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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Things You Should Know Thursday: Sodium

Your body needs some sodium to function properly because it:
  • Helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body
  • Helps transmit nerve impulses
  • Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles
"Your kidneys naturally balance the amount of sodium stored in your body for optimal health. When your sodium levels are low, your kidneys essentially hold on to the sodium. When sodium levels are high, your kidneys excrete the excess in urine.  But if for some reason your kidneys can't eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases. Increased blood volume makes your heart work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, which increases pressure in your arteries. Such diseases as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can make it hard for your kidneys to keep sodium levels balanced." - Mayo Clinic;

Government guidelines recommend that people consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day -- about one teaspoon of salt. So if you eat three meals a day, you'll want to stay within 800 milligrams of sodium per meal.

A big high sodium culprit are canned soups. 1 can of chicken noodle soup (1 cup) = 1,106 milligrams! Here's a perfect fall recipe for soup that's much lower in sodium but packs big flavor! Enjoy!

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
Recipe from:

2 15-ounce cans organic black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can diced organic tomatoes, drained
3 cups low sodium, organic chicken broth (or use vegetable broth for vegetarian/vegan style)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or regular)
½ teaspoon smoked black pepper (or regular)
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, or more to taste for more heat
Kosher salt, to taste
1 15-ounce can organic pure pumpkin puree (not pie mix)
2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)
2 -3 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
Optional garnishes: grated low fat Jack or Cheddar cheese, crumbled queso fresco, diced fresh tomato, sliced green onions or chives, crushed tortilla chips, low fat sour cream, diced avocado, and chopped cilantro.

1) Puree beans and tomatoes with half of the chicken broth in a large capacity blender, like a Vitamix. If you have a smaller capacity blender you may need to do it in two batches.
2) In a large saucepan heat olive oil over medium low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft, translucent and fragrant.
3) Add spices, stir and cook for a minute or two.
4) Stir in black bean-tomato puree, pumpkin, broth and sherry (if using). Simmer uncovered until blended and thickened, about 15-2- minutes. Add vinegar and serve. Top with garnishes of choice, as noted above.

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