How great would if be comfort food not only helped soothe our souls but also helped speed our bodies toward optimal health and a happy weight? Well, that’s what souping is all about. What is souping to lose weight? It’s an extremely fast and easy wellness strategy — and souping is so widely embraced by nutrition experts that it has both strict keto and strict plant-based fans. “Soup really is one of the best foods for weight loss,” confirms Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet and the world’s leading authority on the scientific benefits of soup.
Backing Dr. Rolls up: Women like Nebraska retiree Ann Teget, who learned about the slimming advantages of soup on a popular weight-loss app. The 53-year-old ‘souped up’ her journey to better health and ended up dropping 123 pounds. Keep reading to learn how souping can help you slim down and feel your absolute best.
Why souping works so well for weight loss
How does souping work? As often as you like, you simply using healthy soups as meals and snacks as a way to keep calories down as nutrient intake and satisfaction soar. You can enjoy Louisiana gumbo, minestrone from the local Olive Garden, Grandma’s chicken noodle, even a can of Campbell’s classic tomato. With just a few cream-based exceptions, soups typically boast far more nutrients and far fewer calories than comparable options.
According to Dr. Rolls, who has conducted extensive research on soup at Penn State University, the real key is soup’s unique solid-liquid mix, which literally tricks the body into feeling very full on few calories. In one of her most famous experiments comparing chicken noodle soup and a casserole made with identical ingredients with a glass of water on the side, soup reduced appetite by 400 calories compared to the casserole. Same ingredients, dramatically different results. What gives?
Soup’s powerful hunger-killing power
Dr. Rolls says soup actually starts shrinking appetite before you take your first spoonful. That’s because, calorie for calorie, soup allows you to have a much larger volume of food that almost any other meal. “Research shows that, in terms of determining how content we feel after eating, the appearance of a big portion can actually be very important,” says Dr. Rolls. Bonus: “The delicious smell and comforting warmth of soup both help increase the satisfaction.”
Next, the hot liquid helps slow down our eating, and when we don’t gobble our food, “we’re giving our brains more time to register satiety,” notes Baylor College of Medicine nutrition researcher John Foreyt, PhD. That helps us naturally want to eat less.
And because soup provides a big volume of food, it activates “stretch receptors” in the stomach send stop-eating signals to the brain, notes Rolls. This happens after you’ve eaten maybe 150 calories of soup versus the 400 or more it might take when eating chips or cookies. On top of that, studies show it takes our GI tracts a much longer time to digest solids suspended in liquid — so soup sticks to your ribs, keeping you feel full longer.
Soup can turbocharge ordinary nutrients
Absorption of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can soar 10 times higher after we eat soup. That’s because simmering ingredients softens them “and preserves nutrients in the broth that would otherwise be lost,” notes Well Path author Jamé Heskett, MD. This is good for our overall health, of course. And when it comes to weight loss, we get a much bigger hit of nutrients that help make us effortlessly lean.
The top 10 souping ingredients for weight loss
For the biggest weight-loss benefits, these are the top science-backed picks:
Souping star #1: Olive oil
Olive oil is 75% oleic acid, and tests show the stuff is so good at turning off hunger, it’s like a natural appetite suppressant. And a growing mountain of evidence suggests that both oleic acid and potent polyphenol antioxidants in olive oil help do everything from blocking fat absorption and speeding metabolism to improving blood sugar control and reducing a type of internal inflammation strongly linked to obesity and countless diseases. (Click through to learn more about the health benefits of olive oil.)
Souping star #2: Chicken
Protein has its own well-documented appetite-suppressing properties, so when paired with soup, the effect is intense. Our bodies also burn a lot of calories just to break the protein down, generating enough heat to temporarily increase metabolism, boosting it up to 900% more than other foods. (Check out this article on the therapeutic benefits of chicken soup.)
Souping star #3: Onion
A classic soup flavoring, onion contains extremely high levels of flavonoid antioxidants. There’s exciting early evidence that these compounds may help suppress cravings, block fat absorption, improve blood sugar, speed metabolism, reduce obesity-driving inflammation and spike levels of gut bacteria that help make us effortlessly lean. There’s even research hinting that flavonoids activate SIRT1, a gene that burns so much fat, it’s been nicknamed the “skinny gene.” Get similar benefits from buckwheat, kale, garlic, turmeric and wine. (Click through to discover how using onion skins in soup can deliver huge benefits.)
Souping star #4: Tomato
Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, which has been shown to help us burn 251% more fat when we get enough of the nutrient compared to when we’re deficient.
Souping star #5: Carrots
Nutrients in orange and yellow veggies have been found to help spike levels the belly-flattening hormone adiponectin. “As levels of adiponectin rise, the hormone acts like a text message from inside your fat cells. It gives your muscles and liver the go-ahead to burn stored fat,” says Sara Gottfried, MD, Harvard-trained author of The Hormone Cure. And studies show that belly fat cells respond first and fastest. (For an unusual but tasty way to use carrots in soup, check out our recipe for Polish pickle soup.)
Souping star #6: Spinach
This leafy green “melts” into hot broth, so we can eat a lot more of it in soup that we would normally. And it’s a jackpot of antioxidants and other nutrients linked to weight loss and overall health. That includes folate, a B vitamin linked to 8.5 times faster weight loss.
Souping star #7: Broccoli
The veggie contains micronutrients called sulforaphanes that help block tiny blood vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients to stored fat. “When you cut off the blood supply, you actually starve the fat cells,” explains renowned researcher William Li, MD, author of mega-bestsellers Eat to Beat Disease and Eat to Beat Your Diet. Other foods with similar nutrients include artichokes, eggplant, mushrooms and all cruciferous veggies.
Souping star #8: Beans
Beans are one of the best sources of fiber, which helps quell hunger and blocks absorption of some calories. They’re also one of the world’s best sources of resistant starch. According to University of Colorado findings, the fatty acids created after one eating one meal rich in resistant starch helps ignite fat burning, increasing it significantly for a full 24 hours. Resistant starch also has a unique ability to stabilize blood sugar for days after you eat it and, over time, can improve insulin function 898%. (Click through to see how to make beans less gassy and for a delicious escarole and beans soup recipe.)
Souping star #9: Hot pepper
The chemical that gives this seasoning its heat has been found to temporarily increase fat metabolism up to 550% compared to a placebo. It also reduces hunger and slashes cravings for bloat-inducing salty foods.
Souping star #10: Parmesan cheese
Dieters who get 2-3 servings of dairy a day can lose up to 81% more belly fat than those getting the same calories but no dairy.
How much soup should I eat for maximum weight loss?
The key is to find soups and a level of soup consumption you can stick with long term. If you force yourself to eat meals you don’t like or eat so much soup you get sick of it, that defeats the purpose. So honor your body while using souping.
If you’re enjoying yourself, having soup up to twice a day can be beneficial. One of Dr. Rolls’ studies found that folks asked to eat two servings of soup a day as meals or snacks lost about two times more weight than those asked to eat equal-calorie servings of other foods.
Success Story: Ann Teget
When Ann Teget and her husband, Steve, learned that their adult daughter Meghan was trying to get healthier, the couple wanted to be supportive. “We agreed to give up the not-so-nutritious stuff while she was home for a visit,” recalls Ann. There was a family bridal shower that weekend, so Ann set out fruit, whole-grain crackers, sliced veggies, yogurt dip and more. As she put last-minute touches on the spread, she shook her head in disbelief. It actually looked more delicious than her usual party platters of fatty meats and chips.
As she continued with preparations, it hit her: I never even try to eat better anymore. She and Steve had retired early with dreams of growing their travel blog, but now that Ann was up to 303 pounds, she was achy and exhausted all the time. She could barely tie her own shoes, let alone hike the Grand Canyon. Then there was her heart problem and Crohn’s disease.
Later that night, Ann talked to Steve. Both had endured brutal failed diets and were hesitant to try again. “But I want us to still be able to travel when we’re 80,” Ann said. Steve nodded, saying, “We’d need something we could do on the road that won’t blow our budget.” Ann grabbed a notebook. “It should be something we can do for life. No prepackaged meals,” she said, starting a list. “It can’t totally eliminate carbs. Or ice cream or wine.” As they continued, Ann doubted they’d find a plan that checked all their boxes. But a few days later, she saw an ad for Noom. “It’s an app that guides you to change your habits around food, movement and self-image,” she recalls. Ann liked the reviews she read. She also loved that you track what you eat, but no food is off-limits. So they signed up.
Ann’s healing journey begins — and she discovers souping
Step one for Ann and Steve was simply tracking everything they ate with no changes. After a few days, she learned she’d need to weigh in daily; the app included research on how the strategy could increase her awareness and boost success. “It let me see which foods make my weight go up,” she shares. Gradually, the app got Ann to add more produce, lean meat and whole grains.
As weeks passed, Ann and Steve were encouraged to make more choices with “low calorie density.” That meant filling up with foods that have a lot of volume but relatively few calories — so you feel stuffed without going overboard. It wasn’t long until Ann and Steve discovered that their ultimate weight-loss food was broth-based soup. “It’s low in calorie density and it’s comfort food,” says Ann, who was soon whipping up lentil, mushroom-rice, even chicken-tortilla versions. She could freeze leftovers for easy meals and snacks.
If her supply ran low, Progresso Light became a go-to. And soup was perfect when they needed to eat away from home. “Olive Garden has four types under 250 calories,” she notes. She and Steve tried Chicken and Gnocchi and Zuppa Toscana — both tasty. But she loved the Minestrone so much, she created a copycat version to make at home.
Ann today: 123 pounds slimmer and pain-free
How often did Ann and Steve enjoy warm, satisfying bowlfuls of soup as their journey continued? “About 9,000 times,” Steve jokes. And the whole time, they lost steadily. Both shed 70 pounds in nine months. And Ann kept going. “On average, I lost a pound a week — but I did that for 120 weeks in a row.” All told, she’d dropped 123 pounds and is ready to tackle her retirement bucket list. “I have more energy, no more back pain and can walk a long way without getting winded,” say Ann, 53. She’s so much fitter that she recently sailed through a procedure to improve her heart issue. “My success was a thousand little decisions I made every day to do a bit better than the day before,” she says. “Take it one day, one hour, even one bowl of soup at a time. You can change your future that way!”
Easy soup recipes to get you started
Regular soup meals help us feel full for a modest number of calories, so we slim steadily with little effort. Healthier canned soups are an easy choice, but you can also whip up easy homemade soups packed with extra slimming nutrients. Just refrigerate or freeze leftovers for heat-and-eat meals that are ultra-satisfying and ultra-slimming. Tip: While souping, apps like Noom and LoseIt! help keep portions and overall nutrition on track with ease.
Copycat Olive Garden Minestrone
This cozy dish boasts a nice dose of slimming B-9 from beans, greens and pasta.
- 10 oz. frozen mirepoix (carrots/onion/celery)
- 1 Tbs. minced garlic
- 2 Tbs. Italian seasoning
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 6 cups veggie broth
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 (15 oz.) cans kidney or cannellini beans
- ½ cup uncooked pasta
- 14.5 oz. green beans
- 4 cups baby spinach
- In pot, cook mirepoix, garlic and seasoning in oil.
- Stir in broth, tomatoes and beans. Boil, stirring.
- Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Boil, then simmer until pasta is tender, 10 min. Serves 8
Classic taco ingredients load this dish with fat-fighting supernutrients.
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 packets reduced-sodium taco seasoning
- 2 (15 oz.) cans beans, any variety
- 1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained
- 2 (10 oz.) cans Rotel, any variety
- 16 oz. chicken broth
- In soup pot, brown ground turkey with onion and oil. Stir in seasoning. When fragrant, stir in remaining ingredients.
- Simmer at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add optional healthy garnishes. Serves 8
French Flat-Belly Soup
Of the many waistline-friendly soups Woman’s World has tested over the years, this version—created by French nutrition pro Valerie Orsoni—is the one that helped readers shed pounds the fastest. Click through to read more about the French flat-belly soup.
- 4 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 4 Tbs. olive oil
- 3 cups julienned kale
- 6 crushed garlic cloves
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 cup dry buckwheat
- 4 Tbs. tomato paste
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms or mixed vegetables
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 miso cubes (optional)
- ⅓ cup red wine
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 2 tsp. ground turmeric
- Fresh lemon juice and herbs to garnish
- In large pot over low-medium heat, sauté onion for 10 minutes. Add kale, sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
- Add chicken stock, stir. Add buckwheat, tomato paste, mushrooms, ginger, black pepper, wine and chicken, stir well.
- Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to medium, simmer 15 minutes. Add turmeric. Turn off heat. Serve with a spritz of lemon juice and fresh herbs to taste.
For advice on how to incorporate soup on specific diets, check out these articles:
Intermittent fasting: Melt Up to 19 Pounds a Week by Adding This Favorite Cold-Weather Meal to Your Diet