Like any small investment, we want the most bang for our buck. I look at food as an “investment” because I like to eat good food—that is, good tasting, good quality and good for me. On a tighter grocery budget, I’ve been revisiting the food-buying habits of my early college days as a planet-friendly macrobiotic. Someone commented at the time, “why would anyone choose to be macro-neurotic?” but it kept me out of the doctor’s office, made me overwhelmingly conscientious about eating natural, wholesome food, and was easy on the purse-strings. At the time, I also believed it entitled me to a certain amount of self-righteousness—my yang to the yin of a pious dietary regimen.
Throughout my life as a foodie, legumes have figured prominently on the menu, but few equal the nutritional powerhouse of the lentil. And you can pick them up for little more than song! Jeff Yeager, TheUltimateCheapskate, recently purchased one pound of dried lentils at the dollar store, commenting, “I said in an interview in the Boston Globe recently that I consider lentils to be the perfect food — healthful, delicious, and cheap; a perfect example of the joys of eating lower on the food chain. Another Globe columnist then decided that my lentil worship was worthy of public ridicule. But based on reader response to his op-ed, he learned a painful lesson: Hell hath no fury like the scorn of Lentil Lovers.”
According to the annual survey by the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), the nonprofit entity behind the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters® national public health initiative, fruit consumption has dropped 12% since a year ago and vegetable consumption is down 6%. This is the fourth year PBH has conducted their survey, and the first year a decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption has been noted. I can only assume the trend is financially-driven, as the public is more informed about health and nutrition than ever before.
Like peace, change begins with one person. This tremendously nutritious recipe will not break the bank, and makes a big enough pot to enjoy throughout the week. Serve with a crusty bread, with a dollop of plain yogurt, or with a poached egg, or over a bowl of protein-rich quinoa, or ladle it over an omelet…
2 cups black beluga lentils or green French lentils OR 16 ounces cooked lentils (canned or try Trader Joe’s 1-pounder in the produce section)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted for a lovely, smoky flavor)
2 cups water
3 cups kale, deveined and finely chopped
If your lentils are dry, cook them! Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, then add the lentils, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, place a soup pot over medium heat, add the onion and salt and saute until tender. Stir in the tomatoes, cooked or canned lentils, and water and continue cooking for a few more minutes, letting the soup come back up to a simmer. Stir in the chopped greens, and allow to simmer for 8-10 minutes. (Hardy greens like kale or collards taste quite bitter if they are not cooked long enough. Simmer until they become soft but not mushy.) Serves 6 to 8.
Food Fact! Sensible food choices never go out of style. Since prehistoric times, lentils have been a versatile food staple congenially absorbing a variety of wonderful flavors from other foods and seasonings in stews, soups and loaves. Available year-round, lentils are an amazing source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, provide excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein, with virtually no fat.
Legumes are associated with an impressive 82% reduction in risk of heart disease thanks to the significant amounts of fiver, folate and magnesium in these little powerhouses. For those maintaining a low-carb diet or managing insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, lentils help balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy, and can increase energy by replenishing iron stores.
For those at risk for iron deficiency (menstruating, pregnant and/or lactating women, young children and adolescents), increasing iron by consuming lentils is especially beneficial because, unlike red meat (another source of iron), lentils are not rich in fat and calories.
In the Bible’s Book of Genesis, Jacob traded a pot of lentils to Esau for his birthright, and in Ezekiel, lentils were part of a bread that was made by the Jewish people.
One more thing to consider….
Healthy Diet Guru Kathy Freston wrote Wednesday on the Huffington Post about the unbelievable effects that cutting back on meat would have on the environment.
“Did you know that if everyone was vegetarian for just one day, the US would save 100 billion gallons of water, 1.5 billion pounds of crops, and 70 million gallons of gas? That is enough water to supply to all the homes in New England for close to 4 months, enough crops to feed the states of New Mexico for over a year, and enough gas to fuel all the cars in Canada and Mexico with plenty of gas to spare.”