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Heartwarming soups:Low-sodium versions of family favorites

How about a steaming mug of vegetable soup? Brimming with nutrition, scant on fat and calories … but what about all that salt? The American Heart Association tells us to limit sodium to 2,400 mg a day. Unfortunately, some commercial soups cram nearly that much into one serving. Others whittle sodium down to 480 mg. That’s better but still uses 20 percent of the day’s quota. Another alternative, prepared salt-free soups, are satisfying—if you have a hankering for hot tap water with herbs, that is!

What’s a soup lover with a health conscience to do? Pull out a stockpot, dust off the food processor and sharpen the knives. You can load homemade soups with potassium, protein, vitamins A and C, fiber and other healthful nutrients and control sodium.

Try these recipes. They’re not just dinner preludes or sandwich sidekicks but complete meals that will tempt your taste buds and treat your body right.

Mouthwatering minestrone

Dried beans and salt-free tomato products keep sodium at bay in this delightful minestrone.

  • 1 cup dried red kidney beans, soaked and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked and rinsed
  • 5 cups basic vegetable stock
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 whole celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen, cut green beans
  • 1 14.5-ounce can unsalted peeled tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can low-sodium vegetable juice
  • 8-ounce can unsalted tomato juice
  • sprigs fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
  • clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms caps, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini, halved and sliced (about two small)
  • 2 cups Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup ditali or other small macaroni pasta

Simmer kidney beans and chickpeas in stock, adding water as needed, until tender (at least one hour). Add remaining ingredients except mushrooms, zucchini, cabbage and pasta. Simmer until carrots are tender. Before serving, add remaining vegetables and simmer about 10 minutes, until pasta is al dente.

Makes 10 cups.

Per 1-cup serving: calories 130, protein 8 g, fat 2 g, cholesterol 0 g, sodium 175 mg, fiber 11 g

Basic vegetable stock

This recipe makes enough stock for two pots of soup and serves as the basis for other recipes featured here. If desired, freeze stock in 5-cup batches for later use.

  • 3 carrots, cut in 2" pieces
  • 3 whole stalks celery, cut in 2" pieces
  • 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup chopped leeks
  • 1 cup mushroom stems
  • 1 14.5-ounce can unsalted peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 20 cups cold water

Place all ingredients in large, deep stockpot. Simmer until carrots are tender, about three hours. Strain before serving.

Makes 10 cups.

Per 1-cup serving: calories 20, protein 0 g, fat 2 g, cholesterol 0 g, sodium 5 mg, fiber 0 g

Homemade gumbo

Add 1 cup cooked chicken to this vegetable-shrimp gumbo for a meatier soup.

  • 1 cup black-eyed peas, soaked and rinsed
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 3 cups basic vegetable stock
  • 2 small chili peppers, minced
  • 4 whole green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground red (cayanne) pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 8-oz. can unsalted tomato sauce
  • 1 14.5-oz. can unsalted peeled tomatoes
  • 7 oz. frozen shrimp
  • 10 oz. frozen, cut okra (about 4 cups fresh, sliced)
  • 1 zucchini squash, halved and sliced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 stalks celery (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 large sweet red pepper (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 large sweet green pepper (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Simmer black-eyed peas and brown rice in stock with chili peppers, green onions, cilantro, parsley, red pepper, black pepper and cumin until peas are tender (about one hour). Add remaining ingredients. Cook about 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Makes 10 cups.

Per 1-cup serving: calories 182, protein 11 g, fat 2 g, cholesterol 26 g, sodium 185 mg, fiber 8 g