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BY ELLEN KANNER
THE MIAMI HERALD
It's official--the Centers for Disease report this is the worst flu season in a decade. Over-the-counter this and that may help, but the best medicine is rest and soup.
A simmering pot of something homemade will nourish and soothe you, but when you've got a serious case of the miseries, opening a can may summon all the energy you can muster.
Your supermarket has an entire wall of soup that can be daunting when you just want to get home, eat some soup and go to bed. Save time and struggle: Go with lentil.
The smallest and most digestible of the legumes, lentils pack a whole lot of health in a little bean by means of fiber, protein, iron and red blood-cell boosting folate.
Beware: Some prepared lentil soups contain ham or other unwelcome surprises. Progresso ($2.45, 19 ounces) offers a soup with good bean-to-broth ratio. It's vegan, warming, comforting, savory and sodium-saturated. A one-cup serving contains 160 calories, 2 fat grams and 810 milligrams of sodium.
It's also got 5 fiber grams and 9 protein grams, but serves up a third of your sodium RDA in a single bowl.
The new light-sodium line from Amy's Kitchen includes an organic lentil and vegetable soup ($2, 14.5 ounces). Each serving contains 160 calories, 4 fat grams and 340 milligrams sodium (half the amount in Amy's regular lentil vegetable soup), 8 fiber grams and 7 grams protein.
Organic lentils, spinach, carrot, celery and onions get a boost from balsamic--but not enough. Frankly, this thin, mild soup could use some salt.
There is a third way. The doctor is in: Nutrition expert Dr. John McDougall offers Dr. McDougall's Right Foods, a prepared line that includes boxed lentil soup ($2.99, 18 ounces).
It's vegan, thick with lentils and bright with tomato and a splash of wine. It's got flavor to coax you back to good health and good spirits.
One serving contains 150 calories, 0.5 fat gram, 480 milligrams sodium, and delivers flu season a nutritional TKO with 10 grams fiber and 9 grams protein.
Feel good. And give that little lentil a big hand.
DEEP BASIC COMFORT LENTIL SOUP
Makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions: 1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. 2. Add garlic, carrots and celery. 3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes. 4. Pick through lentils and remove any pebbles or odd bits. 5. Pour into saucepan with vegetables. Add bay leaf and broth and bring to boil. 6. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until everything has become tender to the point of coalescing, about 1 hour. 7. If a more velvety soup appeals, feel free to puree using an immersion blender. Otherwise, simply season generously with salt and pepper and serve. Nutritional information per serving: 102 calories (31 percent from fat), 3.7 g fat (0.5 g saturated, 2.5 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 4.6 g protein, 13.5 g carbohydrates, 4.2 g fiber, 618 mg sodium