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Is Clam Chowder Healthy? 7 Health Benefits
Nutrition

Is Clam Chowder Healthy? 7 Health Benefits

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 31, 2023
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8 min

Although some consider clam chowder an enemy of the healthy diet, it is worth exploring its nutritional value and health benefits.

is clam chowder healthy
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Looking for a warm soup this cold season? Clam chowder is a satiating option with clams and potatoes that used to be served to sailors on the big boats with what they managed to catch.

This soup is popular in cold regions of the United States, such as New England, Seattle, and New York, where it can be prepared with different proteins.

Each region prepares different clam chowder recipes based on a succulent vegetable broth with clam juice that gives it a very interesting nutritional profile.

Today at Health Reporter, we will be exploring clam chowder, so stick with us to learn more about its nutrition profile.

What Is Clam Chowder?

Clam chowder is a soup made of potatoes and canned clams with creamy vegetable broth and cow’s milk. There are different types of clam chowder. In some regions of the United States, such as Manhattan, it is not prepared with milk but instead with tomato sauce, which makes it less greasy and healthy.

Its name comes from the iron cauldron in which it is cooked, known as “chowder” in French cuisine, and it has different variations depending on the place where it is made.

The use of different vegetables and spices such as onions, tomatoes, celery, and thyme in Manhattan clam chowder enhances the particular flavor of the clam broth. 

Each location varies the ingredients to give it a unique touch, but the most popular is the New England clam chowder or Boston clam chowder, which is milk-based and maintains the original recipe.

Is Clam Chowder Healthy?

No, it is not considered a healthy meal because it is prepared with high-fat ingredients such as whole milk or heavy cream and bacon. In fact, it is one of the worst soups you can eat, especially if we are talking about its canned version.

However, the problem is not the fatty ingredients since milk provides calcium and vitamins necessary for health. The main drawback is that the ingredients contain too many calories. This is taking into account that clam chowder also contains potatoes, which are high in carbohydrates. 

Having in mind that it is not the healthiest choice, it’s still a good option for those who are looking for a dish in the cold season. It can provide enough energy and other essential nutrients.

We wouldn’t recommend eating clam chowder for people who are trying to lose weight. Keep in mind that every “junk” food has a healthier version, and clam chowder is no exception. Instead, choose mushroom or other low-calorie soup if you are trying to burn some calories.

7 Health Benefits of Clam Chowder

As we already mentioned, clam chowder is not healthy. However, it does have some health benefits. Just make sure that you are not eating canned clam chowder and preparing it at home with balanced and quality ingredients.

Here are 7 potential benefits of eating clam chowder:

#1 Prevents anemia

The iron content of clams allows enough hemoglobin to be produced to prevent anemia. Hemoglobin is a key protein in the transport of oxygen to all organs of the body.

#2 Clams and milk are a source of calcium

It is well known that calcium is the most important mineral for healthy bones and teeth, but it is also essential in the transmission of nerve impulses that allow the body to respond to different stimuli.

#3 May be beneficial to the immune system

The mineral content, such as zinc, boosts the immune system by helping it fight off pathogenic bacteria to prevent disease. This is because zinc is directly involved in the development and functioning of neutrophils, lymphocytes, and natural killer cells, which are part of the immune system.

#4 High energy intake

If you want a meal that contains all the macronutrients and gets you fired up, clam chowder is what you need. Its basic recipe contains potatoes for carbohydrates, clams for protein, and heavy cream and bacon for fat. The clam chowder is a complete and filling meal that will be your fuel to warm you up and get you through your daily chores.

 #5 Rich in vitamin B

B vitamins are important for preventing fatigue, preventing muscle and neuropathic pain, and promoting overall health. A healthy clam chowder recipe provides B vitamins in adequate amounts, as they are found in potatoes, clams, milk, and bacon.

#6 Supports cardiovascular health

Thanks to the omega-3 content in clams, eating it is good for your heart, especially when prepared with good quality ingredients.

#7 Supports nervous system health

The ingredients in clam chowder provide enough vitamin B12 and chlorine, which are essential to prevent depression, promote neuronal activity, and enhance brain function. 

Nutrition Facts of Manhattan Style Clam Chowder

Manhattan clam chowder is a lower calorie version because its broth is made from tomatoes, without milk, which is why it is considered the healthiest of clam chowders.

Nutritional value per 100g

Calories/Nutrients (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)56
Net Carbs (g)6.64
Fiber (g)1.2
Sugar (g)1.67
Fats (Total)1.41
Protein (g)3.02
Cholesterol (mg)6

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171151/nutrients 

Low in calories and fats

The tomato-based clam chowder has fewer calories because it is less fatty. Instead of milk, the broth in this recipe contains vegetables, a bit of bacon, and the ever-present clams, which are light and sweet.

Low in proteins

This succulent soup is not exactly a protein dish despite containing a protein source such as clams and bacon, which contributes mostly fat. In addition, typical diners looking to indulge in this dish often accompany it with carbohydrate options such as bread, crackers, and cornbread.

Moderate amount of carbohydrates and sugars

The carbohydrates in a cup of clam chowder are mainly provided by the potatoes, which are a good source of vitamins and minerals with easily digestible starch. In addition, the tomato that gives body to the clam chowder provides natural sugars but, depending on the tomato paste used to prepare it at home, it may contain added sugars.

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Iron, zinc, chlorine, calcium, vitamin A, and selenium are some of the most relevant micronutrients that are found in clam chowder.

In addition, when made with chicken broth from cooking chicken bones for a long time, the mineral content increases, also providing magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which are essential for bone, muscle, and cardiovascular health.

Low in cholesterol

If you follow a cholesterol-controlled diet, you don’t have to worry about clam chowder because it contains only 6mg of cholesterol in 100g of soup. Although cholesterol is no longer as feared as in previous years because there is not enough evidence to associate it with cardiovascular disease, the daily recommendation of the American Heart Association is still 300mg for healthy people.

Manhattan vs. New England Clam Chowder

Manhattan clam chowderNew England clam chowder
Contains more vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and celeryNo vegetables, just a little fresh parsley for color
The base is a light red vegetable stockThe base is milk or heavy cream, which makes it thick and white
The predominant flavor is tomato or tomato paste, which is added in large quantities to the broth, providing a more acidic and sweet flavorThe smokiness of the bacon or salted pork enhances the fatty flavor in each bite 
It is a lower-calorie version because it is dairy-free and can be considered a healthy soupIt is considered a heavy and fatty soup, high in calories and not suitable for a healthy diet

Healthy Manhattan Style Recipe

Ingredients

  • 600g fresh clams
  • 1.5l of water
  • 1l clam juice
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped 
  • 3 tomatoes, blended with 100ml water
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, cut into cubes
  • A pinch of thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • Sea salt 
  • Black pepper 
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Be sure to buy fresh clams: they should be well closed and should not open when you wash them with cold water.
  2. Before starting the preparation, soak them in cold water with a teaspoon of salt. Wait 20 minutes so that they release leftover sand. Then, wash under running water and drain well.
  3. Boil the clams in water with fresh parsley and a little salt until they open. When open, remove from heat and strain the broth to obtain the clam juice.
  4. Sauté the carrots, onions, celery, and crushed garlic with the olive oil until soft.
  5. Add the blended tomatoes, tomato paste, and clam juice.
  6. Cook until the tomatoes turn dark red and the broth has taken a little consistency. 
  7. Add ground thyme, salt to taste, black pepper, and the cooked clams. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  8. Serve the clam broth warm with lemon juice and side with whole-wheat crackers or toasted sourdough bread.

This soup is a low-carb recipe since it does not contain potatoes, but keep in mind that it could raise its calories if you accompany it with crackers or bread. In apps like DoFasting, you can find more than 10,000+ healthy options that can be easily adapted to keto and other diets.

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FAQs

Is clam chowder good for diabetes?

No, New England and Manhattan clam chowder contain potatoes, a high glycemic food that should be avoided to keep blood sugar levels under control.

Is clam chowder fattening?

Yes, the New England clam chowder recipe can promote weight gain because it contains high-fat, high-calorie ingredients such as bacon and heavy cream. In addition, canned clams are a high-sodium food.

Is clam chowder good or bad for weight loss?

Clam chowder is not considered a meal suitable for a weight loss diet. However, the Manhattan version of clam chowder, despite containing potatoes and bacon, is a little lighter as it does not contain heavy cream.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Soups are an excellent way to add plenty of nutrients to your diet, but you have to know how to select the right and good quality ingredients to achieve this.

The first step is to avoid canned soups, as they contain a lot of sodium and other preservatives. Canned clam chowder is a very convenient and easy-to-prepare food that should only be consumed occasionally.

To make a homemade clam chowder really healthy and suitable for a weight loss diet, add a good source of protein such as fish, chicken, shrimp, or lean pork. You can also avoid using canned clams and cook a healthy clam chowder with fresh clams or other seafood.

Then, use a variety of vegetables such as spinach, chard, onions, carrots, and herbs for not only a great taste but a great nutritional profile.

Conclusion

Clam chowder is not considered a healthy meal, especially because the main and best-known recipe is the New England one, which contains heavy cream and bacon.

On the other hand, clams are a good source of vitamins and minerals that you can add to your diet with other healthy recipes since they are low in calories.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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