomato paste, increases their total antioxidant activity, namely one called lycopene — the consumption of which correlates with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.

7) Green Beans: These are a good choice for anyone watching their weight — one cup of raw green beans contains only 31 calories and virtually zero fat.

8) Peas: For such a tiny foodstuff, peas boast an impressive amount of fiber, which helps you poop.

9) Modified Food Starch: Often used as a thickening agent, modified food starch is extracted from the source — corn, potato, tapioca, rice or wheat — then treated physically, enzymatically or chemically to partially break down the starch.

10) Salt: As we already emphasized, this soup has way, way too much salt.

11) Wheat Flour: Another thickener.

12) Yeast Extract: Also known as autolyzed yeast, yeast extract results when yeast is broken down into its individual components, which include the flavor enhancer MSG. In simpler terms, this adds (yet again) more flavor.

13) Caramel Color: As we discovered in our exploration of the eight ingredients that make up Diet Coke, caramel coloring has an incredibly controversial byproduct called 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). A 2007 study found that mice fed a diet of 4-MEI developed cancerous lung tumors as a result. The FDA quickly pushed back, noting that a human would have to consume more than 1,000 cans of soft drinks (which are notoriously high in caramel coloring) every day for two years to reach comparable levels of 4-MEI.

Who’s right is still unclear.  More recent studies argue that levels of 4-MEI are, in fact, high enough in soda and consumed in sufficient quantities by Americans to increase the risk of developing cancer.

Do you really have to worry about this in your can of soup, though? Probably not.

14) Flavoring: Once more, this could be basically anything the imparts flavor.

15) Fermented Whey: This extends the soup’s shelf-life by preventing the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold. Fermented whey is also considered a better option than many other chemical preservatives.

16) Spice: Similar to “flavoring,” the FDA doesn’t require food labelers to list each spice by their specific name (as a means of protecting their recipes) so long as it follows their definition of the word spice:

“The term spice means any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onions, garlic and celery; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed.”

17) Onion Extract: Exactly what it sounds like — concentrated onion flavor.

The Takeaway

The good news is, there are plenty of healthy vegetables in this soup, which leads me to believe it’s a somewhat well-balanced meal. The big downsides, however, are the heaps of sodium, and the fact that red meat is terrible for your heart. The presence of MSG and caramel color is kinda worrying, but also not really.

All things considered, Campbell’s Chunky Soup is an okay choice if you find yourself in the occasional pinch come lunchtime, but maybe avoid salt altogether for the rest of the day. Er, make that the next few days.

Ian Lecklitner

Ian Lecklitner is a staff writer at MEL Magazine. He mostly writes about everyone’s favorite things: Sex, drugs and food.

Campbell’s Cuts MSG (and More) Out of Their Chicken Soup

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On Monday, Campbell’s Soup announced that they’re going to be eliminating 10 ingredients from their chicken broth in an effort to appeal to healthy eaters.

The catch: the new recipe will only roll-out in their Healthy Kids Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth, in the cans featuring Star Wars and Frozen characters, NPR reported. The company does not yet have plans to change their Classic Chicken Noodle.

For increasingly health-conscious consumers looking to “eat clean,” this is sure to be a welcome change. The new recipe will contain 20 ingredients (down from the original 30), many of which can be found in the average kitchen. Ingredients that got the boot include hard-to-pronounce flavorings and preservatives such as disodium insonitate and maltodextrin, as well as onions, vegetable oil, and celery (kids didn’t like the flavor, a spokesperson told the New York Times). Another notable loss is monosodium glutamate (you probably know it as MSG).

But just how different will the new soup taste?

“It’s a delicate balance because these products are beloved,” Charles Vila, vice president for consumer and customer insights at Campbell, explained to the Times. “Their profile has become very defined in the consumer mind over the years, so any change we make is very carefully considered.”


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How much salt is in that soup?

While soup makes a warming, convenient meal in winter, many varieties contain loads of salt. See just how much could be hiding in your favourite soup.

Soup is great for an easy lunch or dinner on a chilly day. While there are now many interesting and tasty varieties on offer, you need to choose wisely.

On the upside, soup can be filling and provide you with a serve or two of vegies. However, on the downside they can hide an enormous amount of salt if you’re not careful.

It pays to read the label carefully and check the serving size, as some tins or sachets of soup can actually hold more than one serve – which will have a big impact on how much salt you’re eating. To compare different soups on the shelves, use the ‘per 100g’ column on the nutrition information panel. You’ll find salt listed as sodium. A good choice will have 200-400kJ, less than 3g fat and less than 300mg sodium per 100g.

We’ve compared some popular varieties of soups (based on servings recommended on the pack) so you can see just how much salt you could be eating without realising.

Heinz Salt Reduced Big Red condensed tomato soup
270mg sodium per 210g serve
= 12% of your limit

La Zuppa carrot, coriander & ginger soup
1285mg sodium per 420g serve
= 56% of your limit

Campbell’s Country Ladle butternut pumpkin mug size
809mg sodium per 300g serve
= 35% of your limit

Pitango organic broccoli & blue cheese soup
56mg sodium per 300g serve
= 2% of your limit

Continental salt reduced chicken noodle simmer soup
390mg sodium per 250g serve
= 17% of your limit

La Zuppa traditional chicken & sweetcorn soup
618mg sodium per 270g serve
= 27% of your limit

Woolworths Select chicken & sweet corn heat and serve soup
1638mg sodium per 420g serve
= 71% of your limit

Trident Hot & Spicy Thai soup with noodles
1560mg sodium per 400g serve
= 68% of your limit

Continental Cup a Soup hearty vegetable and beef
795mg sodium per 250g serve
= 35% of your limit

Heinz Old Fashioned Chicken Soup of the Day
1250mg sodium per 430g serve
= 54% of your limit

Q: A can of soup is often my go-to lazy meal, especially in the dead of winter, but I’ve read that all canned soup is unhealthy—even the low-fat kind. Should I be worried?

A: The nation is wrestling with what will likely be the worst flu epidemic in a decade— it only makes sense that you’re hankering to stockpile chicken-noodle. But you also know that canned soups hang with the maligned packaged-processed-foods posse, so you’re conflicted. We get it.

Well, good news: Canned soups’ blanket bad rap is largely undeserved, says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., C.D.N., an adjunct nutrition professor at NYU. As with all packaged foods, you’ve just got to know what you’re up against—and eyeball labels carefully. So here, a few rules:

1. Watch the sodium—and fat. Canned soups can be sky-high in sodium, which, when overdone, can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. So opt for low-sodium soups whenever possible, says Dr. Young, and aim to not exceed 350 mg. (When soups boast added health benefits, including hefty vegetable portions, you can go up to 480mg, but add water before boiling to dilute.) Skip creamed soups, too, says Dr. Young, which are fats- and calorie-loaded, and opt for tomato- or vegetable-based broths. (Pro tip: If craving thickness, look for vegetable puree as an ingredient.)

2. Beware of BPA. Another strike against canned soup is its plastic linings, which may contain harmful Bisphenol A (BPA). The Environmental Working Group found that the toxin can leach from lining to food. Canned soups contained the highest levels, and can’t be rinsed before cooking. Barring this, try mixing it up with box soups (including Pacific or Trader Joe’s), frozen soups (including Tabatchnick), or BPA-free cans (including Amy’s Organic Soups).

3. Kick up the nutrition. When choosing a soup, pick one with the fewest ingredients and seek at least 3g of fiber and 5g of protein—your best bets are bean (lentil, white bean, split pea) and minestrone (Italian soup with veggies, beans, pasta, and herbs in veggie broth), says Dr. Young. From there, add frozen (make sure there’s only one ingredient) or fresh vegetables, including immune-boosting carrots and red bell peppers, and season with health-promoting spices, like oregano, basil, rosemary, pepper, or garlic.

So even if you adhere to these guidelines…how much canned soup is too much? It all depends on how heavy your overall diet is in sodium-laden processed foods, which contribute some 75 percent of the sodium in Americans’ diets. A presidential advisory published in AHA’s journal Circulation in November 2012, and based on a review of recent studies, recommends all Americans limit daily sodium to less than 1,500 mg—so go from there. Just remember, one teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium, and processed foods are typically already heavily salted.

MF EXPERT: Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., C.D.N. is an adjunct nutrition professor at NYU and author of The Portion Teller.

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ELI5: Why are most canned foods high in sodium? Doesn’t the canning process eliminate the need for preservatives?

Eh. Not entirely. A few things.

First, depending on the food we’re talking about, salt might be an inherent part of the process, either of canning in particular or just the food in general. Pickles? Olives? Gotta have salt. You just do. Salt is also a critical ingredient in any number of fermented foods, many of which are canned.

Second, salt is a flavor enhancer. Processed food manufacturers have tended to add loads of salt to a wide variety of foods for the better part of a century as a way of making their products tastier. Canned foods are hardly unique here.

Third, while canned vegetables are certainly saltier than their raw counterparts, they’re not necessarily as salty as you might think. One 30g slice of white bread has a little less than three times as much sodium as 28g of canned green beans.

Fourth, while canning certainly tends to kill biological organisms, it’s not magic. Some organisms are merely weakened. Some may even survive, though in small enough numbers that they can’t cause a problem if the food is eaten within a year or two. A little salt goes a long way towards ensuring that fewer bacteria survive, and those that do stay dormant.

But lastly, bacteria aren’t the only things that contribute to food spoilage. There are other chemical processes that have nothing to do with bacteria that can make food go bad, or at least lose quality over time. Discoloration comes immediately to mind, but that’s not the only thing. Flavors can change. Textures can break down. Foods can take on flavors from their containers. Salt creates an environment inhospitable to bacteria, to be sure, but it also tends to interfere with some of these other processes, making it useful as a preservative even in a largely sterile environment.

We Taste-Test the New Cup Noodles

For most people, Cup Noodles was always the salty, comforting, dead-easy dinner one could cook in a dorm room (or their first apartment, or their parent’s basement). It had a special place on the shelf, shining down in all its MSG-laden glory, waiting to be brought to life nothing more than boiling water.

For me, Cup Noodles was the “snack” I treated myself to after school from the ages of about eight to 11. I’d gulp it down while watching 30 minutes of television, then begrudgingly go off to start my homework, pleasantly full of brothy, noodle-y goodness. Therefore, when I heard the news that the 45-year-old recipe was changing for the first time ever, my childhood self was deeply concerned. The new recipe removes 15 to 20 percent of the sodium (depending on which flavor) and replaces artificial ingredients with things like turmeric, paprika and lime, leaving out the added MSG altogether.

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Nissin Foods USA, which makes Cup Noodles, says the change is because the brand is listening to customer feedback about dialing down the salt. This new look has lowered the sodium per serving from 60 percent of your daily allotted value to about 40.

But, do the noodles still taste as good? We had to find out.

After running to the nearest bodega and grabbing two $1 cups of the famous ramen, we at TT conducted a highly scientific, exhaustive set of taste tests, comparing the classic Cup Noodles recipe to the new “healthier” version. We have good news: A group of food-loving, flavor-obsessed TT editors could not tell the difference.

Yes, we spent our childhoods and college years enjoying the salty goodness of traditional Cup Noodles, but the new version brings back just as much nostalgia and comfort as the old. While the Internet may be abuzz with panic, we can safely say: Your favorite Cup Noodles is safe.

It’s worth noting, however, that this “healthier” version of the beloved ramen actually contains less protein and slightly more calories and carbs than the traditional version. So, is it really worth all the hype? You decide.

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