Here’s a surprising fact: Canada is the world’s largest exporter of lentils, distributing this healthy legume to over 100 different countries annually. Despite that, lentils are under-appreciated in this country. They’re staple food for much of the rest of the world, and for good reason: 100 grams of lentils provide 26 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of iron (60 percent of your daily needs). This makes them a great choice for vegetarians, who often struggle to get enough of these body-building nutrients, but they are a great addition to any diet as a healthy and affordable source of protein.
Five reasons why lentils are a superfood
1. High source of vegetarian protein: Protein induces satiety (the feeling of fullness) faster than fats and carbohydrates, and also keeps blood insulin levels from spiking. Frequent insulin spikes can lead to constant elevated blood glucose, and even diabetes.
2. Great source of fibre: The colon is the main exit route for moving toxins and excess cholesterol out of your body, and fibre is what binds these wastes for healthy elimination, making it the ultimate cleanser. This intestinal detox pathway must be functioning properly in order to clear out your whole body’s toxins effectively. The green lentils in the salad below have the highest fibre content of any lentil.
3. Get rid of that spare tire: In a recent 18-month study, folks who enjoyed lots of pulses (edible seeds of leguminous plants) like lentils lost more belly weight! Their fibre intake was higher, vitamins and minerals like chromium were better maintained, and the glycemic index of their meals was lower. The glycemic index measures how fast a food raises your blood sugar. If your blood sugar goes too high, then insulin will shuttle more fat around your middle.
4. Maintain normal blood pressure: Lentils are packed with potassium, which is needed in balance with sodium to maintain a smooth heartbeat and normal blood pressure. These two electrolytes keep your heart beating properly.
5. Improve liver function: Lentils contain high amounts of choline, which the liver uses to package fat for distribution throughout the body. Choline helps prevent build-up of fat in the liver, which can lead to a condition known as fatty liver. If fat infiltrates the liver, it can lead to cell death and hinder the liver’s ability to properly filter toxins. So clean up your act with choline!
Tuscan Lentil salad
This hearty new spin on an old classic makes a great, fast meal and packs well for lunch the next day. Expect steady, long-lasting energy from this vitamin- and mineral-charged dish.
8 sun-dried tomato halves, packed in oil, drained
1 cup fennel bulb, finely sliced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup water-packed artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup olives, preferably black
1 cup red pepper, julienned
19 oz (540 mL) can green lentils, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Sea Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1. Finely chop sun-dried tomatoes. Slice fennel into thin strips. Coarsely chop fennel fronds (the feathery green tops). Quarter the artichokes. Julienne the red pepper by slicing into matchstick-size slices. Wash and chop parsley.
2. Mix all dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Place all ingredients in a bowl and top with dressing. Mix well and taste to adjust seasoning. The flavour improves as the salad marinates, so consider making it ahead. Can be refrigerated for up to three days.
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts the Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her soon to be published first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process.
For more amazing recipes visit Chatelaine.com’s recipe section.