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Is French Onion Soup Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Benefits
Nutrition

Is French Onion Soup Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Benefits

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on November 6, 2022
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8 min

Our experts tell you all about the nutritional properties of one of the most popular soups in the world, appreciated for its delicate and sweet taste.

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If you like to cook meals with history, French onion soup should be on your list, especially because it is so simple to make.

The creation of this indulgent onion soup, which can be both a starter and a main meal, was brought about by King Louis XV, who decided to cook it with just a few ingredients he found one night in his kitchen.

Water, garlic, lots of onions, and white wine were enough to create the French onion soup that is still very popular today. Although it has had some modifications, such as the majestic addition of crusty bread au gratin with cheese.

Originally it is known to be a recipe with many calories due to its fat and cheese content, but since anything is possible in the kitchen, the Health Reporter team brings you this article, which includes a healthier but equally delicious recipe, along with its nutritional properties.

Is French Onion Soup Healthy?

No, the original French onion soup recipe is not healthy because it is very high in calories and saturated fat. This is due to its high butter content in which the yellow onions are fried and the Parmesan cheese that is added for gratin.

In addition, there are canned versions of French onion soup on the market that are not only fatty and heavy but also contain large amounts of preservatives.

If you want a light and healthy option, choose bone broth, pumpkin, or broccoli soup.

Also, avoid using sachet soups or dehydrated soup cubes as they contain large amounts of sodium.

However, not all is lost with French onion soup. You can omit some ingredients, such as bread and cheese, and make a lighter recipe that is suitable for all types of diets.

If you add vegetable ingredients to your French onion soup, such as mushrooms, celery, or leeks, you will obtain a more substantial soup that’s low in carbohydrates and high in nutrients from the onion, which is its main ingredient.

5 Health Benefits of French Onion Soup

Although onion, most of the time, is a secondary ingredient in any recipe that contains it, it makes its presence felt, thanks to its characteristic sweet and spicy flavor.

In the case of the French onion soup recipe, since onion is the main ingredient, it has a more prominent role not only for its flavor but also for its health benefits. These are some of them:

#1 The onion is a great antioxidant

Its high content of vitamin C and quercetin, a pigment of vegetables and fruits known as flavonoid, allows it to have great antioxidant activity. This means that it protects cells from free radical damage.

Free radicals are a normal product of metabolism, but when they accumulate in cells, they can damage DNA. Cell damage leads to chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases and accelerates the aging process.

#2 May have a diuretic effect 

Healthy French onion soup is rich in minerals, especially potassium, which helps prevent fluid retention, edema, and high blood pressure.

French onion soup also provides minerals, such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and selenium, with very low sodium content.

#3 Great ally for gastrointestinal health 

Cooked yellow and white onions are a light and easy-to-digest food. In addition, it has prebiotic properties, which help the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestine that prevent the proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms.

#4 Antibacterial properties

The main ingredient of French onion soup has long been used as an antibiotic, thanks to its antibacterial properties recognized by science, in which it has been discovered to fight pathogenic bacteria such as E. Coli.

#5 Cancer prevention

Some studies show that people who regularly consume foods such as onions and the rest of the Allium family, including garlic and leeks, are less likely to suffer from stomach cancer. These foods can be consumed in the form of soups, juices, and raw in salads.

French Onion Soup Nutrition Facts

The nutritional value of onion soup recipes varies depending on the brand or whether it is homemade. The following table describes the nutrients that correspond to only 100g of commercial onion soup.

Nutritional value (per 100g)

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)70 
Sodium (mg)284 
Net Carbs (g)6.32 
Fiber (g)0.7 
Sugar (g)1.75 
Fats (Total)3.51 
Fatty acids, total saturated (g)2.11
Protein (g)4.21 
Cholesterol (mg)11

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/461428/nutrients 

High in calories and saturated fats

As described in the nutritional table, onion soup contains only a few ingredients, so it only has 70 calories, most of which come from fat. Classic onion soup may contain 2.11g of saturated fat per serving, which would be at least 6g of saturated fat in each dish. This corresponds to almost half of the daily allowance, which is approximately 13g for men and women.

To prepare saturated fat-free onion soup, use olive oil instead of butter. You can also replace cheese with a vegan option based on almond milk or add nutritional yeast as a topping.

However, we must take into account that when we eat it, usually the soup dish is filled with more than 300g, especially if it is the main meal, which triples the amount of calories and fats, and can exceed 250 calories if a lot of cheese is used for the gratin.

Low in proteins

With only 4g of protein per 100g, onion soup is not considered a high-protein soup. Onions provide mostly water and carbohydrates with a minimal amount of fiber.

For this reason, French onion soup is usually a starter dish that accompanies lunch or dinner, unlike chicken or lentil soup, which are higher in protein and complex carbohydrates and are eaten as a main dish.

If you are following a muscle gain diet, you can include a healthy French onion soup recipe and accompany it with a serving of protein, such as chicken breast or boiled eggs.

Low in carbohydrates and sugars

Onions provide mostly carbohydrates, but they are a low-glycemic vegetable and contain only a small amount of carbs. In contrast, potato soup contains more carbohydrates since potatoes are a complex carbohydrate with a higher starch content. One serving of potato soup contains 12.8g of carbohydrates.

Low amount of fibers

The amount of fiber in onion soup is negligible at only 0.7g per serving. The American Heart Association recommends an intake of 25–30g of fiber for adults, which promotes cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health.

Classic French onion soup is served with baguette slices and Parmesan cheese for gratin just before serving. To add fiber to your homemade onion soup, you can choose a slice of whole-wheat multigrain bread, which provides approximately 3g of fiber.

Low in cholesterol

If you suffer from high cholesterol, the original onion soup recipe is not for you as it contains cholesterol-raising dairy products, such as cheese and butter.

Cholesterol intake should be limited to 200mg per day to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In healthy adults, cholesterol intake should not exceed 300mg.

To achieve this, avoid animal products, such as red meat and dairy products, 

ultra-processed foods, including sausages and canned meats, and increase your intake of good fats, such as avocado, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil.

Homemade Healthy French Onion Soup Recipe

You can enjoy this healthy French onion soup with your family. It can also be a perfect addition to a light dinner on a weight-loss diet.

Healthy French onion soup ingredients

For 4 servings

  • 8 large yellow onions
  • 1 liter of beef broth or chicken broth
  • 4 crushed garlic cloves
  • 300 grams of cabbage
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons of wheat flour
  • 3 large slices of whole grain whole wheat bread
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Sea salt

Directions

  1. Cut 3 slices of whole-wheat bread into small cubes and bake on a baking sheet for 5–7 minutes until crispy to obtain homemade croutons. Set aside.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a hot pan, and sauté 8 finely chopped onions. Cook over medium heat until the onions caramelize, and then add 4 crushed garlic cloves and finely chopped cabbage.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of wheat flour and stir well while gradually adding beef or chicken broth until the flour is completely dissolved.
  4. Add in the thyme sprig, bay leaves, and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
  5. Also, add a pinch of black pepper salt to taste, and cook over medium heat covered for 10 minutes.
  6. Before serving the onion soup, remove the thyme sprig and bay leaves.
  7. Pour a portion of your healthy French onion soup into each bowl and top with a handful of croutons and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast is suitable for vegan diets and is used as a substitute for cheese as it has a similar taste. It also provides B-group vitamins and contains a good amount of fiber.

If you want to make vegetarian French onion soup, you can substitute beef broth for vegetable broth.

For more nutritious and low-calorie recipes like this one, you can download the DoFasting app, where you will find more than 5,000 options suitable for weight loss diets. Also, if you are practicing intermittent fasting, it will be very useful as it allows you to track your progress and organize your eating schedule.

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FAQs

Is French onion soup good or bad for you?

The traditional French onion soup recipe is very high in calories and fat, so it is not good for your health, but you can make it at home using healthier ingredients.

Is French onion soup good for weight loss?

No, during the preparation of the soup, the onions are cooked in a lot of butter, and the soup is served with a lot of cheese, which makes it high in saturated fats that can promote weight gain.

Is French onion soup fattening?

Yes, if consumed continuously, French onion soup can promote weight gain due to its high fat content.

A Word From Our Nutritionist

French onion soup is a high-fat one; however, it is not necessary to rule it out of your options, especially if you are following a ketogenic diet.

On the keto diet, cheese, butter, and olive oil are allowed in larger amounts than in traditional diets with the intention of reaching a state of ketosis, which allows you to use body fat as energy.

If you wanted to eat onion soup while on keto, you would only have to eliminate the bread to make it totally keto-friendly, or you could count the slice of bread as part of your allowed carbohydrates, which are generally less than 50g per day.

You can also make variations of the original onion soup recipe to make a healthy French onion soup. For example, you can add mushrooms to provide more protein or use a low-fat type of cheese to reduce calories.

Conclusion 

Traditional French onion soup is high in saturated fat due to its cheese and butter content.

However, you can vary the ingredients to make a healthy version of French onion soup that does not contain cheese.

Also, to make healthy French onion soup, instead of the classic baguette bread, you can add homemade croutons that you can make by baking whole-wheat bread slices on a baking sheet.

If you want to include soup in your diet, you can choose less caloric options, such as chicken broth with noodles, broccoli soup, or Hot and Sour soup.

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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