Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein—all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up—not out.
Lentils have been part of the human diet since the Neolithic times. It was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. Archeological evidence shows the lentil was eaten 9,500 to 13,000 years ago.
Recently, Health Magazine selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods. Lentils are often mixed with grains, such as rice or small pasta, which results in a complete protein dish. With about 30% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut.
So, if you’re looking for a way to add lentils to your repertoire of healthy foods, check out this delicious and healthy lentil soup recipe. This particular lentil soup recipe is not only a quick easy meal for lunch or dinner, it yields 6-8 servings, and cost under $2.00 per serving. Now that’s what I call a Mighty Member of the Legume Family.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium celery stalk, small dice
1 medium carrot, peeled and small dice
1/2 medium yellow onion, small dice
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juices
1 1/4 cups lentils (any color except red), rinsed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
2 ounces spinach leaves (about 1/2 a bunch)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering, about 3 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with several generous pinches of salt and pepper.
Add the broth, tomatoes with their juices, lentils, bay leaf, and thyme and stir to combine. Cover and bring to a simmer, about 15 minutes. Once simmering, reduce the heat to low and continue simmering, covered, until the lentils and vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes more.
Taste and season with more salt or pepper as needed, then stir in the vinegar.
Add the spinach and stir until wilted. If you prefer a creamier texture, purée half of the soup in a blender and add it back to the pot.