This lentil blog is written especially for the reader who emailed me to say that interesting though it was learning about digestive issues, mosquitoes and tinnitus, she would really appreciate finding out what she could do practically - and simply - that would keep her, and her family, eating as healthily as possible.
Emily, this one is for you...
Lentils are my favourite food for several reasons. I love the depth and vibrancy of their colours, and eat either orange, yellow, green or brown according to my mood and the season. They never fail to cheer me up. They are super easy and speedy to cook, and even I, who has a talent for cooking that probably fits into my little finger nail, find it hard to mess them up.
But best of all, each time I consume a delicious nutty forkful into my mouth, I know that I am doing great things for my body.
‘Everything you put in your mouth is either a step towards, or away, from health’.
With lentils you are literally bounding in the right direction.
Why are lentils good for you?
Full of nutrients. Lentils are full of fibre, iron, pantothenic acid, zinc, molybdenum, folate, potassium, manganese and vitamin B1 and B6.
A great source of protein. Want to cut down on your meat consumption but worried about reducing your protein levels? Lentils are up there with nuts as a high protein food source. Perfect for vegetarians or vegans.
Stabilise your blood sugar. And in these days of fast foods and processed supermarket ready meals filled with vast quantities of hidden sugar, you need all the help you can get. Want to avoid diabetes, hypoglycaemia or insulin resistance? Increase your lentil consumption.
The fibre in lentils slows the conversion of all those carbohydrates into sugar. Think of the packets of crisps, cakes, biscuits, pasta and rice that so many of us feed our families for quick and easy meals on the go; think too of that glass of wine or gin and tonic that keeps us sane as we stagger towards the end of the day. Alcohol is pure sugar; so is pizza, and so mostly are lasagne and those eat on the run sandwiches. Lentils can stabilise those blood sugar peaks and troughs that turn your peaceful children into hyper-monsters just a few minutes after eating what you thought was a safe and sensible supper.
Heart healthy. Lentils are full of soluble fibre, which helps to reduce plaque levels building up in your arteries and lowers your cholesterol. Research shows that eating lentils daily reduces your risk of heart disease. The high levels of folate that they contain lowers the homocysteine levels that can damage your artery walls.
A great source of iron. We all need steady iron levels for steady energy levels and eating lentils is a great way to painlessly boost those numbers. Particularly for children who are rapidly growing and are sometimes deficient in iron. Grumpy, irritable teenagers who find it hard to concentrate? Fill them up with lentils.
Boost your metabolism and can help in any weight loss programme. Lentils are high in minerals and vitamins and low in fat and calories.
Boost your magnesium levels. Most of us are deficient in magnesium, which is needed for everything from boosting oxygen levels, managing blood sugar levels and controlling nerve function to organising DNA, bone and protein production.
Prevent constipation. Bowel issues? Stuck in the bathroom for longer than you’d like? Because lentils are high in insoluble fibre, they get your peristalsis going and keep your gut functioning smoothly. Want to avoid irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis? Up your lentil levels.
These are my favourite two lentil recipes: quick, easy and delicious.
Summer lentil salad
250g puy lentils
One packet of French beans
Shallots or red onions
A handful of almonds or cashew nuts
Put the lentils in a saucepan of water; bring to the boil and then drain off the water. Cover with vegetable stock and cook for around 30 mins until the lentils are tender.
Drain into a bowl and mix with the vinaigrette, the cut up shallots and raisins.
Cook the beans for 5 mins in boiling salted water and then drain.
Halve the tomatoes, and cut up the olives into small pieces.
Place the lentils in a bowl, decorate with the beans, tomatoes, shallots and parsley.
Nooji’s Winter warm lentil stew
2 tbsp Madras curry powder
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
3 tbsp cooking oil
1 tin coconut milk
1/2 pint vegetable stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup red/orange lentils (soak them before cooking)
1 tsp salt
1 roasted aubergine
1 small cauliflower
Fry the onions in the cooking oil in a pan and then mix in all the spices, stirring until nicely browned.
Add in the lentils with two cups of water and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk, along with the vegetables and the tinned tomatoes, stir well and continue to cook on a low heat.
After 20 minutes, add the roasted aubergine, and serve with rice or quinoa.
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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