Love lentils? Here’s a short piece I wrote about these lovely legumes for ADA Times Magazine (reprinted below with permission), followed by a terrific kale and lentil soup recipe (also reprinted with permission!) from the great book 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Enjoy!
For the Love of Lentils
Why give lentils a prominent place on your plate? Because one cup of these rich, nutty legumes provides 18 grams of protein, 15.6 grams of fiber, less than one gram of fat, no dietary cholesterol and only 230 calories. Lentils are also packed with vitamins and minerals including folate, manganese, thiamin, potassium and copper. Lentils are low in the essential amino acid methionine, so pairing them with whole grains can provide a source of high-quality protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Despite this impressive nutritional profile, evidence demonstrating the health benefits of legume consumption is limited—perhaps because dry beans, peas and lentils are not prominent in many Western diets. in fact, while the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three cups of legumes each week, only 8 percent of American adults consume legumes on a given day.
Studies of legume consumption (not including soy) and body weight show mixed results: One meta-analysis associated eating legumes with decreased body weight, but a more recent review found insufficient evidence that legumes specifically have an effect on body weight. And according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, there also is insufficient evidence of a relationship between legumes and type 2 diabetes.
However, their soluble fiber content gives legumes a unique ability to lower blood lipid levels. Regularly eating (non-soy) legumes may help lower serum cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels, and increase HDL cholesterol levels. Other studies show eating legumes at least four times per week may lower risks of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, as well as lower levels of proinflammatory markers and improve lipid profiles and blood pressure levels.
Lentils contain raffinose and other oligosaccharides that may cause flatulence. This lessens with more regular legume consumption, but soaking then rinsing lentils before cooking may also help minimize gaseous effects.
Comforting Kale and Lentil Soup By Rosalie Gaziano
Makes 16 one-cup servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 24-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dried lentils
1/3 pound whole grain macaroni of your choice
1 pound fresh kale chopped fine
3 quarts water
1 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated) to sprinkle on top.
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil macaroni, rinse and set to the side. Rinse lentils and add to a separate small saucepan with enough water to cover and cook until tender (about 20 minutes.) Meanwhile, peel and chop onion. Mince garlic cloves. Add olive oil to soup pot and heat. Add garlic and onions to pot and sauté until translucent being careful not to burn. Remove center vein from kale leaves and chop coarse. Add kale to onion and garlic mixture and sauté for 10 minutes. Add 1 can chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, and let simmer 10 minutes. Add water to kale mixture, bring to a boil and let simmer 30 minutes. Add cooked lentils and macaroni to soup and let simmer together another 5 minutes. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese grated on top. Serve with crusty Italian or French bread.
Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 130; Total Fat: 4.5 g; Saturated Fat: 1.5 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Total Carbs: 16 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 6 g
1. ADA Times Magazine, Fall 2010
2. 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life (Bantam, 2008) by David Grotto, RD, LDN.