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AICR HealthTalk

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Does soup really help you lose weight?


A: Some research suggests that starting a meal with soup may help fill you up enough to reduce the calories you consume at the rest of the meal without setting you up to overeat later. For this to work, the soup needs to be broth- or vegetable-based, not a high-calorie cheesy or creamy soup. You are more likely to be successful with this strategy if the foods you eat following the soup are served in smaller portions than your usual amounts, because often overeating is not due to unsatisfied hunger, but a response to big portions.

You can also use soup as a weight-loss aid by making soup your whole meal. Be sure to include beans, chicken, fish or other lean protein along with a bevy of low-calorie vegetables, and perhaps a whole grain like brown rice, farro or whole-wheat pasta.

For overall health, keep in mind that commercial soup can be very high in sodium, often with 500 to 900 milligrams (mg) per one-cup serving. That’s a lot of sodium in just one food, since the suggested maximum is 1500 to 2300 mg of sodium for a whole day. Reduced-sodium versions are lower than a “standard” product, but they often contain at least 400 to 600 mg per cup, which is definitely not low-sodium.

Instead, you can purchase soups labeled “low sodium:” these have no more than 140 mg of sodium per one-cup serving. You can also make your own soup, using commercial low-sodium broth, no-added-salt tomatoes or water as a convenient shortcut. Smart use of soup can help you eat more nutrient-rich vegetables and cut calories without going hungry; make it a three-way win by also taking steps to avoid sodium overload.

Try our Health e-Recipe for Sweet Potato Bean Soup. 

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).

Published on 02/02/2015

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