Honestly, I only started eating lentils five or six years ago when I stumbled upon Trader Joe's lentil soup in the refrigerated section. One of the reasons I liked it so much was because it was filling and became a great animal protein substitution, for the most part. I also liked the fact that it was easy to prepare, once the grain (legumes, actually) had been soaked overnight.
I'm one of those people who can eat soups year-round, but hearty soup recipes, like the one I've posted below, seems more appropriate during the cooler or cold weather months. I'm not a fan of using the term "comfort", as it applied to food, but in this case, lentil soup seems to provide comfort for my soul, and more importantly, essential nutrients for my body.
Lentils provides a wealth of health benefits, but I'll focus on the top 7 which includes:
Lowers CholesterolLentils help to reduce blood cholesterol since it contains high levels of soluble fiber. Lowering your cholesterol levels reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke by keeping your arteries clean.
Promoted Good Digestion
Lentils has been found to prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome) and diverticulosis.
Promotes Hearth Health
Studies show that eating high fiber foods like lentils reduces your risk of heart disease. Lentils are also a great source of folate and magnesium, which are big contributors to heart health. Folate lowers your homocysteine levels, a serious risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium improves blood flow, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Low levels of magnesium have been directly associated with heart disease, so eating lentils will keep your heart happy!
Of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein. 26 percent of lentil’s calories are attributed to protein, which makes them a wonderful source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Blood Sugar Stabilizer
Lentils helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which can be beneficial to those suffering from diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.
Lentils increase steady, slow-burning energy due its fiber and complex carbohydrates. Lentils are also a good source of iron, which transports oxygen throughout your body and is key to energy production and metabolism.
Promotes Weight Loss
Although lentils include all these beneficial nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins, they are still low in calories and contain virtually no fat. One cup of cooked lentils only contains about 230 calories, but still leaves you feeling full and satisfied.
BTW...Bulk is Usually Better
Although I buy prepacked dried peas and beans from time to time, I find it easier and much less expensive to purchase these from the bulk bins. I can typically purchase as much or as little as I need, especially if I'm only preparing a recipe periodically, plus it costs much less per pound than prepackaged items. However, always ask your grocer how quickly a particular bulk item moves, as you want to make sure you are buying the freshest ingredients available.
I invite you to prepare this absolute AMAZING Red Split Lentil Soup. If you're not exactly a fan of lentils, you will be! This makes a wonderful pairing with my Spelt-Buckwheat Flatbread recipe. Refer to recipe tutorial below.
Slow Cooker Red Split Lentil Soup
Author: Regina Thomas Dillard
2 cups Red Split Lentils (soaked overnight)
8 Roma Tomaoes, hand-crushed or chopped (sub. 2 cans Fire-roasted Tomatoes)
4 Garlic Cloves, crushed (sub. 2 tsp crushed garlic - from jar)
2 Vegetable Boullions (sub 1 tsp Vegetable "Better Than Boullion" paste)
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
3 Celery Stalks, diced
3 Carrots, diced
1 Onion, medium, diced
3 Tbsp ISW Vegetable & Snack Seasoning
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Bay Leaves, whole
Slow Cooker Method:
Drain lentils and rinse thoroughly. To slow cooker stock pot, add lentils and all ingredients. Cover with water. Allow to cook on high for 4 hours. Adjust salt seasoning as needed.
Stove Top Method:
Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until lentils and vegetables are tender. Drain lentils and rinse thoroughly. To slow cooker stock pot, add lentils and all ingredients. Cover with water. Allow to simmer for 40 minutes or until peas are tender. Adjust with vegetable seasoning as needed.
Regina Thomas Dillard is a certified chef, founder of Inner Sanctum Wellness, Regina Cooks Culinary School and the author of FEED: Living Food Recipes to be Made and Eaten with Love. Available softcover, digital download and Amazon.