Why You Should Think Twice Before Eating Cream Of Mushroom Soup

Registered Dietitian Sue Heikkinen, who works with nutrition app MyNetDiary, admits that, as a native daughter of the Land of the Hotdish (aka Minnesota), "cream of mushroom soup is part of my heritage." She goes on to say that "the recipe box inherited from my mother is full of recipes using this staple. Nevertheless, her professional opinion on this ingredient is that it's, well, not so Minnesota nice as all that.

Chief among Heikkinen's concerns with this soup, or at least the canned version, is the additives it contains. She tells us that "Sky-high sodium content is the primary nutrient of concern in any canned soup," and says that Campbell's Cream of Mushroom has 870 mg of sodium per half-cup serving, which is over 1/3 of the American Heart Association's recommended maximum of  2,300 mg per day. She also notes that the soup contains MSG, which, while generally safe, is something that many people still prefer to avoid, and also notes that the wheat flour it contains makes it off-limits to anyone on a gluten-free diet.

BPA shouldn't be a concern

While many are concerned about the presence of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in canned food products due to some studies showing a link between BPA and health risks, particularly as they impact the reproductive system (both male and female), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has evaluated hundreds of studies and still feels that this substance does not pose significant risk. What's more, many food manufacturers have stopped using BPA in their packaging.

Speaking about the possible BPA risks posed by canned tomatoes, nutritionist Robin Miller told us that there's really no reason to worry — most likely, your can won't contain the substance at all, and even if it does, you'll be getting such a low dose of it that there's very little risk of any harmful effects. Heikkinen, on the other hand, thinks "it is reasonable to limit your exposure to BPA," but she does say that Campbell's soup cans are all BPA free.

It's less fatty than you might think

One thing that you probably won't have to worry about with cream of mushroom soup, is getting a high dose of fat. "Believe it or not," says Heikkinen, "mushrooms are the second ingredient (after water) in Campbell's [Cream of Mushroom] soup." (And if you don't believe it, Campbell's website will make you a believer.) She also notes that this soup "contain[s] surprisingly little actual cream." She notes that on the Campbell's label, cream comes well down the list, below vegetable oil, modified food starch, and wheat flour, and this relative lack of cream explains why each serving of soup has just one gram of saturated fat.

Heikkinen does say, though, that the low proportion of dairy product present in relation to the soup's other ingredients "may disappoint if you expect a significant amount of cream." But really, who would expect such a thing? Canned cream of mushroom soup on its own is actually kind of gross, so it's the kind of thing that's probably used as an ingredient far more often than it's eaten on its own. (Same with cream of chicken, a soup that seemingly exists only as a casserole ingredient).

You're better off making your own

If you want to eat cream of mushroom soup by itself, Heikkinen says homemade is the best bet for something that tastes good and is low sodium and additive-free. The downside to DIY, Heikkinen admits, is that "your homemade version may actually be higher in calories and fat, especially if you rely on generous amounts of cream and butter." Which, of course, are the ingredients that give the soup much of its flavor — it's called "cream of mushroom," after all, not "broth of mushroom." If you'd like to make a vegan version of the soup, you may do so by swapping the cream for coconut milk, although unless you use the "lite" version, it may not be much lower in fat than one made with cream.

If you're planning to use your cream of mushroom soup as nature — or at least the state of Minnesota — intended, then a homemade soup recipe might be too liquidy to serve your purpose. You can, however, find numerous copycat versions of condensed cream of mushroom soup online. A quick search found this recipe from Momables that calls for butter, milk, cream cheese, and mushrooms. If you'd prefer something slightly less fatty, Recipes That Crock has a version made from butter, milk, mushrooms, flour, and chicken or beef broth. If you really want to go the healthy route, though, Our Everyday Life suggests using Greek yogurt or even pureed vegetables as low sodium condensed soup substitutes.