By Dr. Debra Goodwin, Ph.D., R.D., & Al Harris, M.P.A.
Jacksonville State University
DOC: Hey Al. After our recent
discussion about chana dahl, I remembered a much-loved recipe that I haven’t
prepared in years — lentil soup. When I was a graduate student at the University
of Alabama at Birmingham, I made this soup frequently because it was very tasty,
along with being cheap and easy.
I’m surprised at the number of people who are unfamiliar with this healthy
legume. The lentil is a relative of your favorite "dahl" and is similar in
nutritional value. One-half cup of cooked lentils has 115 calories, less than
1/2 gram of fat, 8 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein and 179 mcg of folate.
Plus, lentils have a lower glycemic index than most beans and peas. The fiber
in lentils combines with cholesterol and helps excrete it from the body while
the folate helps to lower levels of homocysteine, an artery-damaging substance,
in the bloodstream. So lentils are definitely a heart-healthy food. In addition,
their low glycemic index stabilizes blood sugar, which is a plus for diabetics.
Would this recipe fit into your vegetarian meal plan? Any suggestions for
incorporating lentils into a healthy diet?
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed well
1 clove garlic, minced
onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
4 to 5 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil until onion is transparent. Add tomato
sauce, water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Add dried lentils. Reduce heat,
cover and simmer for approximately 1 hour or until lentils are tender. Season to
AL: Doc, I must confess I have a poor relationship with a couple of
ingredients in your recipe. Although I can almost smell the delightful aroma as
I imagine your pot of soup simmering on the stove, I know up front that fresh
garlic and onion give me "ramifications."
While almost everyone has a personal list of problem foods, there’s usually a
solution such as substituting or eliminating ingredients. I favor substituting.
To experience something close to your original recipe, I would tinker around
in the following ways. First, those of us who need to avoid fresh garlic and
onion can sometimes get away with using a small amount of powered onion and,
say, garlic salt (remember to reduce the salt called for in the recipe) or
But, like you, I value fresh ingredients when possible. Through trial and
error, I’ve found that a small amount of garlic scrapings give the taste of
fresh garlic cloves without the digestive ills. Garlic, a member of the lily
family, is easy to grow and produces a bulb composed of cloves. I simply take
scrapings from the green shoots that grow out of the tops of the plant — and,
for me, a little of that pungent flavor goes a long way.
Another benefit is that the process seems to help the plant produce larger
bulbs, which I give away for others to enjoy.
People who have issues with onions should experiment to see if the problem is
limited to raw or cooked onion. Interestingly, many folks who think they cannot
eat onion at all are surprised to find they’re able to enjoy it sautéed, for
example (unfortunately, I cannot).
So, when faced with a delicious recipe containing a few problem ingredients,
Your recipe is ideal for the vegetarian lifestyle and can be enjoyed by the
entire family. And for anyone who enjoys lentils, I also highly recommend The
Pea and Lentil Cookbook — From Everyday to Gourmet, published by the USA Dry Pea
and Lentil Council, for similar creative ways to add lentils to your diet.
Debra Goodwin, Ph.D., R.D.,
teaches nutrition in the Jacksonville (Ala.) State University Department of
Family and Consumer Sciences.
Al Harris, M.P.A., is News Bureau director
at JSU and the former writer/editor of a nutrition column published by the New
York Times Regional Newspaper Group.
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