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Pho- is it .. good for you??

Is the typical bowl of pho healthy, like low fat? I am just curious of the preperation of it..

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  1. That's a complicated question.

    You can definitely say that pho is not bad for you in moderation, but there aren't many dishes that you definitively qualify as healthy. Pho is generally low in fat, but that depends on what cut of beef you get and how much of it there is. Also, the broth might be high in sodium, depending on where you get it. If you get a lot of veggies with your pho (sprouts, cilantro, basil, etc.), that's good, but how much you get depends, again, on where you get your pho. Also, some might argue that the noodles, which are might of refined white rice flour, are not good for you. Some pho places might add MSG to the broth, which could also be a bad thing, depending on your views on MSG.

    There are certainly a lot of things you could be eating that are worse for you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Humbucker

      Pho is very healthy, compared to other foods for dinner/lunch that you can get. I would compare it with fast foods, since phos are prepared quite quick, and its waaaaaaaaaay healthier. You get bean sprouts and herb, noodles that fill you up, soup thats hearty, and meat which is good protein! I always feel good after a good hearty bowl o' pho.

      1. re: Humbucker

        Dont add anything to the broth other than the herbs and vegatables ie: soy sauce, it it will be lower in sodium.

      2. thanks for the info guys! Always kinda good to have an idea of what I'm eating.

        1. Here's links to several Pho recipes and the calorie/nutrition facts. The recipes vary greatly as do the fat and calorie counts.

          Personally I think that pho is very healthy. The broth is light and doesn't have much in the way of oils or fat. The meat is usually lean and a good source of protein. The herbs, bean sprouts, lemon/lime juice, chilis are full of vitamins and minerals like A, B, C, E, Calcium, Iron, Potasium, Manganese, Magnesium, Niacin, Phosphorus, and more. The rice noodles are even pretty good too, they have quite low calories by weght depending upon the type and decent amounts of fiber.









          1 Reply
          1. re: JMF

            thanks for these links, youve inspired me to make my own now too!

          2. things to be wary of:

            fried noodles (ever checked the fat content in your typical ramen? outrageous!)
            overly salted commercial broth

            that said, if you can find a place that makes their own stocks, fills it with lean meats and vegetables, and uses unfried noodles, it's great for you.

            3 Replies
            1. re: C70

              Who has ever had pho made with fried noodles???

              1. re: C70

                LOL someone obviously doesn't know their pho. Pho noodles are never fried only dried (or fresh)

                1. re: asiandelectables

                  not-uhh. pho is a type of noodle so you can definitely get fried pho, or more like stir-fried pho. pho xao. it's delicioussss.

              2. How do you pronounce this dish? I used to say 'fo' rhymes with dough but my Cambodian friend laughed out loud at me. Now I try to say something like 'fur' but leave off the 'r'

                20 Replies
                1. re: mnitchals

                  remember that your Cambodian friend laughed, not your Vietnamese friend. They have a similar dish, not sure what it is called, but could be what they are telling you. Ask a person that speaks Vietnamese. My friends taught me to say it like fuuh, kinda rhyming with duh, but the u is prolonged. LOL

                  1. re: justagthing

                    The "Pho King" restaurant down the street makes more sense to me now :P

                    1. re: Eater92115

                      Yep, It is Phở-King Good! The change of ownership seems to have had little effect, though it may be slightly cleaner.

                  2. re: mnitchals

                    it's not FOE, it's more like FOH


                    1. re: mnitchals

                      Yeah fuuh. That's a good way to describe the pronunciation they told me to use.

                      1. re: mnitchals

                        That's a good way to describe it. Also, it is spoken rising tone.

                        1. re: raytamsgv

                          Right... Fuh? Like asking a question.

                          1. re: JMF

                            that would be correct...or you can always do what another friend of mine does..Hey, you want to go and get some P. H. O. tonight?

                            1. re: justagthing

                              There is a pho place up in the SF Bay area called "What The Pho...?", if that helps any.

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                There's one in HB on PCH as well...haven't been, have you?

                                1. re: justagthing

                                  We have one called Pho King around Seattle.

                                  1. re: LaureltQ

                                    there's a pho king in new orleans i went to last time i was there. all the writers i was hinging out with were raving about it. i thought it was pho king bland

                        2. re: mnitchals

                          I've heard that's the right pronunciation but I feel silly saying it, and none of my non-Asian friends know what I'm talking about. With my great friend "foe", we're all on the same page.

                          1. re: mnitchals

                            it's just like word "phonetic" (with a soft O )....in other words..."fuh". But say stretched out, like it's a question.


                            That's how I was told and haven't had any funny looks yet.

                            1. re: rilkeanheart

                              not at all like foot minus the "t". I don't think you will get the little question mark and hook diacritic tone right when you say it unless you are familiar with Vietnamese tonal pronunctiation. To approximate in English with no tone but at least the closest sound, it is like the -uh in no duh!

                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                It's pronounced like the french dish "pot au feu", just the last word of course.

                                1. re: gourmet wife

                                  I have a friend who believes that pho is the vietnamese version of pot au feu and that is why the pronounciation is the same. Considering the French influence in that country, she may be right.

                                  1. re: lilmomma

                                    That is my understanding as well, based on two Vietnamese books from which I have cooked.

                                    1. re: lilmomma

                                      One, you're likely right about the pot au feu connection. There's so much literature to support it, and the similarity of the dishes (pho and pot au feu) is difficult to deny.

                                      Two, the pronounciation is NOT the same (though, to be sure, within context, most people aren't stupid enough to not know what you're talking about). There's a similarity, to be sure, but "same" is not true. I had to search a bit to find a good pronounciation but here is it:
                                      (Really, though, as long as it's good, I guess it doesn't matter much how it's "supposed" to be pronounced.)

                            2. Or you can find a place that serves pho ga and ask them to use chicken breast meat, rather than beef. (As delicious as it is to get that pho beef slice cooked medium rare or slightly less red).

                              Even if a pho broth has a lot of salt or MSG you don't have to drink it :-) Pho shizzle.

                              1. you have to "think it through"

                                lets see, broth, lean beef (ok, not the cheap version- but let's face it who would make the cheap ver. at home), vegetables, and, to some degree sautied in a no-stick pan or baked veg. so- i'm inclined to ask the intelligent cook/chef- "where's the fat"?

                                as the now infamous 'steve' might say- "crikes" where's the confusion?

                                postmod in TO

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: depthperception

                                  funnily enough, i am making beef stock for pho as i type this. i make it a day ahead and then skim the fat off completely. i use very lean beef in the final product and don't add salt at all, but the fish sauce is loaded with sodium.

                                  i just started making this recently and am now 100% hooked. my husband says it is better than our local vietnamese joint, but i think he's got some other angle going!

                                  1. re: potterstreet

                                    the broth almost always comes defatted and totally clear on top but if you ask you can get some of the grease to put back on top. i have a friend that loves to do this.

                                    i like to ask for the beef slices on the side so i can dip them into the broth and have them barely frosted. oh yeah.

                                    I admire how you can make it at home. It's a pain to do.

                                    1. re: potterstreet

                                      what about using bonito flakes instead of the fish sauce?

                                      1. re: melly

                                        totally different flavor, those two ingredients.

                                  2. One thing about Pho and a lot of other soups with clear broths. You're filling up a lot on water. That's a good thing.


                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      I don't feel it's "unhealthy", at least. I feel full after eating a bowl, yet I don't think it's high in calories. The family that runs the pho place I frequent are slim and have good complexions - if that means anything.

                                      To me, pho is the perfect meal - protein, starch, herbs & veggies, not to mention that delicious sweet broth. I like to make my dip with hoisin, chile oil paste, and sriracha. The first mouthful is the best - twirling a bundle of noodles and goodies into my spoon and using my chopsticks to paint it with the dip.

                                      Kudos to anyone who can make this at home.

                                      1. re: Ulua

                                        I dunno if Pho is good for me, but when i want a good nap, i go to eat pho for lunch. Knocks you out in 15 minutes and then when you wake up, you are hungry again.

                                        1. re: aznknightt

                                          I notice it makes me sleepy too - wonder if it's the herbs. (Thai basil and culantro).

                                    2. If you're an old guy like me, prone to attacks of gout, high-protein broths are definitely on the Do Not Eat list. If you're an old guy EXACTLY like me you will ignore said list at least once a month and get a big bowl of pho with brisket, well- and rare-cooked beef, tripe, tendon and meatballs. You will strew in plenty of basil and whatever those other pungent herbs are, plus maybe too many of the jalapeño slivers, and you will go slurpingly to town. You will feel very, very good afterwards, and if you have not annoyed the Gout Gods you will wake up the next morning feeling very good and rather smug. Especially since all that goodness probably set you back all of $5...

                                      Now, THAT'S healthy!

                                      1. It depends on many factors.

                                        Pho Tai is typically made of broth that boils beef bones, lemongrass among other herbs and spices. The broth is extremely high in sodium, depending on where you get it. Some places use MSG, which in moderation (like most things) isn't too terrible for you, but I would hardly call it healthy. People with high blood pressure or at risk of it, should not eat pho often or at all, depending on how bad their condition is, etc.

                                        Besides being high in salt, you have the carbohydrate factor. This leans towards what type of foods your diet consists of, and what you are geared towards eating. For example, if you are on a low carb diet, pho would not be a choice for you. The noodles are made of refined white flour, which is highly processed offering very little nutritional value and a ton of carbohydrates.

                                        The meat is beef- there are different parts of the cow they use in different variations of the dish. The main beef used is TAI, which is leaner, and considerably healthy for you to eat. They also offer tendon, tripe, brisket, flank, etc. Some of these additional choices contain much more fat. If you are on a low fat diet, the noodles may affect you slightly, depending on how strict you are, but you would definitely have to make leaner beef choices or even switch to GA, which is chicken (even healthier sans skin).

                                        If you are on a low carb diet, Pho would not be what you seek. If you are on a low fat diet, you may need to go easy on the noodles and carefully choose your meat.

                                        The herbs and vegetables in Pho are side products (basil, mint, bean sprouts, onions, and sometimes cilantro). Although good for you, they are not enough to constitute a serving of vegetables in ratio to the carbohydrates and meat in- take (in a normal serving of Pho).

                                        Which leads me to the last point, what serving size you eat matters. I've been to some Pho restaurants where even the smallest bowl size has been too much for me.

                                        On a side note, if you add Siracha or Hoison sauce, be aware that both have a decent amount of sugar content (for those who are doing no to low sugar as in South Beach).

                                        Generally speaking if you get the entire bowl of Pho with ALL the fixings, I would say it's not healthy. Eating a bowl of Pho with ALL the fixing (the fatty meats) in combination will give you a high fat, high carb, high sodium bowl of food.

                                        If you are craving Pho- eat about HALF of what a restaurant offers you in a bowl and skip the fatty meats.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: sausau

                                          May I offer an alternative to the above, grounded in my own experience and practices? It's this: find the place with the pho you like the best, with the meats and broth and garnishes you prefer. Be careful of your diet, within reason, on a regular basis, and then maybe once every month or two go into your favorite pho place and get yourself a big bowl with all the stuff you like. Consume.

                                          This ain't heroin, and it ain't cigarettes. One bowl is never gonna drop you dead, impair your immune system, clog up your arteries or whatever. Just as a cheeseburger once in a while isn't the same as a steady diet of them. My favorite motto is and forever has been: Moderation in all things, including moderation!

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            "This ain't heroin, and it ain't cigarettes. "

                                            Beg to differ! Pho is quite addictive, it is one of the few things I regularly have cravings for and must assuage. Oddly enough, I was quite dismissive of the stuff when I first tried it, but now I am hooked.

                                            1. re: moh

                                              I concur! Vietnamese is my weakness and pho is the worst of it all for me. It's soul-soothing.

                                            2. re: Will Owen

                                              When I go to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, I pat myself on the back for ordering Fuuh, feu, pho, rather than my true desire of fried spring rolls and shrimp over noodles w/ nuoc cham (?) that fab dipping sauce.

                                              Pho is soup! (for crying out loud), and not fried food (or heroin)

                                              I'm getting alot of broth, it clears out my sinuses, and I can leave some of the noodles in the bowl. It's delicious, it makes me happy and I feel good afterwards with a full warm tummy of not fried food, but broth.

                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                  by that logic heroin and cigarettes arent heroin and cigarettes either.

                                                  one cigarette is not going to kill you. doing a small bit of heroin once in a blue moon, likewise is not going to kill you.

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    Life will kill you eventually. That's a fact.

                                                2. re: sausau

                                                  sausau, i thought the noodles were made of rice flour, not wheat...

                                                  1. re: chocabot

                                                    Sausau never said that the noodles were made of wheat flour. All he/she said was that it's made of white flour, meaning white as opposed to whole-grain. The majority of Asian rice noodles sold in the States are made of refined white rice. There are brown rice noodles sold in Asia, but are not hugely popular. I haven't been able to find them in NYC.

                                                  2. re: sausau

                                                    sausau: "Eating a bowl of Pho with ALL the fixing (the fatty meats) in combination will give you a high fat, high carb, high sodium bowl of food."

                                                    'High-carb' and 'high-fat' refer to macronutrient ratios. The macronutrients are carbs, fats and proteins. For a given amount of protein, a high-carb food is by definition low-fat, and a high-fat food is by definition low-carb. The only way for a food to be high in both carbs and fats is for it to have comparable amounts of both, and very little protein; this is not the case for pho with meat.

                                                    So if you equate 'healthy' with both 'low-fat' and 'low-carb' as many people in this thread are doing, then there are no healthy foods. Except lean protein, I guess, but a diet that's only protein will kill you. This is just a silly way to think about food. Don't be afraid of high-fat or high-carb food; just adjust portion sizes so that your total calorie intake and macronutrient ratios are reasonable.

                                                  3. I cannot believe that no one has mentioned the "chicken noodle soup" effect that good pho can have when you're sick. I'm personally not a pho fan, but my husband adores it, and craves nothing else when he's feeling under the weather. He'd rather have pho than homemade chicken soup.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: Suzy Q

                                                      Oh, me too! There is nothing like it when I have a cold.

                                                      The thought of most Americans avoiding pho as an "unhealthy" food makes me laugh. Compared to most of the processed junk in our grocery stores, well, I vote for a big bowl of pho tai.

                                                      1. re: Vetter

                                                        Oh, my husband knows when I am feeling depressed and/or under the weather that pho ga is the way to my heart and they way to get me out of bed and dressed. It's great on my sensitive IBS-ridden system. It's my cure all when I don't have the energy to make my grandmother's matzo ball soup.

                                                      2. re: Suzy Q

                                                        Yes Suzy! We always get pho when we feel like we are coming down with something. I think it is a combo of the spiciness with the effect of basically sitting with your head over a bowl of steam for the time it takes to eat it that gets everything "flowing." Also, as someone mentioned above, you ingest a ton of fluid, always a good thing for fighting illness. Finally, the nap factor: a belly full of warm soup makes you sleep great for more healing.

                                                        As for calories, I have am not a vegetarian but I love the vegetable version with pressed tofu and lots of veggies.

                                                        In my neighborhood in Northern Virginia, our favorite place is called Pho King. We are not sure if the nice family that owns it realizes how that sounds if it is all run together but we always laugh immaturely when we decide to get a Pho King bowl of soup for dinner.

                                                        1. re: BlueSwimmer

                                                          That's pho king awesome. ;) BTW, I just ate a giant bowl to treat my cold/bronchitis. I already feel like it's working.

                                                        2. re: Suzy Q

                                                          Pho is my go-to illness food. It has a good balance of nutrients and that chicken-soup satisfaction, but also the nasal-clearing qualities of lots of lime juice and sriracha.

                                                        3. I love my Pho, but don't eat fatty food much..I'm very particular about the contents of my Pho and each restaurant is very different..
                                                          I actually only go with vegetarian or chicken, but even then, some broths are just full of fat. Even though I also skim the fat of the top, I'm often left skimming until the bowl is empty!..which leads me to believe the noodles were sitting in a bowl of simmering fat.
                                                          If the broth is too fatty, I have to leave the dish untouched...I know many love the fatty broth, but..just can not stomach it!!
                                                          you can easily see how healthy your dish is by looking at the amount of fat/oil on top.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: burlgurl

                                                            Pho should not have any fat floating around at all, and the diner should not have to skim it. If you do, the place is not preparing it properly. No pho fanatic should have to tolerate this. They are supposed to skim and discard the impurities from the pot of broth well before they drop the noodles into your bowl.

                                                            At the place I go to, the broth is clear of any fat residues (and I always go with the beef). I'd say drop the restaurant(s) where you've had that experience and move on till you find a good one. Good luck.

                                                            1. re: Ulua

                                                              You're probably correct about impurities in some pho shops, and those that do not meet your expectations should not have your business.

                                                              On the other hand, there actually are many ways to order pho to your own preference regardless of what's on the menu. This includes more fatty broth or non-fat broth, more meat or more noodles, less this and more that, you get the idea. Some people like to order rare sliced beef uncooked as a side dish, while others, like me, order vinegar onions on the side.

                                                              Depending on where you live, the only thing that not all pho shops have is culantro which is not a popular and widely available ingredient in the U.S. So I can't insist on having it if they don't have it. But anything else goes. Happy pho day!

                                                              More pho tips here: http://bit.ly/zHzFi

                                                              1. re: chuynh

                                                                Yes culantro is definitely an important ingredient. I've seen places use cilantro but it's not the same. I think the closer the place is to an Asian produce center, the better the chance they'll have it. It is indigenous to the American Tropics and West Indies, and is somewhat delicate -- so maybe it's not easy to cultivate in N. America.

                                                                1. re: Ulua

                                                                  There's really no market for culantro in the US, even in the ethnic foods, except in Viet cuisine and maybe just a few others. You're right that in Viet community one can find culantro more easily. That's because the people actually grow these themselves, oftentimes to supply to supermarkets. Anyway more on culantro here for those interested. http://bit.ly/bmwEb

                                                                  1. re: chuynh

                                                                    That's very interesting! Thanks for sharing. I always thought that cilantro and culantro were two different words for the same plant. I love learning new things -- particularly about food.

                                                                    1. re: itshalffull

                                                                      Yeah I admit culantro is kind of a strange name, though I like it a lot. Together with Thai basil, they're my trusty dynamic duo!

                                                                    2. re: chuynh

                                                                      Edit: Haha, I just realized you said "culantro" not "cilantro." I was one letter off. :/ There's always cilantro, but I've never even heard of culantro till now.

                                                            2. Nutritional value aside, I can think of few dishes that give me a sense of calm and well-being like eating a bowl of good pho does. It's like a drug, or meditation. Works every time.


                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                Well, pho broth is made with bones, so it's likely chock full of minerals. Also, the spices are medicinal. It's my preferred hangover food.

                                                              2. It always seemed like a well-balanced meal to me - starch (noodles) protein (beef) soup, veggies (bean sprouts, etc.). Remarkably so, considering the low price - it doesn't cost much less to have a chain greaseburger on a bun.

                                                                Can I comment that, after all, the Vietnamese ate it all duirng the war, which was, at least as far as they were concerned, a vast success?

                                                                1. Well, the average amount of salt per serving (excluding the Seattle Health Department's recipe) in the links up above is 164% of the daily average. I love it too (and the salt may be the reason), but, sadly, I think that answers your question.

                                                                  1. When my wife was pregnant, pho was the food she craved the most.

                                                                    1. The only part that's really bad for you are the noodles.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                          I suppose someone who is on a low-cal diet... Different people consider different things to be "unhealthy". Some will tell you that the fat is the unhealthy part. Some will tell you the cholesterol, and some will tell you the starch...etc.

                                                                          1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                            Most likely because it's 3-4xs the so called serving size and considered a refined carb...

                                                                          1. Broths always give me an overwhelming sense of eating something healthy. Pho broth/stock should be low fat, as should most broths/stocks, apart from some (as in bouillabaise) that are sometimes boiled to emulsify the fats. But then, still, that's fish fats and not so copious.

                                                                            Broths rule!

                                                                            1. Another ancient thread, is there no way to "archive" these blasts from the past, oh, as far a Pho goes at least it is not processed, prepackaged, adultrated mass produced garbage. Pho takes many forms just like North American soup/stew.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                Osprey C-
                                                                                Join the discussion on the Site Talk Board!!
                                                                                The two current threads are "Stop me before I help again" and

                                                                              2. Bone broths are remarkably healthy. So many minerals for us to absorb easily. If the meat and bones are from good sources, the fat is actually good for you also. I agree that the noodles are probably the least healthiest and try to minimize those.