Lentils: A versatile and nutrient packed whole grain

One aspect of healthy eating is to use whole grains. My Plate.gov has great information on whole grains. One in particular is lentils, which are high in protein and fiber and other essential nutrients.

Today, good nutrition is more important than ever. At least four of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. — heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes — are directly related to the way we eat; diet is also implicated in series of other conditions. But while the wrong diet can be deadly, eating right is among the foundation of health. One aspect of healthy eating is to use whole grains.

Michigan State University Extension recommends using ChooseMyPlate.gov for relevant information on whole grains. One in particular is lentils, which are high in protein and other essential nutrients, including folate, iron, potassium and many various antioxidants – each lending a special nutritional value. The iron may help fight off anemia, which is especially common among those with low-iron diets, like vegans and vegetarians. Lentils are also low on the glycemic index, meaning they cause blood sugar to spike less quickly than other starches.

Lentils are packed with dietary fiber. Lentils have more fiber than one serving of bran flakes; gram-for-gram, lentils have more protein than beef.

Unlike other fruits and vegetables, which can leach nutrients when cooked, the body actually absorbs the calcium, iron, and zinc more easily after the lentils are cooked.

To cook lentils, rinse under cold water and then cook in plain boiling water (no salt as it may have a hardening effect) according to package instructions. Cooking times vary between varieties but are generally under 30 minutes. It’s important to cook lentils all the way through – undercooked they can cause “gastric distress.”

Here is a tasty lentil soup recipe, just in time for nourishment during the cold Michigan weather.

Lentil soup

Servings: 4

Nutrition (per serving): 388 calories, 20 grams fiber

1/2 pound dry lentils
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
2 stalks celery
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Pinch of sage (optional)
1/2 cup stewed or canned whole Italian tomatoes
8 ounces baby spinach
1 carton (about 3 cups) low sodium beef broth (or water, as needed)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash and soak lentils in water to cover for 20-30 minutes.

In a saucepan, add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cover lentils with one-inch of water over the top. Simmer for about one hour, or until lentils are tender. Add enough beef broth to keep lentils just covered while cooking.

Chop onion, garlic, celery and parsley; brown them lightly in olive oil. Add tomatoes and cook 10 minutes. Pour over lentils in pot and mix well. Let simmer another 15 minutes or so, until lentils are soft.

Add beef broth to the soup until the soup has the consistency you prefer; a few tablespoons of the lentils can be pureed into the broth if you prefer a thicker soup.

Stir in an eight ounce package of washed baby spinach during the last five minutes of cooking. Season to taste.

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources