There’s nothing like a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup on a rainy day or when you’re feeling under the weather. The soup’s steam helps relieve congestion and the warm broth coats a sore throat, but whether that comforting chicken noodle soup is actually healthy depends on the ingredients in the bowl. If you make your own soup with fresh ingredients, you can have a chicken noodle soup full of flavor and nutrients.
While they may be convenient, canned varieties of chicken noodle soup are often extremely high in sodium and low in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. A typical 1/2-cup serving of condensed, canned chicken noodle soup can contain as much 890 milligrams of sodium. A 303-gram can has 2,139 milligrams of sodium. To put those numbers in perspective, the Institute of Medicine recommends most Americans have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium in an entire day. You should have no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day if you have high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes, or if you are African American or over 50.
Most chicken noodle soups are so high in sodium because salt is used for the primary flavor. To keep the sodium level down, flavor your soup with minced garlic, onion, parsley and bay leaf instead of all that salt. For a soup infused with Asian flavors, use soy sauce or ginger.
Those bland, tiny chunks of chicken in canned soups are not very nutritious, and they are hardly filling. For a hearty, heart-healthy source of protein, make your soup with boneless, skinless chicken; always trim away any fat on chicken you use in your chicken noodle soup to keep the fat content low. If you follow a vegetarian diet, you can still enjoy this classic soup with textured vegetable protein.
If you’re used to canned chicken noodle, you’re probably accustomed to either long, thin wheat-based noodles or thick, spiral egg noodles. When you cook your own soup, look for your favorite noodle in a high-fiber, whole-wheat variety fortified with vitamins and minerals. If you are on a gluten-free diet, try rice or shirataki noodles. Shirataki, made from tofu and yam flour, are popular for weight loss because they have only 20 calories or fewer per serving and have 2 grams of fiber per serving.
The vitamins and minerals vegetables provide are important in your daily diet, and especially when you’re fighting a cold. Celery and carrots are the two staple vegetables in most chicken noodle soups. Both veggies provide your body with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Celery is a great source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health. Carrots are high in vitamin A, which helps promote good vision and healthy skin and teeth. Add green pepper for a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that promotes wound healing.