Canned Vs. Homemade Soup: What Are the Pros and Cons?

Learn how ingredients, like sodium, shape the health impact of canned soup as we explore the interconnected elements affecting overall well-being.

Perrin Braun
By Perrin Braun
Lucia Gcingca
Edited by Lucia Gcingca

Published March 6, 2024.

A couple of bowls of soup on top of a wooden table.

Whether you enjoy a hot bowl of soup in the winter or a cool soup on a summer night, many people open a can of soup for a quick meal when they’re in a hurry.

But how nutritious is that canned soup? Let's find out.

Canned soup nutrition facts

The nutrient value of canned soups varies depending on the type of soup and the way it is made. Canned soups do contain some vitamins and some fiber. While processing may remove some nutrients, such as water-soluble vitamins, other nutrients, such as fiber, may become easier to digest and absorb. However, the skins of many soup vegetables are naturally high in fiber but are often removed during the canning process.

What's more canned soup nutrition labels typically show the amount of nutrients in a one-cup serving, but many people eat twice that much soup in a meal. Here are some ingredients to watch out for in canned soup.

Sodium in canned soup

Manufacturers add sodium as a preservative and flavor enhancer. While sodium is an important mineral that helps maintain a proper fluid balance in your body, many people consume too much salt in their diets. Sodium overload may make you feel bloated because your body retains excess fluid.

That’s uncomfortable, but there may also be more serious consequences: your kidneys may retain water, which can result in increased blood pressure, a greater likelihood of strokes, and a higher risk of heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that people should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. [1]

The healthiest soups contain 360–600 milligrams of sodium per serving, but one cup of canned soup can contain 800 or more milligrams of sodium! Since a typical can hold at least two cups, a bowl of soup may pack a day’s worth of salt.

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Saturated fat in canned soup

A one-cup serving of a cream-based canned soup may contain 7 grams of fat, and fat may account for more than half the calories in the soup. Worse yet, the fat in these soups tends to be saturated fat, which is known to raise total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.

Bisphenol A (or BPA)

This is a component of the liner used in some cans. This chemical has been associated with reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of certain cancers. BPA can leech from the liner into the food. A test of canned foods (including soups) found that almost all name-brand foods contained some BPA.

How can I make canned soup healthier?

If you love the convenience of canned soup, here are a few ways to spice up the nutritional value of your quick meal:

  • Choose healthier options. Look for low-sodium, low-fat, organic soups featuring beans, vegetables, and lean protein that provide at least 10% of your daily fiber.
  • Add fresh or frozen vegetables to increase the fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If you use frozen vegetables, choose plain varieties without salt, preservatives, or sauce.
  • Toss in spices instead of salt to punch up the flavor of low-sodium soups without increasing the salt content.
  • Look for cans labeled “BPA-free.” Steel bottles or cans generally don’t contain BPA, while aluminum cans and bottles do. You can tell if a can is steel or aluminum by looking at the can’s label. The labels are typically glued onto steel cans, but the labels on aluminum cans are sprayed on most of the time.

Note: Because there are so many different types of soup, the calorie and nutrition content can vary tremendously. Be sure to scan the nutrition label for more information.

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What are the benefits of homemade soup?

Making your own soup takes time, but it gives you complete control over the ingredients and how you prepare them. Homemade soup can also save you money compared to canned soup. Cook a large batch of soup, then freeze small portions for meals that you can heat quickly.

Some healthy soups to cook for yourself include chicken soup (everyone’s favorite!), minestrone, cabbage, Tuscan bean, and borscht (which is beet soup). Any combination of vegetables and lean protein (think chicken breast or beans) can go a long way to helping you create a healthy soup!

To help you decide which soup to make, look at the InsideTracker's Nutrition page for foods that will help you optimize your out-of-range biomarkers and add those foods to your soups. Or check out the suggested soups on your Food Basket page.

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Try these tips to  make your soup even healthier:

  • Add fiber: It slows the absorption of sugar into the blood, improves your digestion, and makes you feel satisfied for longer, which is great for weight loss. Fresh vegetables and beans are great sources of fiber.
  • Use unprocessed whole foods, especially vegetables, beans, and grains, for the most vitamins and minerals. 
  • Skip the salt. Lemon juice and vinegar will brighten the flavor of your soup without adding sodium. Herbs add flavor, antioxidants, and vitamins.
  • Choose broth instead of cream for less fat. Broth-based soups are typically much lower in fat, but if you still love the taste of “creamy” soup, there are several healthy alternatives.

Add extra pureed vegetables, such as potatoes, squash, and beets, to the broth. Evaporated milk and even low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt are also great substitutes for cream.

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Healthy homemade soup is your safest bet

While canned soups can be a convenient meal option, it's important to be mindful of their nutritional aspects. Making healthier choices by selecting low-sodium, low-fat, and organic options, adding fresh or frozen vegetables, and opting for BPA-free cans can enhance the nutritional quality of canned soups.

On the other hand, preparing homemade soups allows for complete control over ingredients. This makes homemade soup a healthier option, ensuring your soup consumption aligns with your nutritional goals and dietary preferences.