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‘Clean soup’ comes to Panera — but what is it exactly?

Panera Bread just announced that all the soups sold in its restaurants have been redeveloped by chefs to meet “clean” standards as part of its commitment to sell only clean foods in its stores by the end of 2016. So what does that mean anyway?

Eating “clean” is simply about eating the healthiest foods available in their most natural state — which means eating foods free of artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives. Clean eating also means cutting out refined grains and sugars. For example, Panera has swapped out its use of regular old bleached flour for unbleached wheat flour to make its recipes cleaner.

More: 10 Stealthy clean eating tips to use the next time you entertain

And while clean eating might not be your big concern at the moment, once you start to take a closer look, you might decide eating even a little cleaner might be worth the effort.

Panera has identified a list of ingredients it calls the No No List, which reads more like the back of a shampoo bottle than a list of ingredients, including everything from sodium lauryl sulfate to parabens. They’re hardly the kinds of chemicals you would expect in your lunch. And once you read the Panera No No List of ingredients, you might start wondering what strange chemicals are lurking in your other restaurant faves.

More: 10 Subtle ways clean eating will change your life

Here are a few of the ingredients Panera is ditching in favor of natural alternatives:

But eating cleaner isn’t necessarily simple. Those strange-sounding chemicals make food delicious. In fact, it reportedly took Panera chefs 60 attempts until they were able to perfect the chain’s No. 1-selling soup, broccoli cheddar, which alone accounts for one-third of all the restaurant’s soup sales. It says the result is a soup that tastes even better than the original.

More: What is clean eating and recipes to get you started

“I want to create soups that our guests will love,” Dan Kish, Panera Bread’s head chef, says. “And equally important, I want them to understand and feel confident in the ingredients that go into those soups. We’ve long been advocates of transparency — providing full ingredient information online — and with these new recipes, we have even more to be proud of today.”

The effort might just be worth it for Panera’s bottom line. By making its menu “clean,” it suggests that every other restaurant’s offerings are “dirty,” something no one finds appealing. So besides being good for your body, the new, clean menu might be just what the doctor ordered to boost Panera’s sales.

So what do you think? Are you excited about Panera’s new “clean” menu? Is it enough to get you to make a trip to Panera Bread to check out the new and improved soups?

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