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Sorting out the soups.

Sorting Out the Soups

You've got to admire soup manufacturers. Anyone who can turn a little water, salt, fat, and bits of this or that into a $2.4 billion-a-year industry must be doing something right.

Right for their shareholders, that is.

So don't expect to open a can or envelope and find anything remotely resembling a Roman's vegetable-filled zuppa or a Muscovite's hearty sup.

More likely, the next time you slip your spoon into a bowl of "Hearty Original Lite Creamy Country-Style Homemade Chunky Soup with Real Whatever," you could end up with a lot more salt and fat than you think.

IT'S SO(DIUM) SAD

Most soups are brimming with sodium. The problem so embarrassed the industry leader, Campbell Soup Co., that several years ago it quietly shrunk the serving size on its condensed soups from 10 oz. to 8 oz. Poof! With one change of the label, sodium levels seemed to drop by 20 percent.

Thanks a lot!

(In comparing soup against soup, we've used a 10-oz. serving, which is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture tells us is an average portion. Keep in mind that some dry packaged soups make only 6 to 8 oz.)

In response to complaints by consumer groups like CSPI, some companies have expanded their "low-sodium" lines. (A "low-sodium" soup can have no more than 140 milligrams per serving.)

And, to its credit, Campbell created a line of "Special Request" soups with one-third less sodium than usual.

Just remember that "one-third less" can still be rather salty. The average "Special Request" soup has 647 mg per 10-oz. serving. That's less than the 1,047 mg you get in the average Campbell's regular red-and-white can. But it's still more than the 500-mg allowance recently recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for an entire day!

Except for Campbell, most of the Big Salties don't volunteer sodium content, which can be quite high. A few "Salt-Cellar Specials" like Nissin Oodles of Noodles Pork or Cup of Noodles Chicken pack more than 2,000 mg (a teaspoon's-worth) of sodium into ten ounces.

CUP-A-FAT

Fat can be a problem, particularly if you go for creamy or chunky soups.

Campbell's Chunky Creamy Chicken Mushroom hits the scales at a hefty 24 grams of fat--5 1/2 teaspoons of grease in just over a cup of soup.

The just-add-water-to-make-a-cup-full-of-noodles soup also tend to be fatty. Top sellers like Oodles of Noodles, Top Ramen, and Cup O'Noodles (all made by Nissin) average anywhere from 18 to 20 grams (4 to 4 1/2 teaspoons) per 10-oz. serving.

Fantastic Foods Fantastic noodles have about half that much, while Nile Spice Golden Couscous Soups have as little as one gram of fat per serving.

DON'T SNEEZE

Soups with carrot bits are high in vitamin A; tomato soups are often fortified with vitamin C; and meat, bean, and noodle soups can have respectable amounts of protein and some B-vitamins.

Also, any soup that has a good supply of beans, chickpeas, or lentils should be a source of soluble and insoluble fiber. And that's nothing to sneeze at, since a half cup of beans appears to have the same cholesterol-lowering effect as a bowl of oatmeal or oat bran.

BEST BITES

After wading through nutrition information for more than 200 soups, we found 24 that met our criteria for a 10-oz. serving: * 300 mg of sodium or less * 5 grams of fat or less * At least 10 percent of the USRDA for three or more vitamins or minerals.

Nine are made by Health Valley, eight by Pritikin, four by Hain, and three by Campbell. Most negotiate the lack of fat and salt by adding an extra dose of herbs, spices, and "natural flavorings"--with mixed success.

Our CSPI taste-testers agreed that low-fat, low-sodium soups take a little getting used to.

Hain Pea No Salt Added, Health Valley Vegetable No Salt Added, and Pritikin Manhattan Clam Chowder all had "off" flavors.

Top-taste honors went to Pritikin Split Pea, Pritikin Tomato, Campbell's Low Sodium Tomato, and Health Valley Black Bean No Salt Added.

PHOTO : Many soups are fatty and/or salty.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Dec 1, 1989
Words:687
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