I've been told that I should have soup more often as it might help me lose weight' Is this true?


Yes, this is one of those ‘is it too good to be true' things that actually is true for a change.  There have been plenty of studies done confirming the inclusion of soup prior to a meal to encourage satiety without overeating at the meal.  So, soup as such won't lose the weight, but the satiety experienced from soup can prevent overeating later on, thereby helping you stick to your calorie deficit.


But, here's where it can come unstuck - That creamy bowl of corn chowder before your steak and salad is not what we're talking about here.  You still need to consider your ingredients, calories and portions or else you could find yourself doubling your meal intake.


Here's how to do it sensibly:

•1.       Firstly, you should know what your calorie intake needs to be, or at least some idea of types of foods and their associated portion sizes for your weight loss

•2.       Now, work out which meals need the soup treatment.  Typically it will be a meal that you always feel hungry after and this hunger would typically lead you to overeat after the meal.  Alternatively, it could be for a snack, and would be far more filling than just a piece of fruit on its own.

•3.       Then, decide whether you want your whole meal as soup or if you want soup as a starter followed by your meal.

•4.       Work out your calories accordingly.  For example, if you are replacing an entire 300cal meal, then your soup needs to be 300cal.  If you are using soup as a starter, then you will need to account for your calories - so your soup may be 100cal with your main being 200cals.  You may want to leave it to chance and just eat your soup and then see how much of your meal you eat, but again - do you know how many calories this is?


The other thing that can happen when we get stuck into a soup diet is that we may eat too few calories and cause our bodies to slow down.  So at the end of the day, treat soup as a food item as you would with anything - just because it's a liquid, it doesn't mean it's from another planet with a different set of calorie rules.


Now, why does it work so well?


Foods that are higher in water content such as fruit, veges, soups and shakes are considered low in energy density (less calories) while being high-volume (more bulk).  This increases satiation and reduces our desire to overeat.  It has been proposed that adding water to food instead of consuming it with food increases the satiety due to stomach distension, but one study dispels this.  Another study proposes that the digestion of minerals with liquefied food contributes to its effects.   It is also proposed that psychological factors may have an influence, one study discussing soup in a large cup vs casserole in a small bowl.


Now, I did also say fruit and vegetables were satiating.  Fibre can also become a high-volume food when either mixed or consumed alongside water and provide the same effect.  Similarly, one study also showed that a salad as an entree influenced satiety equally as well as soup.


So before we get too souped up, just remember that feelings of fullness come from water content, along with things that take longer to digest and provide bulk like fibre, fat and protein in a meal.  By all means try the soup strategy, but you may also want to look at the composition of your meals in general to see if there is anything you're missing and why you have a tendency to possibly overeat.


When choosing a soup - home made is best, packets are too be avoided and tinned soups use in moderation - watch out for the high sodium.


22 Feb 2011

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