What’s in your deli-ready soup? The Deli Detective solves another mystery

June 28, 2016

By Tamara Brown, MPH, RD, LD

article_healthyeating_takeoutsoup.jpgFor those busy days when you don’t have time to create your own pot of soup, many local grocery stores have already done the work for you and sell ready-made soups. Often these can be found warm at the soup bar, nicely labeled, but frequently lacking an ingredient list. Have you ever wondered what is in the pre-made soup you love the most? I, as your Deli Detective, am back on the scene, examining some quick and easy “grab and go” soups from five local grocery stores so that you know exactly what’s in your food. The chart below highlights some of the ingredients in each store’s product.


Breaking down the ingredients list

As you can see, most ready-made soups are hiding some surprising ingredients that are not so good. Let me explain why these ingredients can be harmful to your health.

Rainbow Foods’ creamy chicken wild rice soup

This soup contains quite a few questionable ingredients, including:

  • Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil. This is a trans-fat, a toxic, chemically-altered fat that research has found to increase the risk for heart disease. Clearly, cottonseed oil is not something you want to be eating along with you bowl of soup.
  • Autolyzed yeast extract. This is a flavor enhancer and possible hidden term for MSG (monosodium glutamate), which can cause symptoms such as headaches or sleeping problems for some people.
  • Hydrolyzed corn, wheat, and soy proteins. These are other possible forms of MSG.
  • Artificial flavors. This means chemical flavors are added to create its taste, and there is no way to know how these are made or what they contain.

Overall, this soup should be avoided at all times. It is full of chemicals and toxins, not a warm bowl of healthy soup.

Lund’s wild rice and ham soup

This soup is one of Lund’s “Signature Soups.” Its ingredient list surprised me more than any other soup because I did not expect to find so many additives.

  • Sodium nitrate. This is a preservative used in the ham. Nitrates are possible carcinogens, so you always want to look for meats without added nitrates.
  • Corn syrup. Why would a sweetener be added to a savory soup? This is an example of how often cheap sweeteners are added to processed foods. Most Americans consume more sugar that they realize because it is added, unnecessarily, to many food products.
  • Autolyzed yeast extract, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. These are all flavor enhancers and can be hidden forms of MSG.
  • Caramel coloring, artificial flavors, and a mysterious seasoning made with wheat gluten. For those who are gluten sensitive, be wary of any kind of flavor or seasoning in processed foods because they can be made with wheat.

Avoid this soup because it is not a good food choice.

Kowalski’s chicken wild rice soup

This is, unfortunately, another poor-quality product.

  • Sodium nitrate. Nitrates are used in the bacon added to the soup. See above soups for more on this ingredient.
  • Autolyzed yeast extract. See above soups for more information.
  • Chicken-type flavor. When I looked into this ingredient, I found it to be a flavor enhancer similar to MSG. There is no way to know how it is made or how it will affect your body. I find it truly shocking that so many seemingly high-quality brands use artificial flavor enhancers in their products. This can explain why when people first switch from processed foods to more natural foods, the real foods do not taste very good. With all the enhanced and artificially flavored foods in our food system, we have simply forgotten what real foods taste like, and it takes time to retrain taste buds.
  • Modified corn starch. This is a chemically-altered starch that can be used to thicken and stabilize processed foods. Most of us would not use this ingredient in our own kitchens, and therefore, it’s not something we want to consume elsewhere. With chemically-altered foods like this, we are not aware of the long-term health effects of consuming them.

Whole Foods’ creamy chicken and rice soup

The ingredient list for this soup looks pretty close to homemade. The only thing I was not sure about was the chicken base. I contacted the store and found it is a condensed, rendered chicken fat which becomes a broth by adding water. I was assured it does not contain any MSG or flavor enhancers. The rest of the ingredients are ones we would use at home. This soup does contain flour, so if you are gluten sensitive, this is something to always look for on labels.

Overall, Whole Foods’ creamy chicken and rice soup is a safe choice.

Mississippi Market Cooperative’s chicken and rice soup

The label for this soup reads exactly like a home-cooked soup recipe would read. Made with stock, butter, meat, and vegetables, this is truly a soup to warm and nourish the body. This is the only soup of the five that contains no flour or gluten ingredients such as wheat, which makes it a perfect choice for people avoiding gluten. At this co-op, you will always find the ingredient list posted right next to the soup, so you can be sure you are getting a high-quality product.

Mississippi Market Cooperative’s chicken and rice soup is the best choice out of the five soups investigated.

Always ask to make sure it’s safe!

If you are questioning a ready-made soup or other product at your grocery store and the ingredients are not listed, ask someone. It is never safe to assume the company is producing a high-quality product. That is why I, your Deli Detective, am on the case helping to discover what may be hiding in your dinner tonight.

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