Is Tom Yum Soup Healthy? A Flavorful Thai Dish with Wellness Benefits

With its tantalizing blend of sour, spicy and savory flavors, tom yum soup is a popular Thai staple. But many wonder – is tom yum soup healthy?

The answer is a resounding yes! When prepared traditionally, tom yum soup is low in calories and high in nutrients. It contains wholesome ingredients with some impressive health benefits.

Read on to learn all about this delicious soup and how its herbs, spices, and other components contribute to your wellness.

What is Tom Yum Soup?

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Tom yum soup, also known as tom yum goong, is a broth-based Thai comfort food. It features a bold, complex flavor profile.

The soup gets its signature hot-sour taste from a combo of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, chili peppers, fish sauce, and lime juice. Protein and veggies round it out.

Shrimp is traditionally used and gives the soup its alternate name “tom yum goong,” but chicken, tofu, and mushrooms also work. Common additions are tomato, onion, lemongrass, and makrut lime leaves.

This aromatic medley simmers in a light, refreshing broth. The tasty result is the perfect appetite-stimulating starter.

Regional Tom Yum Variations

One of the joys of tom yum soup is experiencing all the regional renditions across Thailand. While the basics remain the same, tom yum takes on its own local flair depending on the area.

Northern Thailand Tom Yum

Northern style tom yum is often served with generous chunks of meat like pork or chicken. It forgoes coconut milk for a lighter broth, usually with dill and chilies. Crunchy vegetables and rice noodles bulk it up. The northern tom yum has a refreshing, herbaceous quality.

Northeastern (Isan) Tom Yum

Isan tom yum packs a spicy punch! It contains the highest concentration of bird’s eye chilies. Tart tamarind, lemongrass, galangal, and mushrooms give it a robust depth. The broth is hearty and often paired with glutinous rice. Isan tom yum will make your taste buds tingle!

Central Thailand Tom Yum

This is the most common tom yum you’ll find in Thai restaurants. It features a clean, aromatic broth made from chicken or shrimp. You’ll taste all those classic tangy, spicy tom yum flavors. The balance makes it universally appealing.

Southern Thailand Tom Yum

Down south, tom yum takes on a turmeric glow. Southern style also includes generous squirts of lime and fish sauce. Coconut milk creates a rich, creamy backdrop for plump shrimp. Fragrant spices like cumin and fennel make an appearance too. It’s a comforting tom yum rendition.

Part of tom yum’s charm is discovering how this iconic soup transforms across the diverse regions of Thailand. So don’t be afraid to go on a flavorful tom yum tasting tour!

What Makes Tom Yum Soup Healthy?

So what gives this popular soup its nutritious reputation? Tom yum packs some impressive wellness benefits:

  • Immune-boosting herbs – Lemongrass, galangal and chilies contain compounds that help strengthen immunity.
  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients – Spices like lemongrass and galangal reduce inflammation.
  • Omega-3s from seafood – Shrimp provide heart-healthy fats that lower inflammation.
  • Low calorie – With only 60-100 calories per bowl, it’s slimming.
  • High protein – A protein-packed option with 15-20g per serving.
  • Vitamin C – Chili peppers and tomatoes provide 150% your daily vitamin C.
  • Fiber – Vegetables like mushrooms and tomato supply gut-healthy fiber.

This nutrient all-star is light yet still satisfying. Let’s explore the wellness benefits of tom yum in more detail.

Health Benefits of Tom Yum Soup

Beyond tantalizing your tastebuds, tom yum soup serves up some significant health perks:

1. Boosts Immunity

With its collection of garlic, chili, lemongrass and lime, tom yum is like an immunity elixir.

Compounds in these immunity-boosting herbs exhibit antibacterial and antiviral activity that helps fight infection. They contain antioxidants that strengthen immune response.

These medicinal spices pack a preventative punch. Sipping tom yum helps safeguard you against colds, flu and other seasonal bugs.

2. Reduces Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases. The various anti-inflammatory ingredients in tom yum help combat this:

  • Lemongrass contains citral that reduces inflammatory enzymes.
  • Galangal has gingerols that limit swelling and joint pain.
  • Chilies capsaicin blocks inflammation-triggering compounds.
  • Shrimp omega-3s also limit inflammation.

This soup is a powerful, all-natural inflammation fighter.

3. Benefits Heart Health

The omega-3 fatty acids in tom yum’s shrimp offer cardiovascular advantages:

  • Lowers blood pressure – Thins blood and reduces pressure on arteries.
  • Reduces blood clots – Makes blood flow more freely with less clotting.
  • Improves cholesterol – Raises “good” HDL and lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol.
  • Stabilizes rhythm – Helps regulate heart rhythms.

These heart-healthy effects add up to a decreased cardiac disease risk.

4. Aids Weight Loss

At just 60-100 calories per serving, this broth-based soup is a smart, slimming choice.

It provides steady energy thanks to a hefty 15-20g of protein per bowl. The protein keeps you fuller longer than empty carbs.

The soup’s spicy heat also revs your metabolism and curbs overeating. Its low energy density means you can eat a larger portion for fewer calories.

For an anytime weight loss booster, turn to tom yum’s slimming satisfaction.

5. Boosts Digestion

With its stimulating spices and heat, tom yum gets your guts going. Gingerols in galangal promote the release of digestive enzymes. This improves digestion and reduces gas and bloating.

The soup’s chili kick also stimulates healthy peristaltic motion in the intestines. Consider tom yum nature’s tastiest digestive tonic.

Nutrition Profile of Tom Yum Soup

To understand tom yum’s health benefits, let’s examine what’s inside this healing broth bowl:

  • Protein – 15-20g protein per serving from shrimp. Helps you stay satiated.
  • Fiber – 2-3g from mushrooms, tomato and lemongrass feed healthy gut bacteria.
  • Vitamin C – A single bowl serves up 150% your daily vitamin C from the chili peppers and tomato. This immune and skin-boosting vitamin also aids iron absorption.
  • Calcium – 10% your daily value from the shrimp shells. Strengthens bones.
  • Potassium – Necessary electrolyte that comes from lemongrass and maintains fluid balance.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Anti-inflammatory powerhouses provided by the shrimp.

This nutritious lineup in a low-calorie broth makes tom yum a smart, satisfying meal.

Tips for Making Tom Yum Soup Healthier

While traditional tom yum already offers wellness benefits, you can bump up its nutritional value with a few easy tweaks:

  • Use vegetable or chicken broth instead of coconut milk for a lighter base.
  • Increase veggies like mushrooms, tomato, broccoli, carrots.
  • Add extra protein from shrimp, chicken or tofu.
  • Use brown rice noodles for extra fiber.
  • Top with chopped herbs like cilantro, green onion, basil.
  • Spice it up with extra chili and grated ginger.
  • Squeeze fresh lime juice over top before serving.
  • Avoid heavy cream or salty broths.

With some personal tweaks, you can customize this soup to be an even healthier fit for your diet.

Tips for Reducing Sodium in Tom Yum Soup

With its salty broth and seasonings like fish sauce, tom yum soup can quickly ramp up your sodium intake. But with a few easy tweaks, you can still enjoy the spicy satisfaction while lowering the salt.

Use Low-Sodium Broth

Opt for low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth as the soup base. Many brands offer reduced sodium options. Or make your own lower-sodium broth at home.

Cut Back on Fish Sauce

Fish sauce adds a savory depth but tons of sodium. Try using half the amount of fish sauce called for in recipes. Or omit it entirely and use salt-free seasoning.

Increase Veggies

Bulk up the soup with extra veggies, which will provide more flavor and texture to balance out less salt. Mushrooms, tomato, cabbage, carrot and peppers work well.

Use Lime Juice

Add extra squirts of lime at the end rather than more fish sauce for a fresh pop of flavor. Lime provides acidity without the salt.

Flavor with Spice Blends

Instead of table salt, use salt-free spice blends like garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and powdered ginger.

Use Low-Sodium Soy Sauce

For a soy sauce substitute, look for low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos to add savory flavor without as much salt.

With these sodium-slashing tricks, you can still enjoy every authentic aroma and taste. Tom yum with less salt is still 100% delicious!

Is Tom Yum Soup Good For Weight Loss?

If you’re trying to slim down, tom yum should definitely be on your menu. Here’s why this soup aids weight loss:

  • Low calorie – Just 60-100 calories per serving of broth-based soup.
  • High protein – 15-20g protein per bowl keeps you fuller longer on less.
  • High water content – The water-dense soup helps you feel satisfied without overeating.
  • Spicy heat – Boosts metabolism and suppresses appetite slightly.
  • Low energy density – Fewer calories for greater volume compared to other foods.

For an anytime slim-down snack, a steaming bowl of this anti-inflammatory broth hits the spot.

Try This Simple and Healthy Tom Yum Soup Recipe

Want to whip up a batch of healthy tom yum at home? This easy recipe delivers maximum flavor with minimum effort:


  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3-4 Thai bird’s eye chilies, sliced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 lb shrimp, tails removed
  • Cilantro, green onion, basil to garnish


  1. In a pot, combine broth, chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tomato and mushrooms. Simmer 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in lime juice, fish sauce and shrimp. Cook 3 minutes until shrimp is pink.
  3. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro, green onion and basil.

This quick 30-minute recipe lets you enjoy all the nutrition and spice of authentic tom yum right at home. Feel free to add veggies, swap proteins or adjust spice to your tastes.

The Takeaway on Tom Yum Soup

With its power-packed ingredients and appetizing aroma, tom yum soup is a healthy choice that doesn’t compromise on flavor. Low in calories yet loaded with benefits, this Thai classic makes for a satisfying, waistline-friendly meal.

The next time you need an immune boost, are feeling bloated, or want to lose a few pounds, turn to a steamy bowl of this anti-inflammatory broth. Your body and tastebuds will thank you!

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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