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Soup’s On – But is it good for you?

Cooler temperatures bring nostalgic thoughts of hot, steaming bowls of soup.

Broth – made from bones, meat or fish scraps, and vegetables – has historically been an important part of the diets of many cultures. Valuable nutrients were coaxed out of the ingredients with long, slow cooking, and broth formed the basis for soups and sauces.

Soup's on - But is it good for you? Watch out for the "terrible trio" of ingredients that can wreak havoc on your soup!

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It was a convenience food of sorts, readily available and satisfying; it could also be condensed, carried on trips, and reconstituted as needed.

The book Nourishing Broth is both a historical account and recipe guide to understanding and using this ancient food. The authors, Sally Fallon Morrell and Kaayla T. Daniel, explain why the components of bone broth have a long history of maintaining and restoring healthy bodies. This includes:

  • Gelatin-rich collagen that keeps our skin soft and supple
  • Cartilage and glucosamine to cushion our joints
  • Minerals essential for all life processes
  • Regenerative bone marrow to nourish our brains and other organs
  • Amino acids that restore and rebuild tissue as well as help detoxify the body

Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallen MorellBut the discovery of MSG (monosodium glutamate, Accent) changed the way soup was made. Restaurants were now able to create soups with soup “bases” which provided the flavor that once came from real food, and today it’s hard to find a prepared soup or gravy that does not take this unfortunate shortcut. Even soups that are considered healthy or natural, or that do not appear to contain MSG, often do.

Home cooks were led to believe that bouillon cubes containing MSG were a suitable option, and were unaware of the serious health issues that would be linked to this additive, including brain lesions, nervous system damage, and obesity.

(Note: Glutamic acid occurs naturally in many foods, but it is “bound” to those foods and does not cause the health problems that come from glutamic acid when it is in a “free” form, as with MSG. The chemical must be in a free state or it would not work as a flavor enhancer.)

As consumers got wise to the many harmful effects of MSG, food manufacturers found ways to get around this by using MSG “cousins” that sound harmless but have the same effect as MSG.

Some of the many names used to disguise this additive include: Autolyzed Yeast, Flavorings, Hydrolyzed Protein, Natural Flavor, Soy Protein Isolate, Textured Vegetable Protein, and Yeast Extract or just Yeast. Some foods that contain MSG make claims of “No MSG” on their labels.

In addition to MSG, corn syrup and salt round out the terrible trio

Soup giant Campbell’s has announced many changes to appeal to the more discerning shopper. They are “moving away” from using high fructose corn syrup in some of their products, but this may be difficult if they take it out of their Healthy Request Tomato Soup since the sweetener is a major ingredient.

Campbell’s advertises many of their soups as free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. But inside those cans are MSG-type additives, genetically-modified soybeans, corn and sugar, plus the BPA coating on the inside of the can.

Salt is a low-cost additive that helps obscure the lack of real food, and the high amounts of sodium make it easy for a soup-lover to exceed the daily recommended limit of 2300mg for an adult.

Healthy Soup Options

Finding a really natural prepared soup is difficult, but Amy’s is a readily-available brand that is actually free of the worst offenders.

Costco’s Kirkland brand Organic Chicken Stock is a great option at a good price. Heat it up and add cooked pasta or rice, leftover chicken, plus frozen or leftover vegetables and season with a reasonable amount of salt for a satisfying meal.

To make a thick soup, start with a roux made from equal amounts of melted butter and flour, then add the broth and whisk to create a smooth consistency. Add vegetables and meat or seafood, plus some organic frozen corn to provide sweetness. Soup can also be thickened by cooking diced potatoes and adding them to the broth, then mashing the potato or using a “bullet” blender to puree the mixture.

As more people rediscover the value of old fashioned broth, but are not able to devote the time required to make it from scratch, new business have been created to provide it. Most of the products are sold in jars, but one company has created a powdered version which promises the many benefits of old fashioned broth but in a form that is simple to use: Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein.

Fall is certainly soup season – but even home chefs should cook with caution! Do you have a favorite made-from-scratch soup recipe to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Jane Hersey

Jane Hersey

Jane Hersey is the National Director of the Feingold Association of the United States and the author of Why Can’t My Child Behave? A former teacher and Head Start consultant, she has testified before the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Congress about diet and behavior. She frequently lectures at education associations, hospitals, medical groups, universities, and schools.
Jane Hersey

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