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Is Pho Healthy or Not? Will I Gain Weight If I Have It Often?
A warm bowl of pho soup is everyone’s favorite these days. Made with a blend of broth, meat, rice noodles, and topped with vegetables, pho has it all from a nutritional standpoint. But there’s also talk about pho being unhealthy due to its high sodium content and that it was even fattening. Whether pho is good or bad for you depends on the specific recipe, your choice of condiments, and portion size.A warm bowl of pho soup is everyone’s favorite these days. Made with a blend of broth, meat, rice noodles, and topped with vegetables, pho has it all from a nutritional standpoint. But there’s also talk about pho being unhealthy due to its high sodium content and that it was even fattening. Whether pho is good or bad for you depends on the specific recipe, your choice of condiments, and portion size.
Many of us tend to go overboard with our portion sizes when given a variety of options of meat, veggies etc.
Most of us have had their first bowl pho at our local Vietnamese restaurants where customers are given a variety of options of meat, veggies, serving size, and condiments. No wonder, so many of us tend to go overboard with our portion sizes with that much freedom available. You’ve probably asked yourself at one point is pho healthy and will it ruin your waistline?1 This is especially true if you eat pho on an almost daily basis and feel guilty about it. Another thing that may make you feel weary about pho is that you don’t see this traditionally Vietnamese dish being recommended as a weight-loss and health promoting option. Instead, you are more likely to hear pho referred to as an unhealthy fast-food or street-food.
Hearing talk of pho being one of those unhealthy restaurant meals can kill all the fun around this popular noodle soup. Well, we’re here to tell you that pho can be a big part of even the best diet plan if you eat it moderately and if you customize it wisely.2 On the downside, many low-quality restaurant versions tend to be high in saturated fat and sodium, so this can get a bit tricky. Studies show that too much fat in your diet can lead to weight gain, a higher risk of diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.3 Furthermore, too much sodium in your daily diet can cause hypertension and damage your heart, kidneys, and blood vessels.
Pho is healthy only when…
While pho may come with its downsides, you can customize this delicious Vietnamese dish to make it more healthful. Compared to other fast-food dishes, a small serving of pho is quite balanced in nutrients and pretty low in calories. For instance, an appetizer serving size of chicken pho contains only 162 calories.4 Of this, 32% of the calories come from fat, 32% come from carbohydrates, and 36% of the calories in one cup of pho come from protein. On the other hand, a meal-sized portion of pho may provide up to 400 calories which are only 20% of the recommended daily intake of calories.
As you can see, good quality pho isn’t the highly fattening fast food it was made up to be. This is especially true with pho that was made using traditional methods. Traditionally, pho was made by cooking beef bones or chicken for a very long time, and the excess fat at the top was removed. Restaurant versions may skip this last step, but high-end restaurants make it a priority to make their meals healthy and delicious. But other than providing you with a modest number of calories, pho is also great for meeting your vitamin and mineral needs. Pho is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Depending on how much veggies you like to include, you can also get plenty of fiber from your bowl of pho.
How to make your pho healthful
Enjoying pho and getting plenty of health benefits with it is possible is you make the right decisions. First, it is best to look for a Vietnamese restaurant serving traditional pho instead of the fast-food version. As we’ve already explained, some restaurants skip skimming the excess fat from their pho broth making for an unhealthier soup version. Secondly, when customizing your pho at your favorite restaurant, be careful no tot go overboard with certain ingredients. Too much rice noodles will cause a spike in your blood glucose and make a meal fattening. Similarly, adding more than your fair share of meat cuts to your bowl of pho will pack on the extra calories. Instead, be generous with vegetable topping when customizing your pho. Veggies like bean sprouts, jalapenos, and onions will control your blood glucose levels, and their fiber content will keep you feeling full.
But other than customizing your pho bowl to suit your health-conscious lifestyle, why not play it safe and make a homemade version instead? While Pho is traditionally made over the course of one to two days, there are plenty pho recipes requiring just a fraction of that time. With homemade pho, you get to have more control over the amount of fat, protein, and carbs you consume with each portion. We suggest opting for homemade chicken pho because chicken is leaner than beef.
We also suggest being moderate with condiments like soy sauce and siracha sauce. While these sauces help make pho taste great, they are very high in sodium. Restaurant versions also tend to go overboard with the sodium in pho to make it more palatable. But as already explained, this practice can be dangerous for your overall health. Instead, add only a tiny bit of sauces and salt to your pho, just enough to remove any blandness. You can also be playful with your topping and add spring onions or broccoli even. Make sure to read about low-calorie foods and benefits of broccoli before making your homemade pho.5
Whether or not pho is healthy varies greatly from one version to the other. Traditional pho served with skimmed broth, a moderate serving of noodles, a tiny bit of sauce, and a generous helping of veggies is nutritious and possibly healthy. On the other hand, fast-food versions packed in sodium and saturated fat may not be the best choice for a daily meal. To get around this problem, pho lovers can customize their bowls by adding more veggies, being skimpy with condiments, and adding noodles moderately.
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