Protein packed lentils are one of the most ancient crops known to have been cultivated even as much as 8500 years ago! Loads of varieties are available and they are cheap and easily found at any grocery store. They are one of the few beans that don’t require soaking or any other preparation which makes them perfect for making healthy meals at a low cost.
Getting your family to include lentil nutrition as part of an enjoyable, healthy meal may take some work but the effort is well worth it. Studies abound on the benefits of lentils, which include the ability to reduce blood pressure and reverse heart disease. Break the kids in early with mashed lentils as a first food.
Some of the more common varieties include:
Puy Lentils-these small blackish green, lower starch lentils are great for creamy side dishes
Green Lentils-firm, larger pods are ideal for cold salads
Red Lentils- these are actually the hulled inside of other lentils, and are perfect for soups as they disintegrate when cooked.
All lentils rank very highly on the protein scale and when paired with cheese and/or nuts make a complete protein just as effective at building muscle as animal protein. They are also one of the best forms of fibre. A one cup serving meets the requirements for just over half of your day’s needs. Just remember when cooking any lentils, pulses or beans not to add any acid like lemon or vinegar until the very end. Doing so stops the breakdown of the fibre so that they will not cook fully. Well this can be a good thing to prevent them from becoming too mushy at the end of cooking add it at the beginning and you’ll be crunching on pebbles! Here is one of my healthy lentil recipes for delicious homemade soup.
Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup
Preparation time: 25 minutes Servings: 4
You can feed a family of four for under $2.00 with a soup of high-protein lentils, nutrition-packed sweet potatoes and onions. Cheese is optional and will cost a bit extra. I know it seems weird not to peel the sweet potatoes but the skins are full of nutrients and are just as delicious as white potato skins. Just give them a good scrub and chop!
1 tsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 cup red lentils
1 small sweet potato, scrubbed and cubed, skin on
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp dried basil
½ tsp black pepper
pinch dried red chili peppers
1 tbsp molasses
8 tbsp grated cheddar cheese (optional)
Warm a large pot over medium-high heat and melt butter. Add onions and sweet potato; stir. Add broth and water; then lentils. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cover. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in basil, chili peppers, pepper and molasses. Grate cheese if using and serve at the table.
About the Author:
Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com