Canned soups are a lifesaver when you’ve worked late, have an empty fridge because you haven’t had time to grocery shop in nine days, or find yourself in the middle of a snow day and have no motivation to cook or trek to the store.
Despite their convenience, processed and prepared meals like store-bought soup can contain a hefty amount of sodium and saturated fat.
If this trudge-through-the-door-and-heat-up-tomato-soup routine is part if your regular schedule, that high sodium content could start to chip away at your heart health. Here’s how to pick healthier options in the first place so you can feel good about your soup habit.
1. First things first: Keep sodium under 480 mg per serving. Food companies use salt for taste because processing dulls a lot of the yummy flavors of the soup’s ingredients, like celery and parsley. Sodium also extends a soup’s shelf life, which is great for your pantry but not so much for your arteries. A high-sodium diet can raise blood pressure and lead to hypertension or heart disease. (Learn more about preventing hypertension and what heart disease is here.)
2. Choose soup with under 6.5 g total fat per serving. Chowders are an obvious offender here, as they tend to be heavy, thick, and creamy. For example, one serving of a potato and ham chowder from a can contains 11 g of fat. For a typical 2000-calorie diet, that’s actually your entire daily recommended limit of saturated fat, all in one meal. Enjoy these rich soups in moderation and choose lighter, tomato- or broth-based soups for everyday slurping.
3. Load up on nutrients. The ideal soup offers 10 percent or more of your daily recommended value of at least one of these beneficial nutrients: fiber, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, or vitamin C. That means you’re getting more than just calories from your quickie dinner. Oh, and if you have time, why not add extra veggies to your pot of soup at home? It’s a great way to use leftover produce in the fridge before it goes bad, and it will bump up your intake of vitamins and minerals even more.
4. Choose lean protein. Whenever possible, choose beans, fish, and chicken instead of beef, as recommended by the American Heart Association. Red meat like beef, pork, and lamb are higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, which is bad news for the heart. Fish offers omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit heart health, and beans and legumes are full of fiber and have zero cholesterol.