Nutrition Action Healthletter
December 1997 — U.S. Edition

Who doesn't remember sitting to a steaming bowl of canned chicken noodle soup? Americans love their chicken noodle more than any other canned or dried soup. Tomato and cream of mushroom aren't far behind. And you can still buy the same old fatty and salty versions that will transport you back to your childhood.

But now there's a new generation of great-tasting soups that pose less of a threat to your blood pressure.

Salt Mines

For years, salt has been the Achilles heel of most prepared soups. Many of Campbell's traditional red-and-white label soups, for example, still supply more than 800 mg of sodium in a modest one-cup serving. That's a third of a day's sodium in a food that may only contain a twentieth of a day's calories.

And while it's possible to find lowsalt soups, their taste is often unusual, to put it kindly. What about a middle ground?

In 1993, the last time we rooted around in the soup aisle, we found only a smattering of cans and packages with enough taste to carry off their lower salt levels (300 to 500 mg per cup). Now there are dozens.

It's not just luck.

In 1994, the Food and Drug Administration decided that to be labeled "healthy," foods can't contain more than 480 mg of sodium per serving. That's 20 percent of the Daily Value. (Meal-type foods like frozen dinners can have more.)


Healthy Not By Choice

To keep the "healthy" in their names, brands like Healthy Choice and Campbell's Healthy Request had to keep the sodium down. And -- to maintain sales -- they had to keep the flavor up. So if you don't want a good-tasting soup at the expense of slowly rising blood pressure, just use the word "healthy" as a shortcut.

Unfortunately, you can't take a shortcut with Progresso's 99% Fat Free soups.
The sodium can run anywhere from 440 to 930 mg per cup, so you've got to stand in the aisle and check each "Nutrition Facts" label.

The good news is that many mid-salt soups get their richer flavor from a richer supply of real food, not salty water. That means you get a healthier soup, with more beans, pasta, or vegetables-and the fiber, vitamins, and minerals they bring.

The bad news is that for some categories, like vegetable and tomato, it's still tough to find a good-tasting midsalt soup. Here are the best-tasting soups we found, by category.

We tasted most Best Bites (no more than three grams of fat and 300 mg of sodium per serving, plus at least ten percent of the Daily Value for two or more of the following nutrients: fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, or calcium). We also sampled most Honorable Mentions (they could have up to 500 mg of sodium).

Health Valley's (vegetarian) dried Fat-Free! Healthy Chicken Flavored Noodles with Vegetables is awfully close to your grandmother's chicken soup. Ditto for Dr. McDougall's delicious (vegetarian) Baked-Not Fried Chicken Flavor Ramen Noodles in a cup. Though Ramen soups look harmless, most are salty and loaded with artery-clogging palm oil. To unearth one with just one gram of fat that's low enough in sodium for an "Honorable Mention" is a real find.

Shari's Organic Spicy French Green Lentil is for those who prefer exotic spices. Unfortunately, Health Valley's lentil soups are for those who prefer "off" flavors.

As for dried soups, if you like Indian spicing, pick up Fantastic Foods Couscous with Lentils or Safeway Enlighten Couscous Lentil.

Progresso 99% Fat Free Beef Barley is a nice variation on beef vegetable. With savory beef stock, carrots, tomatoes, and other vegetables, you won't notice that some of the salt is gone. And Healthy Choice Chili Beef tastes just like a spicy-but-not-too-hot chili should.

Health Valley dried Fat-Free! Healthy Pasta Italiano features al dente shells, red beans, and a delicious blend of vegetables and spices. The company's innovative dried Spicy Black Bean with Couscous is all you need for a quick, tasty lunch. And Dr. McDougall's Tortilla Soup with Baked Chips has a pleasing, savory mix of Mexican flavors.
The information from this article was compiled by Ingrid Van Tuinen and Wendy Meltzer.

Souper Duper

"Best Bites" have no more than three grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium in a one-cup (8-oz.) serving (for multiple serving containers) or for the hole package or can (for single-serving containers). If you eat more than half a multiple-serving can, don't forget to increase the numbers. Best Bites also contain at least ten percent of the Daily Value for at least ten percent for at least two of the following -- vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, or fiber. "Honorable Mentions" meet the same criteria, except that sodium can hit 500 mg. Products are ranked from least to most sodium.

Soups Calories Sodium (mg) Fiber (g)

Multi Serving Soups

Health Valley Organic

90 150 7

Taste Adventure Low Fat Minestrone

140 210 8

Health Valley Fat-Free

90 230 8

Pritikin Lentil or Split Pea

160 290 7

Health Valley Fat-Free! Healthy Pasta

110 290 4

Pritikin Hearty Vegetable, Minestrone, or Vegetarian Vegetable

90 290 3

Arrowhead Mills Red Lentil

100 320 3

Taste Adventure Low Fat Navy Bean

160 390 9

Healthy Choice Garden Vegetable, Minestrone, or Vegetable Garden

110 400 3

Healthy Choice Chicken Noodle, Chicken with Rice, Hearty Chicken, or Turkey with White & Wild Rice

120 410 1

Baxters 99% Fat Free Mediterranean Tomato or Onion

70 420 3

Shari's Organic

130 420 3

Healthy Choice Country Vegetable, Split Pea and Ham, or Vegetable Beef

130 420 2

Healthy Choice Bean and Ham, Chili Beef, or Lentil

160 430 6

Baxters 99% Fat Free Country Garden, ltalian Bean & Pasta, or Minestrone

80 430 4

Mayacamas Black Bean or Garden Pea, mix

60 450 3

Healthy Choice Cream of Mushroom

80 450 1

Healthy Choice Beef & Potato

120 450 0

Progresso 99% Fat Free Beef Barley or Lentil

140 460 5

Campbell's Healthy Request Bean with Ham & Bacon

150 480 7

Campbell's Healthy Request Southwestern Vegetable or Split Pea with Ham

160 480 5

Hain Healthy Naturals

120 480 4

Healthy Request Hearty Country Vegetable, Hearty Minestrone, Hearty Vegetable Beef, or Tomato Vegetable

120 480 3

Hain Home Style Naturals Chunky Tomato or Minestrone

120 480 3

Campbell's Healthy Request Hearty Chicken Noodle or Zesty Penne & Vegetables, or Creative Chef Tomato

120 480 2

Healthy Choice New England Clam Chowder

120 480 2

Campbell's Healthy Request Chicken with Rice

60 480 1

Campbell's Healthy Request New England Clam Chowder

120 480 1

Campbell's Healthy Request Chicken Noodle, Cream of Chicken, or Cream of Mushroom

270 480 0

Taste Adventure Low Fat Golden Pea or Sweet Corn Chowder

210 490 5

Westbrae Natural Fat Free

l90 580 7

Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion, mix

20 610 0

Progresso 99% Fat Free Chicken Noodle

90 620 1

Campbell's Baked 98% Fat Free Ramen, Chicken (package, not cup)

140 720 1

Lipton Noodle with Chicken Broth Soup Mix

60 720 0

Campbell's Tomato

100 730 2

Knorr Vegetable, mix

30 730 1

Progresso Lentil

140 750 7

Maruchan Ramen, Chicken

190 780 1

Campbell's 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom

70 830 0

Campbell's Cream of Mushroom

110 870 1

Campbell's Cream of Chicken

130 890 1

Nissin Top Ramen, Chicken

190 910 1

Campbell's Vegetable

80 920 2

Progresso Minestrone

120 960 5

Campbell's 98% Fat Free New England Clam Chowder (made with 2% fat milk)

150 970 1

Campbell's Chicken Noodle

70 980 1

Campbell's French Onion

70 980 1

Knorr French Onion, mix

45 980 0

Progresso New England Clam Chowder

200 1,050 2

Campbell's Cream of Mushroom (jar)

260 1,130 1

Soup Cups & Single-Serving Soups

Tabatchick No Salt Added

120 80 6

Campbell's Low Sodium Chicken with Noodles

170 120 2


140 140 5

Mrs. Manischwitz Black Bean

200 320 5

Health Valley Fat-Free! Healthy Soup in a Cup

220 380 6

Casbah Teapot Garden Couscous or Santa Fe Rice & Beans

200 440 8

Casbah Teapot Hearty Lentil or Vegetarian Chili

190 440 7

Nile Spice Lentil, Sweet Corn Chowder, or Tomato Herb

140 440 3

Casbah Teapot Minestrone or Split Pea

220 450 10

Casbah Teapot Chicken Noodle

130 450 1

Safeway Enlighten Black Bean or Couscous Lentil

190 460 12

Safeway Enlighten Tex-Mex Beans & Rice or Tomato Basil Pasta

170 460 5

Fantastic Foods Couscous with Lentils, Jumpin' Black Bean, Split Pea, or Vegetable Barley

200 470 7

Fantastic Foods Cha-Cha Chili, Country Lentil, or Five Bean

230 480 12

Dr. McDougall's Split Pea with Barley

200 480 9

Dr. McDougall's Minestrone & Pasta or Tortilla Soup with Baked Chips

180 480 5

Dr. McDougall's Baked-Not Fried Ramen Noodles

140 480 2

Fantastic Foods Creamy Broccoli & Cheddar, Minestrone, Vegetable Curry Ramen Noodles, or Vegetable Tomato Ramen Noodles

140 490 3

Lipton Cup-a-Soup, Tomato

100 510 1

Lipton Cup-a-Soup, Chicken Noodle

50 540 0

Spice Hunter

140 640 1

Knorr Chicken Vegetable

120 860 1

Knorr Potato Leek

130 920 1

Best Bite Honorable Mention

The use of information from this article for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without written permission from CSPI.

Source: Manufacturers

[ Nutrition Action Healthletter] [CSPI U.S.] Nutrition Action Healthletter