Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a hearty Vietnamese soup usually made with a meaty broth, rice noodles, various herbs, and either beef, chicken, or tofu.
Though traditionally a Vietnamese street food, its popularity has spread to other countries.
This article reviews pho, including its nutritional information, benefits, and downsides.
Traditionally, pho is prepared by simmering a broth made with beef bones, ginger, onions, and other spices over low heat for several hours.
Rice noodles, known as “banh pho,” are then added, as well as herbs like cilantro or basil. Finally, thinly sliced beef or chicken is incorporated and cooked in the hot broth.
Some people like to top it with bean sprouts, vegetables, chili pepper, or lime.
While most commonly eaten during the colder months, many restaurants serve this Vietnamese soup year round.
Pho differs throughout Vietnam and in other parts of the world, depending on the broth’s flavor, noodle size, and ingredients added to the finished product.
SUMMARY Pho is a Vietnamese soup made with broth, rice noodles, herbs, and thinly sliced meat, tofu, or poultry.
Pho may just seem like a basic soup, but its ingredients may offer various benefits.
Many of the ingredients in pho offer potential health benefits, such as:
Most variations of pho include either beef, pork, chicken, or tofu. A 2-cup (475ml) serving packs about 30 grams of protein, making it an excellent source of this filling nutrient (9).
Sufficient protein intake is important, as this macronutrient serves as the main building block for your body and is used to make muscles, tendons, organs, skin, and hormones. It’s also needed for other processes (10, 11).
The recommended dietary allowance for protein is 0.4 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight per day, though most people require more than that. Eating pho as part of a healthy diet can help you meet your needs (12).
Many spices and herbs, including cilantro and basil in pho, are high in polyphenols. These compounds have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer (13, 14, 15).
Though it’s difficult to determine the amount of herbs and spices needed to reap health benefits, eating pho can contribute to your intake of these powerful substances.
As rice noodles are typically used in pho, the dish is often gluten-free — though this also depends on other ingredients and how they were processed.
While a gluten-free diet is not necessarily healthier, pho can be a good option if you avoid gluten.
SUMMARY The nutrient-dense ingredients in pho may reduce inflammation and chronic disease risk. Plus, the dish is generally gluten-free.
Though eating pho may offer certain benefits, you should look out for a few things.
Pho can be high in sodium, especially commercially prepared versions.
Soup bases and broths tend to be high in sodium, providing close to 1,000 mg per 1-cup (240-ml) serving (16).
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture, recommend no more than 2,300 mg daily (17).
Thus, just one serving of pho could pack about half of your daily sodium allowance.
The best way to reduce the sodium content of pho is to make the bone broth from scratch or buy a lower-sodium variety.
The calorie content of pho can vary greatly depending on the type of noodles and cut of meat used.
To keep calories in check, use a rice noodle that’s higher in fiber, such as those made with brown rice. Added fiber can help promote feelings of fullness, making you eat fewer calories overall (20).
Fiber and nutrient contents can also be increased by including more vegetables, such as mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts, or dark leafy greens.
To control added fat and calories from meat, use a leaner cut of beef, such as top round. Leaner protein options, such as chicken or tofu, work well, too.
Incorporating more vegetables and lean protein and reducing the amount of noodles in your pho can help fill you up more quickly, which may reduce overeating.
SUMMARY Pho can be high in sodium and calories depending on the ingredients used. Make bone broth from scratch or use a low-sodium variety, and focus on leaner protein sources and high-fiber noodles.
Pho is a Vietnamese soup made with broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat or tofu.
Due to its nutritious ingredients and high protein content, it may offer several benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved joint health.
Still, it can be high in sodium and calories, so portion size is important.
Overall, pho can be a nutritious addition to a well-balanced diet.