Health magazine has selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods. They are often mixed with grains, such as rice, which results in a complete protein dish. They have a hearty, rich, nutty flavor that holds up to the addition of varied seasonings. Lentils have often been used in soups, but can also be eaten hot or cold, as a main entrée or in salads or side dishes. They are very popular in French, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine.
Those of us whose intention is to eat more nutritiously might consider adding lentils to our regular diet. Lentils are of the family of legumes are one of the first foods ever to have been cultivated. They have been eaten for thousands of years. Being high in cholesterol-lowering fiber (which can also help in blood sugar stabilization), they also have the highest amount of protein from a vegetable source besides the soybean. Per (cooked) cup they provide 18 g of protein, 230 calories and no fat! They also provide good to excellent sources of six important minerals, including 6.5 mg of iron. Lentils can be an important source of iron to those following a vegetarian diet. (Premenopausal women need 18 mg/day, postmenopausal women and men need 8 mg/day.)
Trader Joe's makes it super-convenient for us to add this healthy food to our menus. They offer delicious small green pre-cooked Trader Joe's Steamed Lentils in the refrigerated section. The package has 5 servings (½ cup each) and is ready to be used in a variety of ways. Keep them refrigerated and use them within 2 days of opening.
Need Some Lentil Recipes?
Check out the following recipes included in the book Quick and Healthy Meals from Trader Joe’s available www.healthytraderjoes.com:
- Apricot Lentil Soup
- Butternut Lentil Stew with Mango Chicken Sausage
- Chicken and Salsa (page 18)
- Curried Lentil-Spinach Salad with Shrimp
- Easy Lentil Feta Wraps
- Lentil Ragout
- Lentil Salsa
- Lentil Salsa Stew
Get out the Beano
Even though we may know they are good for us, many may avoid them because they can be difficult for some to digest and often cause embarrassing side-effects!
What can be done to decrease the formation of gas? It is suggested that the more legumes you eat, the more your system gets accustomed to them. (Try eating small amounts at a time and drink lots of water.)
- Serve Trader Joe's plain yogurt containing live cultures (lactobacillus acidophilus, etc.) with your lentil dish as well as other dishes containing legumes.
- Take Beano before a meal (an enzyme product from the makers of Lactaid.)
- Add it to a crock pot with chicken, beef or pork and cook all day long.
- Take digestive enzymes (purchased at your local health food store) before eating legumes and other gas-forming foods.
- Add a bit of lemon juice to your lentil dish prior to eating.
- Add a little fresh ginger root, roasted cumin seed and/or fennel seed to your dish while cooking or heating. (For Indian-spiced dishes)
- Relax while you eat, which aids in digestion.
- Follow your meal with some calming peppermint or chamomile tea.
Jamie Davidson,MS is a health educator, weight management coach,and seminar leader with over 20 years experience in the field of health promotion. Jamie's book Quick and Healthy Meals from Trader Joe’s: can be purchased online at www.healthytraderjoes.com