Nothing is better than having a bowl of healthy Pho when your stomach needs something light, flavorful, and full of nutrition. Pho has been a go-to recipe for many who like something easy to make, healthy, and low-calorie. Pho is a healthy soup bowl with noodles, much different than a stew, but just as nutritious.
The Vietnamese soup is easy to make as a one-pot meal requiring less preparation if you already have broth in your freezer. All you need to do is prepare the bone broth and keep it in the freezer. Assembly with noodles, meat, and other herbs is easy and requires less time.
This article will discuss all you need to know about Pho. We will discuss what it is, its nutritional value and health benefits, and other related questions. So before we get into details, let’s see what exactly Pho is.
What is Pho?
Pho is a popular noodle dish from Vietnam. It combines clear broth, rice noodles, many flavorful herbs, and thinly sliced meat. It is most known for its aromatic herbs and spices. The most common Pho spices are ginger, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and fennel.
Originating in the late 19th and early 20th century, Pho is generally linked to the French colonial period in Vietnam. Some call it an adaptation of French one-pot beef and vegetable stew.
Some trace Pho back to Chinese settlers in northern Vietnam, where it was sold on the streets as a breakfast dish with beef stew and noodles. It can be a combination of both, as rice noodles and soup is a clear Chinese influence, while the addition of beef comes from the French Colonial regime. (1)
In Vietnam, Pho was mainly considered a breakfast dish. It was prepared early in the morning and served hot with lots of spices, herbs, and meat. Broth from beef bones was prepared in the night and in the morning cups of beef broth and a bowl of noddle was sold to the customers. Soon the dish became widely popular, and each region had its own Pho recipes with preferred ingredients and flavors.
The same street food that spread with Vietnamese refugees to neighboring areas has now become one of the most popular dishes in America. You can find it on the menu in almost every restaurant.
What makes Pho popular is the complexity of flavors, nutritional value, and of course, the mouth-watering combination of meaty broth and noodles.
Nowadays, Pho is served in different restaurants with various options, and you can choose the type of meat, broth, herbs, or spices.
What Makes Pho Different from Other Soups?
Pho is basically a soup that combines beef bone broth, portion of noodles, spices, and meat. The beef bone broth has replaced widely with chicken bones. What makes it different from other soups is the complexity of its taste, its adaptability, and of course, its delicious taste.
You get everything from noodles, meat, and healthy options like bean sprouts or tofu in one bowl. One can add almost any flavor, sauce, or vegetable and make a personalized version of this healthy soup. The rich toppings you can add to your taste make Pho different from any other soup.
How is Pho Compared to Ramen?
Ramen is another popular noodle dish from Japan. Ramen and Pho are soups with noodles and meat; the similarities end here.
Both are considered staples in their areas, and each has a distinct taste. The difference lies in the type of noodles. broth, toppings, and sauces used in its making.
Pho used rice noodles, whereas ramen noodles are thick and have a firm texture. The egg is a common ingredient in Ramen, where it is added in the end to enhance nutritional value, flavor, and texture. The broth in Pho is clear, while in Ramen, it can be thick and has more intense flavors.
Another difference is that Pho contains thinly sliced pieces of beef or chicken, while the meat in Ramen is in the form of thicker chunks.
What are Some Health Benefits of Pho?
Pho is considered a very healthy soup dish. Especially if you are using chicken for meat and broth, the fat content is very low. Here are some nutritional benefits of Pho.
Lots of Protein
Pho is a excellent source of protein. The protein content comes from chicken or beef broth with long-simmering connective tissues, bones, and muscles, and the meat slices are added to the soup. The benefits of bone broth are too many. The soup is surely healthy for muscles, bones and joint health. Other healthy ingredients like tofu or bean sprouts enhance the nutritional value. Bean sprouts are especially rich in protein, folacin, fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamins C and K. (2)
Pho is Gluten Free
Pho is perfect if you are looking for a good Gluten free recipe. When we look at the ingredient list, we don’t see any ingredients that can add Gluten to Pho. Rice noodles are Gluten free. The spices and herbs are Gluten free. Whether you are using chicken, beef, or any seafood, the meat slices do not require breathing, so they are Gluten free.
There can be some concerns if you are ordering it from restaurants as you don’t know what sauces they have used in the broth. You can tell them to keep it Gluten free or make it home where you can watch each ingredient and make sure that it remains Gluten free.
Besides all these nutritional values, a bowl of soup is surprisingly low in calories and perfect if you are watching weight and need something low-fat but fulfilling.
The trick to lowering calories even more is by switching to chicken instead of beef broth and topping. Adding bean sprouts and other veggies like green onion gives it more nutritional value without adding fat or calories. Rice noodles in Pho also have fewer calories than other noodles.
Use of Ginger
A very healthy ingredient that can add to the nutritional value used in stock is ginger. That not only gives the soup its distinct flavor but comes with many benefits as well. It’s good for the cold, so a bowl of perfect healthy Pho is what you need if you suffer from a cold, blocked, or runny nose in winter.
The use of ginger and other herbs gives Pho very rejuvenating properties. It strengthens the immune system and gives Pho both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities.
Pho Nutritional Facts
The nutritional value of Pho and the calorie count depends on the type of Pho you are making. Different types of meat and topping are used for Pho. With chicken you get more lean protein and less calories. Here is a typical bowl of traditional Pho with a 20-ounce bowl serving:
- 5 grams of fat
- Carbs 100 gram
- Fiber 6 gram
- 20 grams of protein
- Total calories 500 grams
Besides these, Pho contains many vitamins and minerals from all the meat, toppings, herbs, and spices used in its making.
What are the Downsides of Pho(if there are any)?
We can’t call the downsides because Pho is all healthy and nutritional and comes with many benefits. Yes, there can be some pitfalls, especially if you order it in a restaurant.
It can be High in Sodium
Sometimes the amount of sodium in a bowl of Pho can be more than you require. Especially when sold in streets or restaurants, too many extra spices and sauces like fish sauce used to enhance the flavor can spike the sodium level, which can be unhealthy.
Another pitfall can be the calorie count. Yes, we have said Pho is all healthy and good for those who are calorie conscious, but with too many toppings and bone broth numerous varieties sold worldwide, keeping the calorie count can be a little tricky. The trick is to be careful of the topping and type of meat in your Pho bowl.
How to Make your Bowl of Pho as Healthy as You Can?
The best way to avoid downsides is to make your broth from scratch. Here are some tips to make healthier versions of Pho.
Be Watchful of the Ingredients
Make sure you choose sauces for your blend of broth carefully and ensure sodium intake does not exceed the recommended limit. Too much sodium intake can cause health complications like blood pressure. Don’t add too many spices and sauces. Stick to the basics, and the broth will remain clear, flavorful, and healthy. Too many spices and flavors will add sodium content needlessly.
Use of Healthy Vegetables
You can use homemade vegetable broth. Adding a dash of lemon juice can make this one bowl of Pho even healthier. Be generous with the garnishing, and use fresh herbs like fresh basil, cilantro, parsley, or even mint(if you like the flavor) Use of healthy veggies like bean sprouts or tofu can add extra protein.
Use of chicken breasts or seafood for making broth and for topping meat as well. Beef bone are healthy but can add too many calories. It has fewer calories than beef which makes it more diet-friendly.
Choose the toppings carefully. Again use chicken instead of beef for meat. You can switch the meat with tofu. Using bean sprouts and herbs gives the Pho more nutrition without adding too many calories.
Switch rice noodles with zucchini noodles egg noodles. The variation can further lessen the calorie count. You can also use brown rice noodles that are healthier than normal rice noodles.
Pho is a versatile Vietnamese noodle soup you can take any time of the day. It’s easy to put together and is a healthy option for those on a diet. Making Pho at home is easy. You can make sure it is healthy by controlling whatever goes in it. You can also add or deduct ingredients or make the vegetarian bone broth to suit your dietary and nutritional needs and preferences. It can be a part of any meal plan and can be used to get relief from joint pains as well.