Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Tomato Soup Bad For You?



Short answer

Tomato soup can be both beneficial and potentially harmful, depending on its ingredients. Homemade varieties with fresh ingredients and controlled sodium are healthiest, offering vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like lycopene. Conversely, store-bought soups often have high sodium and added sugars, which may negatively affect health. Balance and label scrutiny are key to enjoying the benefits of tomato soup without the downsides.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Tomato Soup

When considering whether tomato soup is a friend or foe to our bodies, we must delve into the nitty-gritty of its nutritional profile. As a popular meal option, tomato soup can harbor a range of benefits and drawbacks, depending on its ingredients and preparation method.

Let's break down the primary components found in a typical serving of tomato soup:

  • Calories: Homemade tomato soup typically ranges from 75 to 170 calories per 1-cup (240-ml) serving. However, cream-based or store-bought varieties can escalate in caloric content.
  • Protein: This warm dish usually supplies a modest amount of protein; homemade recipes may contain about 2-5 grams per serving.
  • Fats: The fat content can vary significantly. Traditional tomato soup might have as little as 1 gram of fat, but recipes that include cream or cheese can have 10 grams or more.
  • Carbohydrates: Tomatoes are a natural source of sugars and fiber. A serving may typically contain 13-20 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Fiber: Essential for digestive health, tomato soup can offer between 1-4 grams per serving, predominantly in homemade or high-quality store brands.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Rich in vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin K1, tomato soup can contribute significantly to daily micronutrient intake.

Beyond these broad strokes, the vitamin and mineral content deserves a closer look:

Nutrient Amount per 1-cup serving (approximate)
Vitamin C 15 - 20 mg (20-25% of the RDI)
Potassium 400 - 550 mg (around 10% of the RDI)
Vitamin K1 10 - 15 mcg (roughly 10-15% of the RDI)
Vitamin A 10% of the RDI (in the form of provitamin A like beta-carotene)
Vitamin E 10% of the RDI (antioxidant benefits)

However, it's also important to consider additives and salts that are often present, particularly in canned or processed tomato soups. Commercial varieties might be rich in:

  • Sodium: Some canned tomato soups contain upwards of 700 mg of sodium per serving, which can quickly approach the American Heart Association's recommended daily limit of 2,300 mg, potentially impacting cardiovascular health negatively.
  • Sugars: Certain brands add sugar to enhance flavor, which can increase the carbohydrate content and thus the caloric value.
  • Artificial Additives: Preservatives, colorants, and flavor enhancers may be included to lengthen shelf life and improve taste, which can sometimes undermine the soup's health profile.

As with many foods, the key to tomato soup's healthfulness lies within its label or recipe. Homemade tomato soups that feature fresh ingredients and minimal salt are typically the healthiest choice. On the contrary, pre-made soups risk straying into less wholesome territory with additives and excess sodium. Referring to a robust study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reveals that regular consumption of high-sodium soups can lead to higher blood pressure levels, highlighting the importance of a careful selection.

An analysis of the nutritional content of tomato soup paints a complex picture. Rich in essential vitamins and minerals, it can offer dietary advantages, particularly when made from scratch with an eye on sodium and fat content. Mindful consumption aligns with health expert recommendations, suggesting that balance and awareness in choosing or preparing your tomato soup are fundamental for harnessing its nutritional potency without overstepping into unwanted health territories.

Hidden Sugars and Sodium in Store-Bought Tomato Soups

Tomato soup can be a comforting and nutritious option, loaded with the antioxidant lycopene and vitamin C. However, store-bought varieties may harbor some less desirable ingredients, such as high levels of added sugars and sodium. When purchasing these options, it's critical to understand how these additives can affect your overall health.

Added Sugars: While tomatoes naturally contain sugar, processed soups often include additional sugar to enhance flavor, leading to potentially excessive intake. Excess sugar consumption has been linked to a range of health issues, including an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

  • A study conducted by the American Heart Association suggests that women limit their added sugar intake to 25 grams per day and men to 36 grams. Yet, some tomato soup products can contain over 10 grams of sugar per serving.
  • To identify added sugars, scan the ingredient list for terms like 'sucrose', 'high-fructose corn syrup', or 'cane sugar'.

Sodium Content: Sodium is another common addition to packaged foods, acting as both a preservative and flavor enhancer. Consuming high levels of sodium can lead to increased blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, an amount many store-bought tomato soups can approach or exceed in just one serving.

  • A comparison study highlighted by the CDC showed that an average cup of canned tomato soup could contain between 400 to 700 milligrams of sodium, not accounting for any added table salt or sodium-rich accompaniments like crackers or grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • Reading nutrition labels is crucial—look for low-sodium or no-salt-added variants when available.

Analyzing store-bought tomato soups requires a vigilant eye on labels to ensure that the warmth and comfort it promises doesn't come with unwelcome dietary consequences. By choosing brands with lower sugar and sodium content, or by making your own soup at home, you can enjoy this classic dish more healthily.

For added health benefits, consider recipes that feature fresh tomatoes and spices, or check for 'heart-healthy' labels which often indicate lower levels of sugar and sodium. Making informed choices can help you enjoy tomato soup's benefits without the negative impacts of hidden sugars and sodium.

The Benefits of Lycopene in Tomatoes

Lycopene is a naturally occurring compound that gives tomatoes their vibrant red color and is known for its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are important as they protect the body's cells from damage by free radicals, which are potentially harmful molecules that can contribute to the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Here we'll delve into the benefits of lycopene found in tomatoes, which are often a key ingredient in tomato soup.

Antioxidant Protection: Lycopene is a potent antioxidant. Studies suggest that it can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology indicated that higher lycopene intake was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. 1

Cardiovascular Health: Lycopene may also have positive effects on heart health. Research has shown that a higher intake of lycopene-rich foods can result in a decrease in LDL cholesterol (often referred to as "bad" cholesterol) and an increase in HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol), potentially leading to a reduced risk of cardiovascular events. For example, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition noted a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol among participants with higher lycopene intake. 2

Eye Health: The antioxidant properties of lycopene extend to the protection of eye health, possibly reducing the risk of macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of vision loss. A study from the Archives of Ophthalmology found that higher plasma levels of lycopene were associated with a lower risk of macular degeneration. 3

Protection Against Sunburn: Interestingly, lycopene may also offer some protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays, which can lead to sunburn and subsequent skin damage. A study in the British Journal of Dermatology revealed that participants who were exposed to ultraviolet light had less skin reddening after increasing their lycopene intake, compared to a control group. 4

Improved Bone Health: Emerging research suggests that lycopene may contribute to bone health by decreasing oxidative stress, which can affect bone density and lead to conditions like osteoporosis. A publication in the Osteoporosis International journal found a correlation between higher dietary lycopene intake and a reduction in the risk of hip fractures among postmenopausal women. 5

Although these studies highlight the potential health benefits of lycopene, it's important to note that eating foods containing lycopene as part of a balanced diet is the best approach. Tomato soup, especially when homemade and low in sodium and added sugars, can be a good source of this beneficial compound.

Homemade vs. Canned Tomato Soup: A Health Comparison

When it comes to tomato soup, one of the most comforting and commonly enjoyed foods, discerning between homemade and canned varieties is crucial for health-conscious individuals. A direct comparison of the two can offer insight into which option might serve your health goals best.

Ingredient Control

Homemade tomato soup allows for complete control over the ingredients. This means you can opt for fresh tomatoes, which are rich in vitamins C and K, potassium, and the antioxidant lycopene. Moreover, you have the flexibility to limit or omit salt and sugar, use healthy fats such as olive oil, and avoid preservatives and artificial additives.

Nutrient Preservation

The cooking process at home is often gentler than the high-heat processing used in canning. Therefore, homemade soup may better preserve the nutrients found in tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes also increases the bioavailability of lycopene, an antioxidant that has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Sodium Content

Canned tomato soups are notorious for their high sodium content, which can present health risks such as increased blood pressure and a higher likelihood of heart disease and stroke. A comparison would show that homemade soup, when prepared with low-sodium recipes, can significantly reduce sodium intake.

Sugar and Additives

The canned versions often include added sugars and additives for flavor enhancement and preservation. These additives can contribute to an increased intake of unnecessary calories and chemicals. Conversely, homemade soups can be prepared without these additions, leading to a cleaner and potentially healthier meal.

Convenience vs. Nutrition

While canned soups win on convenience, they may lack the fresh taste and nutritional profile of a homemade batch. Time-consuming preparation aside, making tomato soup from scratch can be a far more nutritious and satisfying experience.

BPA Exposure

Another health consideration is the potential BPA (bisphenol A) exposure from canned soup containers. BPA is a chemical compound that can seep into food and has been linked to adverse health effects like endocrine disruption. Homemade soup avoids this risk entirely.

Ultimately, the choice between homemade and canned tomato soup can have a significant impact on your overall health. While homemade soup may take more time to prepare, it offers the advantage of being able to select high-quality, nutrient-dense ingredients and avoid potentially harmful additives and excessive sodium often found in canned options.

Allergens and Intolerances: When Tomato Soup Might Be Bad for You

While tomato soup is a comforting and seemingly innocuous food for many, it's important to be aware that for some individuals, it could pose certain risks associated with allergens and intolerances. Understanding these potential concerns can ensure that everyone enjoys tomato soup without adverse effects.

Nightshade Allergies

Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family, which includes other vegetables like potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants. While nightshade allergies are relatively uncommon, they can lead to symptoms such as itching, hives, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis. If you experience symptoms of a food allergy after consuming tomato soup, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional.

Tomato Intolerance

Unlike a tomato allergy that affects the immune system, an intolerance affects the digestive system. Symptoms of tomato intolerance can include gastrointestinal distress, bloating, and gas. This intolerance is generally not life-threatening, but it can cause discomfort and should be discussed with a dietitian or doctor for individual dietary advice.

High Acid Content

Tomatoes are naturally high in acid, which can be problematic for individuals with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The high acidity of tomato soup can irritate the esophagus and may exacerbate symptoms of heartburn and indigestion. Adapting the recipe to be lower in acid or choosing a different soup might be a better option for those with such conditions.

Hidden Allergens in Prepared Soups

  • Gluten: Many commercial tomato soups contain wheat flour as a thickening agent, posing a risk for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
  • Dairy: Cream-based tomato soups include milk or cream, which can trigger symptoms for individuals with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy.
  • Preservatives and Additives: Certain brands of tomato soup may include preservatives, flavor enhancers, and colorings that can cause allergic reactions or intolerances in sensitive individuals.

For those with known food allergies or intolerances, scrutinizing ingredient labels on store-bought soups or preparing homemade tomato soup with safe, alternative ingredients can help avoid negative reactions.

Consultation with Health Professionals

If you have a history of food allergies or intolerances, it is crucial to seek guidance from an allergist or a registered dietitian. They can offer personalized advice and suggest dietary modifications to safely include or exclude tomato soup from your meals. Such professional insights are invaluable in managing sensitivities while maintaining nutritional balance.

It is worthwhile noting that individual reactions can vary greatly, and what may be a trigger for one person might not pose any issue for another. Therefore, everyone's dietary choices should be tailored to their unique health needs and circumstances.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, to make a vegan cream-based tomato soup, you can substitute dairy with plant-based alternatives such as coconut milk, almond milk, or cashew cream. These ingredients offer a creamy texture without using any animal products, making the soup suitable for vegans.

Yes, tomato soup can be incorporated into a weight loss diet due to its low-calorie content, especially when made with fresh ingredients and without added cream or sugar. Its fiber content can also help promote satiety and prevent overeating. However, monitoring portion sizes and the overall nutritional content is important to ensure it aligns with your specific dietary goals.

If you have GERD or are prone to heartburn, consider making tomato soup with lower acidity by blending in vegetables like carrots or pumpkin. Additionally, avoid spicy ingredients, use low-fat cooking methods, and enjoy the soup in moderation to minimize the risk of acid-related discomfort.

Tomato soup can fit into a low-carb diet if prepared with a focus on lower carbohydrate content. For instance, avoid adding sugars or starchy thickeners and opt for tomato soup recipes that prioritize fresh tomatoes and low-carb vegetables. Always check the labels of store-bought soups for added carbs.

Ask a question about Tomato Soup and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • itching
  • hives
  • gastrointestinal distress
  • bloating
  • gas
  • heartburn
  • indigestion

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • increased blood pressure
  • higher likelihood of heart disease and stroke
  • nightshade allergy reactions
  • acid reflux or gerd symptoms
  • potential bpa exposure risks

Ingredients to be aware of

  • high sodium content
  • added sugars
  • artificial additives
  • preservatives
  • colorants
  • flavor enhancers
  • bpa in canned soups
  • wheat flour (gluten)
  • milk or cream (lactose, dairy)


  • low in calories
  • modest protein content
  • essential micronutrients
  • dietary fiber
  • antioxidant properties
  • improved cardiovascular health
  • eye health protection
  • skin protection from uv rays
  • bone health support

Healthier alternatives

  • homemade tomato soup with fresh ingredients and minimal salt
  • low-sodium or no-salt-added canned soups
  • 'heart-healthy' labeled soups

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Tomato Soup

  • Deliciously creamy
  • USDA Organic certified
  • Non-GMO ingredients
  • Convenient pack of 12
  • No preservatives
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-17-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-17-2024

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