As a hardcore addict of the Vietnamese Pho soup (see: Scarborough's Pho 88 Offers "Pho Sate", The Best Soup in Toronto!), I have to say that hearing that it is actually very high in sodium -which is a cause of High Blood Pressure- was devestating... (Please note that this is not specific to Pho 88, but applies to Pho in general.)
To me, it's soup, and soup -as a general rule- is supposed to be good for you, right? Finally I find a soup that is filling, tastes absolutely amazing, and is a meal that I can have day-after-day-after-day without ever getting tired of it, and now I find out that it may be a reason why my blood pressure is a bit high, is just so depressing...
Here's the story from the Toronto Star's Healthzone.ca:
The Dish: Beef pho packs a sodium punch
Steve’s favourite pho comes from The Sprout, a neat and narrow restaurant near Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. W. that proclaims cheerfulness with refreshing lime green decor. All a-bustle during a weekday lunch, Sprout offers up many kinds of pho. A takeout order comes quickly in two Styrofoam containers; one with noodles, a handful of sprouts and the meat or vegetable of choice, the other with steaming, savoury broth.
As per Steve’s request, we tested the rare beef pho with satay sauce. He was eager — yet also afraid — to hear the results.
He was right to be wary. This soup contains 644 calories, 8 grams of fat and 3,100 mg of sodium.
“Holy cow that’s a lot of sodium! The fat and calories are not too bad, a little higher than I would have liked, but wow that sodium is out of control.”
Registered dietitian Carol Harrison shares the exclamation marks over the sodium.
“My first thought was ‘Oh, darn!’ because I love pho,” she says. “This just seems like a gratuitous over use of salt. No meal needs that much salt to taste good.”
The calories and fat are completely reasonable for a meal. No qualms there, Harrison says. But the sodium should give any diner pause before ordering this pho. The staggering 3,100 mg — more than double what your body needs in a day — forces Harrison to give this meal an emphatic two thumbs down for its poor nutrition.
To help put the large sodium number into perspective, Harrison provides the following comparisons: The 3,100 mg is equivalent to 20 dashes with a salt shaker or one heaping teaspoon of salt or the sodium found in 10 small bags of potato chips.
“This is why diners may feel parched after eating out. For your body to process that much sodium, you will feel a physiological response.”
The high level of sodium and the refined carbohydrates in the noodles have a combined negative impact to push up blood pressure, Harrison says. She suggests diners ask for more vegetables in their pho to get more nutrients and beneficial complex carbohydrates. The beef does provide a good dose of protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins.
“Sodium is an issue for everyone,” she says. “When you consume too much fat, your jeans get tight. You can feel the effects. With sodium, it’s harder to feel the negative impacts. The damage is being done inside your body, something you can’t see.”
Steve says knowing the nutrition numbers of his favourite rare beef pho will help him make room for the soup in his diet. Even with its astounding amount of sodium.
“Once I take the guesswork out of the equation, I can plan around it,” he says. “We’re definitely talking a sometimes food here, and I might skip the satay sauce to try and take a little bite out of that sodium.
“I can see it being a little reward for myself after doing a good workout and having had a good eating week. I wouldn’t want to have it more than once a month.”
VERDICT: Sodium-full pho renders it a “faux-pas.”
Rare beef pho with satay sauce:
Serving size: 795 grams
Fat: 8 grams
Sodium: 3,100 mg
Protein: 28 grams
Carbohydrates: 95 grams
Ok, gained back my composure.
I guess this means that I will be avoiding the Pho now, much to my chagrin..
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