It seems like every day a new “super foods” list is published touting the benefits of this fruit, or that vegetable. The truth is that variety and moderation will always trump any short list of foods.
But if I had to make a list, lentils would certainly be on it. Why? Lentils are packed with nutritional benefits and cost pennies on the dollar compared to other nutrient dense foods. Lentils can be absolutely delicious, yet are widely misunderstood to be tasteless and tough.
Lentils are part of the legume family along with beans. The size and color of lentils vary depending on the variety. In just 1 cup, lentils deliver 18 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, less than one gram of fat, and no cholesterol. Additionally, one cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of folic acid. Research shows lentils contribute to heart health as they lower blood lipid levels.
Dry lentils can be stored forever- they may lose color after about a year, but the flavor and nutrition won’t diminish for long after that. Also, lentils do not require soaking and therefore do not take long to prepare. Brown lentils are known for their rich earthy flavor and are great additions to soups and stews. Green lentils are most often seen in salads because of how well they hold their shape when cooked. Red lentils have a sweeter flavor profile and are often used in curry dishes.
Bite for bite, lentils are among the most affordable nutrition out there and now is the best time of year to fall in love them- they’re a great addition to winter soups, stews, and chili!
Moroccan Lentil Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup lentils
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1. Coat a large pot with cooking spray and heat on high. Saute the onion with the carrot until the onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, mushrooms, and chicken. Saute 3-4 minutes until chicken is lightly browned.
2. Add lentils, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, water, spices, salt and pepper to taste. Bring contents to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour.
Per serving: 145 Calories 22 g Carbohydrates 8 g Fiber 13 g Protein 1 g Total Fat 0 g Sat. Fat 591 mg Sodium
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a best selling author and the creator of "The F-Factor Diet", an innovative nutritional program she has used for over a decade to provide thousands with the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, and improved health and well-being. In January 2011 Tanya launched the F-Factor food line (www.ffactorfoods.com) with the largest natural foods company in the US, the Hain Celestial group. She is thrilled to be able to offer the highest fiber products on the market to date. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.