Why You Should Eat Lentil Soup at Least Once a Week

If you're looking for a power-packed entrée or soup to spice up your life, look no further than the lowly lentil. Perhaps there was a reason why that lentil pottage was so tempting in the biblical story of Jacob and Esau. Esau knew that lentil soup would give him strength and put meat on his bones.

Meet Mr. Lentil

In case you are something less than a lentil aficionado, here's the skinny on these small, disk-shaped legumes. Lentils come in dozens of varieties and almost as many colors. Dishes based around lentils are especially popular in the Middle East and India.

Lentils make delightful soups, croquettes and patties. They can also be used in casseroles, salads and stews. Lentils are fast and simple to prepare, and make a nourishing, hearty and inexpensive meal when eaten with brown rice.

Be sure to pick through and then wash lentils before cooking. Also, avoid overcooking, unless your goal is to create a lentil mush.

Health Benefits of the Lowly Lentil

Lentils have been shown to be an excellent source of some vitamins and minerals such as Iron, Potassium and Folate. Lentils are also considered to be a good source of Niacin.

In terms of actual diseases, the consumption of legumes (such as lentils) have been shown to:

? reduce the risk of coronary heart disease

? lower cholesterol levels

? provide a source of beneficial high fiber for persons with diabetes

? help in reducing triglycerides

Looking for Lentils?

If you don't have time to cook, look no further than your grocery isle for a can of Progresso Lentil Soup. While Progresso is pretty good, many canned soup products do contain a high degree of salt. You may be able to find low-salt lentil soups at your local health food store.

Lentils are not really that hard to cook, so another option would be to simply pick-up a few bags and get started yourself. There are many lentil-related recipes online. Following is one that should whet your appetite (notice the alphabet-shaped noodles-if you can't locate these in your store, I'm sure traditional elbows will work just the same):

Lentil Soup Mix Recipe

2-1/2 c. green split peas (16 oz. pkg.)
2-1/2 c. lentils (16 oz. pkg.)
2-1/2 c. pearl barley (16 oz. pkg.)
2 c. alphabet macaroni (8 oz. pkg.)--I use brown rice instead
1 c. dried onion flakes (2 3/8-oz. pkgs.)
1/2 c. celery flakes (1 3/8-oz. pkg.)
1/2 c. parsley flakes (1 1/4-oz. pkg.)
(Optional: 1-1/2 t. thyme; 1-1/2 t. white pepper)

Mix all ingredients together. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Stir before using. Makes 10 c. of mix.

TO COOK: Combine 1 c. of soup mix with 4 c. of water or seasoned stock in large pan. Add 1 c. of cooked chopped meat, if desired. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover pan. Simmer gently for 45 to 60 minutes, or until peas are tender. Add 1/2 t. salt if desired.

Speaking of Mixes

If you want the taste experience of a home-cooked meal but don't have time to make your own mix, there are a number of lentil soup mixes available online. The Mediterranean Lentil Soup mentioned in the resource box below is one of my favorites, and the red lentils it features make a colorful contribution to any meal.

So if you're getting tired of burgers, fries, or whatever else you've been eating, may I recommend the lowly lentil as a healthy food option? Now that McDonalds and other fast food chains appear to be getting more health conscious, perhaps we should start a letter-writing campaign for some lentil-related options. But until that day comes, you can find lentils in your health food store, many grocery stores, and certainly online.

Cari Haus is webmaster for http://www.thevegetarianexpress.com/, a website offering vegan food mixes and seasonings-including a mix for Mediterranean Lentil Soup. This article is not intended to give any health advice, and should not be construed as such

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