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Healthy Recipe Doctor

with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Elaine Magee's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Friday, March 12, 2010

High Sodium Soups with Low Sodium Labels

Would you like a little soup with your salt?

The sodium in canned and instant soups is simply shocking, even to those who aren’t registered dietitians. Recently I scanned the soup section at the supermarket looking for a soup with fiber, vegetables, and a reasonable amount of sodium. I thought surely there were a few brands that had some healthful alternatives.

Every single brand had at least 400 milligrams of sodium PER CUP. And since most people sit down to a bowl of soup filled with 2 cups of soup, the sodium you are getting is actually double this amount. Even the “reduced sodium” soups had more than 400 milligrams per cup. They get away with this because these amounts are 25% to 30% less than their traditional soup line – which tells you how high the regular soups are in sodium.

Progresso, for example, has a few choices in their Reduced Sodium line with impressive amounts of fiber, but the sodium is still too high! Here’s the breakdown:

  • Progresso Reduced Sodium Garden Vegetable (per cup): 100 calories, 450mg sodium, 3g fiber, 3g protein
  • Progresso Reduced Sodium Minestrone (per cup): 120 calories, 470mg sodium, 4g fiber, 5g protein

If you think some of the other soup brands are any better, think again. Campbell’s Healthy Request Minestrone has more than 400 milligrams of sodium per cup too (80 calories, 410mg sodium, 3g fiber, 3g protein). And Amy’s brand (known for organic options) is even worse. Amy’s Minestrone (per cup) contains 90 calories, 580mg sodium, 3g fiber, and 3g protein. If you’re able to find their “Light in Sodium” line with 50% less sodium, the numbers creep down to 290 to 340 mgs of sodium a cup.

Amy’s Light in Sodium:

  • Organic Minestrone (per cup): 290 milligrams
  • Organic Lentil Vegetable (per cup): 340 milligrams
  • Organic Butternut Squash (per cup): 290 milligrams

Does anyone make a soup with less than 200 mgs per cup? Guess which company makes the lowest sodium soups I could find? This might surprise you, but it looks like Campbell’s is one of the only companies truly making “Low Sodium” soups with their Campbell’s Low Sodium line of soups. Admittedly, these products are hard to find but here are a few flavors to be on the lookout for:

  • Campbell’s Low Sodium Chicken with Noodles (per can or container): 160 calories, 140 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 12 g protein.
  • Campbell’s Low Sodium Tomato with Tomato Pieces Soup (per can or container): 150 calories, 90 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 4 g protein.
  • Campbell’s Low Sodium Split Pea Soup (per can or container): 240 calories, 30 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 12 g protein

I haven’t found them where I live so I can’t tell you how they taste. Keep in mind that if you’re used to eating foods or soups with a significant amount of sodium, something low in sodium might initially taste very bland to you. It takes about 6 weeks to dial down your sodium taste threshold – so that foods that initially tasted bland will taste better to you.

If you have found a line of lower sodium soups that you really like, tell us about it!

Comment on this post and ask your questions on the Food and Cooking Exchange.

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 12:25 pm

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