Did you know that lentils belong to the pulse family and come in many earthy colors ranging from red and orange to green and black? And that lentils cook really quickly, generally around 20 minutes? Today lentils are often used as a meat substitute for vegan and vegetarian diets due to their high levels of protein and other nutrients including folate, iron and magnesium. In addition a one-cup serving of cooked lentils has 63% of your daily fiber (1). There have been multiple studies on the health benefits of regular consumption of lentils. In the October 2012 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine, a Canadian study reported that individuals with type 2 diabetes improved glycemic control and lowered their blood pressure, reducing their overall risk of coronary heart disease by consuming 1 cup daily of legumes such as lentils (2). In addition, a study in 2005 found a significant inverse relationship between lentil consumption and breast cancer. Researchers found a 24% reduced risk in premenopausal women that consumed at least two servings of lentils per week (3). With plenty more studies available on the health benefits of lentils, they are a great addition to any diet. In the most recent 2010 Dietary Guidelines of Americans, a 2,000 calorie diet should include 1 ½ cups of legumes per week (4).
At only 300 calories per serving, yet full of plant protein (14.6 g), dietary fiber (14.5 g), healthy fats (12.6 g) and iron (30% DV for females), these lovely lettuce boats give you more than your bang for your buck! Are you convinced now? I hope so! Let me know what your favorite dishes highlight these wonderful legumes.
Ready, set, GO!!
Beluga Lentil Lettuce BoatsMakes 4 servings
For the Lentils:
1 cup dry beluga lentils
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 bay leaf
Water to cover
For the Salad:
1/3 cup minced red onion
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons marinated capers + 1 tablespoon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 ½ cups cooked lentils, as prepared above
4 large kale leaves, deveined
Generous handful fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup chopped roasted walnuts
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Lemon zest from one organic lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
16 large romaine leaves
1 medium avocado
For the lentils:Place the lentils, sea salt, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan and cover with 2-3 inches of fresh water. You want to make sure the lentils are generously covered with water. Turn the heat up on high until the water begins to simmer. Quickly reduce the heat to low, allowing the lentils to slowly simmer. You do not want them to boil at any point in time. Keep the pot uncovered and cook for about 25 minutes. Make sure to give the lentils a stir every 10 minutes and check to make sure they are covered with water. If they need more water just add more until they are submerged. At 25 minutes check to see that they are tender, best is al dente. You do not want them to be overly cooked otherwise they will turn to mush. After they have reached the desired tenderness, pour them into a mesh strainer and quickly wash them with cold water. Makes about 2 ½ cups cooked. Now they can be used for the salad.
For the Salad: Meanwhile, if you need to roast walnuts, go ahead and do this now. As the lentils are cooking, in a large bowl mix together the minced red onion, garlic, capers and their juice, as well as the cardamom. Allow to marinate until later. Cut the kale and basil leaves into thin chiffonade strips. Set them aside until the lentils are done. Once the lentils are done, add the rinsed lentils to the onion and caper mixture. Mix well. Continue to add the chopped walnuts, balsamic vinegar, and lemon zest. Stir well. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Finally add the chiffonade kale and basil and toss evenly.
Serve the beluga lentil salad with romaine hearts and top each lettuce wrap with avocado.
1. Zanteson L. Fiber-Rich, Nutrition-Pack Lentils. Environmental Nutrition. 2013, Feb:8.
2. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Augustin LS, et al. Effect of legumes as part of a low glycemic index diet on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2012
3. Adebamowo CA, Cho E, Sampson L, et al. Dietary flavonols and flavonol-rich foods intake and the risk of breast cancer. Int J Cancer. 2005;114:628-33.
4. USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf . Accessed February 16, 2014.