Tomato soup is a comfort food enjoyed all over the world. The combination of tomatoes, broth, cream or milk, and basil makes a hearty, flavorful soup. But is this classic soup actually good for you? Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients.
Tomatoes are the star of tomato soup. One cup of tomato juice provides:
- 42 calories
- 9 grams of carbohydrates
- 2 grams of protein
- 1 gram of fiber
- 12% DV of vitamin C
- 12% DV of vitamin A
- 8% DV of potassium
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their red color. Lycopene has been linked to heart health and cancer prevention. The cooking process actually increases the bioavailability of lycopene in tomatoes. This means the lycopene in tomato soup is more easily absorbed by the body than raw tomatoes.
Many tomato soup recipes call for chicken or vegetable broth. One cup of chicken broth contains:
- 46 calories
- 0 grams of fat
- 5 grams of carbohydrates
- 4 grams of protein
- 972 mg of sodium
Broth provides depth of flavor to tomato soup. It also contributes nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. Sodium content can vary widely based on whether the broth is homemade or store-bought. Low sodium options are available for those limiting their salt intake.
Milk or Cream
Adding dairy to tomato soup balances the acidity of the tomatoes. It also gives the soup a velvety texture. One cup of whole milk contains:
- 150 calories
- 8 grams of fat
- 12 grams of carbohydrates
- 8 grams of protein
- 299 mg of calcium
- 349 mg of potassium
- 24% DV of vitamin D
Milk provides protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Heavy cream has more calories and fat than milk but adds richer flavor. Low fat milk or cream may be substituted to reduce the calorie and fat content. Those who are lactose intolerant can use lactose-free milk or non-dairy milks like almond or soy milk.
Fresh basil is the finishing touch that really brings tomato soup to life. Basil contains:
- 3 calories per 5 leaves
- 0 grams of fat
- 0 grams of protein
- Vitamin K
- Flavonoids like orientin and vicenin
In addition to flavor, basil provides vitamin K and plant compounds with antioxidant properties. Using fresh basil will provide the most flavor and nutrition. Dry basil may also be used.
Here is the nutrition information for 1 cup of tomato soup made with tomatoes, chicken broth, milk, and fresh basil:
|Amount Per Serving|
|Total Fat: 8g|
|Saturated Fat: 4g|
|Total Carbohydrate: 26g|
|Dietary Fiber: 3g|
|Vitamin A: 15% DV|
|Vitamin C: 27% DV|
|Calcium: 30% DV|
|Iron: 10% DV|
As you can see, one serving provides nearly a third of the Daily Value for vitamin C and calcium. It also supplies vitamin A, iron, and fiber. The sodium is a bit high, provided mostly by the broth.
Low Sodium Variation
To reduce the sodium content, you can use reduced sodium broth or add water to dilute the broth. This will lower the sodium per serving to around 400-600 mg.
Benefits of Tomato Soup
Enjoying tomato soup in moderation can provide the following benefits:
- Provides hydration from the tomato juice and broth
- Excellent source of antioxidant lycopene from tomatoes
- Supplies vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A
- Contains calcium, protein, and other nutrients from milk/cream
- Low calories and fat compared to cream-based soups
- Warming and comforting on cold days
- Basil adds fresh flavor and vitamin K
The vitamin C, lycopene, vitamin A, and flavonoids act as antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to cells. The potassium and calcium support bone health. Protein is important for muscle repair and immunity.
There are a few potential downsides to keep in mind with tomato soup:
- Can be high in sodium, especially with store-bought broths
- Contains saturated fat from cream or whole milk
- Some variations may be high in calories if heavy cream is added
- May cause acid reflux in those with GERD due to acidity of tomatoes
- Contains histamines and FODMAPs if using onions/garlic as aromatics
The high sodium broths and potential for high calories are the main diet negatives with this soup. Those with reflux issues may need to balance it with non-acidic foods. Onions and garlic can exacerbate digestive issues for some people.
Tips for the Healthiest Tomato Soup
Here are some tips for lightening up tomato soup:
- Use reduced sodium broth or dilute with water
- Use 2% or skim milk instead of heavy cream
- Limit added oils or butter
- Go easy on salty crackers or croutons as garnish
- Use onion and garlic infused oils instead of sautéed
- Add white beans or chickpeas for extra protein and fiber
- Serve with whole grain bread or rolls
- Garnish with fresh basil, parsley, or dill
- Make your own broth using tomato scraps and aromatics
With some simple ingredient swaps and additions, tomato soup can be quite healthy. It provides antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from whole food ingredients.
Here are some delicious ways to enjoy tomato soup:
- Pair with a grilled cheese sandwich made with whole grain bread and low fat cheese
- Drizzle with pesto and top with roasted cherry tomatoes
- Serve with a turkey and avocado sandwich
- Add some protein like grilled shrimp or chickpeas
- Garnish with Parmesan crisps
- Add a side salad with leafy greens, cucumbers, and balsamic vinaigrette
- Make it a meal with a whole grain baguette
Bowls of tomato soup can be rounded into a hearty, nutritious meal by adding whole grains, protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. This boosts the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and satisfaction.
Tomato soup made with fresh ingredients like tomatoes, milk or cream, broth, and basil can be a nutritious choice. Tomatoes provide the antioxidant lycopene, vitamin C, and potassium. Milk or cream contributes protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Broth adds depth of flavor. Basil gives a fresh hit of flavor along with vitamin K.
Potential downsides include high sodium and saturated fat, depending on the specific ingredients used. Choosing low sodium broth, using mainly tomatoes and limiting cream, and adding beans, vegetables, or whole grains can help create a healthy, balanced tomato basil soup. With some adjustments, tomato soup can be an excellent way to warm up on cold days while providing key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.