Love Lentils, Love Life - Love my spicy Lentil Soup recipe!
Lentils (lens culinaris) originate from Asia and North Africa and are cousins of the pea. One of our oldest sources of food, they grow in pods that contain lens shaped disks which are either sold whole or spilt. Lentils and are a member of the legume family along with chickpeas and beans such as kidney beans, cannellini beans and butter beans to name but a few.
Lentils can be bought dried and are quick and easy to cook. Using lentils that come pre-cooked in tins is great because they will still have retained their nutritional value.
Lentils may be small but nutritionally are a mighty member of the legume family. They are high in protein, fibre, iron, folate and potassium and magnesium and give us many health benefits.
The Many Benefits of Lentils
A Healthy Heart - Lentils help to reduce cholesterol since they contain high levels of soluble fibre. Lowering your cholesterol levels reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke by keeping your arteries clean. Lentils' contribution to heart health also lies in their significant amounts of folate and magnesium. Folate lowers your homocysteine levels, a serious risk factor for heart disease and 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!
Digestive health - Lentils contain both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre. The insoluble fibre found in lentils helps prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. The magnesium helps to cleanse your bowel of toxins.
Diabetes - Lentils are so rich in prebiotics that they create a feast for your friendly gut flora which in turn feed you right back with beneficial compounds that relax your stomach and slow the rate at which sugars are absorbed into your system. Stabilizing blood sugar levels is especially helpful for those of you with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycaemia.
Good Protein - Of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein. As 26% of lentil’s calories are attributed to protein this makes them a wonderful source of protein especially for those of you wanting to follow healthy vegetarian and vegan diets.
Increased Energy And Weight Loss - Lentils increase steady, slow-burning energy due their fibre 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. Lentils are also low in calories and contain virtually no fat. There are only 165 calories in 100g of cooked lentils but they still leave you feeling full and satisfied.
Magnesium Boost - According to Lamberts Healthcare (www.lambertshealthcare.co.uk) who have researched official date "72% of women and 42% of men in the UK fail to consume sufficient dietary magnesium which is largely due to the processing and refining of foods which can remove a large proportion of the magnesium from a food.
Magnesium rich lentils can help with.
Better Sleep - The sleep regulating hormone melatonin is disturbed when Magnesium is deficient. Magnesium brings balance and controls stress hormones. Stress and tension are often reasons why people suffer from insomnia in the first place.
Relax The Nervous System - Serotonin, which relaxes the nervous system and elevates mood, is dependent on Magnesium.
Better flexibility/Less Cramps - Magnesium loosens tight muscles and is important for flexibility. Without Magnesium, muscles do not relax properly. Low magnesium results in a build up of lactic acid causing cramps.
Bone integrity And Strength - Magnesium is essential to fix calcium because it stimulates a particular hormone called calcitonin and suppresses a hormone called parathyroid that breaks down bone.
Hydration - Magnesium is a necessary electrolyte essential for proper hydration.
There are several different varieties:- Green and brown are deal for warm salads, casseroles and stuffing as they tend to retain their shape after cooking. Puy lentils are grey-green lentils grown in the French region of Le Puy, often more expensive than other common cooking varieties but retain their shape and taste after after cooking.
Yellow and red split lentils form a rich puree and are therefore superb for thickening dishes or using in casseroles and soups. They are also often cooked with spices to make the Indian side dish called dhal.
My Own Spicy Lentil Soup Recipe
For a very easy, hearty and healthy soup with the added nutritional value of turmeric, please see below one of my favourite go-to soup recipes.
6 teaspoons of olive oil
half a teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 red onion chopped
1 clove of garlic crushed
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery chopped (optional)
half a teaspoon of chilli powder
half a teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
185 g (6oz) of red lentils - rinsed
1.2 litres of vegetable stock
salt and pepper to season and fresh corriander if desired.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds. As soon as seeds begin to pop, add the onion and cook for a few minutes. Then, add the garlic, carrots and celery and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft.
Stir in all the spices and cook for a further minute before adding the lentils and give a quick stir. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, partly covering the pan before simmering for about 30-40 minutes. Puree the soup, return to the pan and season with salt and pepper before garnishing with fresh corriander.
And if you don't like spices, don't be put off. You can simply leave them and enjoy the soup just seasoned with salt and pepper.