As I was using up some leftover turkey and making soup for supper, my daughter asked a question regarding the "broth" I was using. She wondered if I was using "broth" or "stock" and wanted to know what the difference was between the two. That's an interesting question and a timely one, too, since January is National Soup Month. Soup can really hit the spot on cold winter days and warm you up from the inside out.
I remember the time-consuming process my mom used with the leftover turkey or chicken bones to make her own homemade soup. This process of making the liquid for your pot of soup is really what makes the difference between stock or broth. We use the two words rather interchangeably now. However, technically speaking, broth is the liquid that you get when you cook vegetables, meat or poultry in water. Stock is made by cooking vegetables, bones, meats, poultry, etc., with the intention of maximizing the flavor of liquid.
According to the Swanson website, broth is an "essential ingredient to add flavor to soups that don't have a strong flavor of their own" and has a "finished, highly seasoned flavor." Stock, on the other hand, "is a foundational ingredient that is used to enhance the rich and meaty flavors and juiciness of your main meat dishes and gravies" and is "less seasoned, rich and robust and has a meaty flavor."
If you like to make soup or stews, you know that whether you are making homemade broth or homemade stock, that it is a time-consuming process. If you are pushed for time and want to make a quick bowl of homemade soup, low-sodium canned broth can be a lifesaver. By itself, this tastes pretty flat because we're used to soup tasting rather salty. But if you enhance the flavor of low sodium, canned broth with vegetables, onions, garlic, pepper, bay leaf, etc., you can make a very tasty bowl of soup with much less sodium than regular canned soups.
If you spend time looking at the regular canned soup labels, you may have noticed that one serving can contain about 800-900 mg of sodium. In most cases, a regular 10-11 ounce can of soup is condensed and the directions say to add water to it. Often it says that it makes two or three servings per can. This is important to note, because if you are eating alone and decide to put in less water than the directions say and you eat the whole can, then you are really consuming more than one serving and may be consuming more than 2,000 mg of sodium. (The recommendation for a healthy sodium intake is between 2,000-3,000 mg per day.)
There are lower sodium canned soup options available too - many popular soups have a 30 percent reduced sodium version and they are labeled as such. But even at 30 percent less, they still contribute a significant amount of sodium to your diet. There are a few soups that are low sodium soups and generally have less than 100 mg of sodium per serving. Often these soups are in single serving cans and do not need to have water added to them, but the flavor of these soups can be a little "blah." Enhancing them with pepper, onion, bay leaf or other spices (but not salt) can help season them as well.
With the cold wind blowing outdoors, now is the perfect opportunity to put that pot on the stove and experiment with making soup. Happy National Soup Month.
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. In addition to her column, you can also find nutrition tips and ideas on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org.