The Mighty Lentil

By Mary_RD on Nov 05, 2010 10:00 AM in Recipes

Edited By +Rachel Berman

Considering that lentils are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet that have sustained man since prehistoric times and are unbelievably inexpensive, then why don’t Americans eat more lentils?  The lentil seems to be a forgotten or misunderstood food, and that is truly our loss.

Meet the Lentil

There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, separated by their size and color.  In the West, the most common variety is the round, brownish lentil that is shaped like a biconvex optic lens. (The word lentil comes from the Latin for lens.) Lentils can be green, black, yellow, orange or red, but the green and brown lentils hold their shape best when cooked.

Lentils were one of the first foods ever cultivated.  They are mentioned in the book of Genesis.  In India, lentil is a dietary staple served as the traditional spiced dish known as dal.  Lentils are in the legume family along with beans and peas. They grow on a small bushy annual plant in short pods each containing one or two lentil seeds.

The Perfect Food

Lentils are loaded with so many nutrients, particularly fiber (both soluble and insoluble), folic acid, magnesium, molybdenum, iron, protein, phosphorous, potassium, copper, zinc, thiamin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.  If your diet was made up of only ten foods, lentil would have to be one.

Lentil’s nutritional profile is heart healthy in so many ways. Their fiber lowers cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar, their folic acid, magnesium and vitamin B6 protect the artery walls, and the potassium and magnesium regulate blood pressure.  No one pill can do all that.

Preparing Lentils

Lentils do not have to be soaked but they must be washed and checked for small stones and debris.  To cook, add lentils to boiling water, turn to simmer, and cover the pot after the water reboils.  Brown lentils cook in about 40 minutes, green lentils take 30 minutes, and red and orange lentils cook in only 20 minutes at most.  Do not overcook lentils because they will turn mushy.

Serving Ideas

Lentils are served as full-meal soups and stews, main-course dishes, salads, croquettes, patties, and added to baked goods.  They are often eaten with rice because their amino acids are complementary and so, when eaten together (at least within the same day), their protein quality ranks as high as the complete protein in meat.

Read more: The Mighty Lentil


Canadians have heart disease

Few Canadians have good heart health

A new study finds nine per cent of Canadian adults meet the criteria for “ideal” cardiovascular health.

Photograph by: Jason Kryk, Postmedia News File Photo , Postmedia News

A paltry nine per cent of Canadian adults – fewer than one in 10 – meet the criteria for “ideal” cardiovascular health, a new study based on nearly half a million Canadians says.

The heart health of the nation’s youth is only marginally better, with only 17 per cent of those aged 12 to 19 – fewer than one in five – getting top scores for healthy behaviours.

How many calories should I eat?

One of the most common questions that I am asked is “How many calories should I eat?” and while many of us are hoping to hear that “magic number” of what is going to help us lose weight, the fact is our caloric needs are highly individual. Calculating your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the simplest way to find the answer. Here’s how it works:

Your BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to function. We use about 60% of the calories we consume each day for basic bodily functions such as breathing.

Other factors that influence your BMR are height, weight, age and sex. (Please note that this formula applies only to adults.)

Calculate BMR

Step one is to calculate your BMR with the following formula:


655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)


66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

The resulting number of each equation is your BMR.

Calculate Activity

Step two: In order to incorporate activity into your daily caloric needs, complete the following calculation:

If you are sedentary: Multiply BMR x 20 percent

If you are lightly active: Multiply BMR x 30 percent

Add this number to your BMR. This resulting number is the number of calories you can comfortably consume each day without weight gain.

An apple a day

An apple a day … keeps cholesterol at bay? Fruit may work better than statins at preventing artery blockages: study

Sarah Knapton, The Daily Telegraph, National Post Wire Services | 18/12/13 | Last Updated: 18/12/13 1:27 PM ET
More from National Post Wire Services

The soluble fibre found in fruits such as apples may block the formation of plaque on artery walls better than conventional cholesterol drugs, a new study suggests.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images filesThe soluble fibre found in fruits such as apples may block the formation of plaque on artery walls better than conventional cholesterol drugs, a new study suggests.

An apple a day really will keep the doctor away and is as effective as statins at preventing strokes and heart attacks, a new U.K. study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have concluded that around 8,500 deaths could be prevented every year if people over 50 who are not already taking statins ate an apple each day.

The Pendragon apple contained more beneficial compounds than any other

Apples are high in soluble fibre which slows the build-up of cholesterol-rich plaque in the arteries. Last year researchers found the Pendragon apple contained more beneficial compounds than any other.

Dr. Adam Briggs, of the BHF health promotion research group at Oxford, said: “While no one currently prescribed medicine should replace them with apples, we could all benefit from eating more fruit.”

Apples, unlike statins, have no side effects

Also apples, unlike statins, have no side effects.

Previous studies, which showed the benefits of fruit consumption for cardiovascular health and decreased mortality, were compared with similar mortality figures for statins.

Around 5.2 million people are eligible for statins. If everyone over age 50 were to be prescribed statins, it would mean an extra 17.6 million would take them — and 9,400 more deaths would be prevented each year.

‘The Victorians had it about right’

Researchers assumed there would be a 70% compliance rate if apples were prescribed, which would prevent 8,500 deaths. The results appear in the British Medical Journal.

Noting further that the study shows just how profoundly even small changes in diet and lifestyle can affect health outcomes, Briggs said: “The Victorians had it about right when they came up with their brilliantly clear and simple public health advice: ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ “

Vegetarian Pot Pie Recipe

veg pie

For a quick and delicious weeknight (or any night really) dinner, try this easy vegetarian pot pie recipe. I personally love all kinds of pot pies and think it’s the ultimate comfort food. I love the creamy filling and flaky, buttery crust. Here is one of my favorite versions of a meatless pot pie.

I used store-bought puff pastry which is a life saver, but hopefully one day I’ll be able to make my own using whole wheat flour. For the filling I like to use a variety of vegetables but add in your favorites. During the summer months I use fresh corn and if I want more greens in my pot pie, I throw in some broccoli florets. For this recipe I made individual ramekins (I used 4.5-inch ramekins from Amazon) but feel free to make one whole pot pie, it will still taste delicious! Vegetable Pot Pie Recipe

  • olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 small leeks, sliced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 cup diced potatoes
  • 2 cups diced cremini mushrooms
  • 2 heaping tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • a splash of cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 sheet of store-bought puff pastry, defrosted if frozen

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add garlic, shallots, leeks, carrot, and celery. Cook until shallots are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add potatoes and mushrooms, then season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms reduce, about 5-6 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables. Stir to coat and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and cream and mix until smooth. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for about 5-6 minutes, until slightly thickened. Turn heat off and stir in herbs and frozen peas. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

To prepare pot pies I used Nigella Lawson’s method: Cut a 1/2-inch strip of puff pastry dough. Dampen edges of 2-3 large ramekins with water and curl pastry strips around the top of the pots. Fill each pot with the vegetable filling. Cut circles bigger than the top of each pie-pot for the lid. Dampen the tops of the pastry strips and top each pie sealing the edges with a fork. Prick with your fork or add slits in the top of each pie to vent. Cook the pot pies for about 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown and puffed. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

Note: If you don’t have ramekins, use an 8×8 baking dish for one whole serving of pot pie. Cut puff pastry dough to fit over baking dish.

Total Time: 45-55 minutes
Yield: 4 servings





This simple spinach-and-mushroom lasagna is a perfect dish to serve to the whole family for the holidays.

To make this dish even easier, use a jarred marinara sauce. Just make sure it is filled with simple, plant-based ingredients!

Makes 12 servings


1/4 cup water
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms (about 1/2 pound)
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes, low-sodium
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce, low-sodium
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound firm tofu, low-fat
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons soy sauce, low-sodium
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
12 ounces dry lasagna noodles (about 10 noodles)


Sauté onion and carrot in water, add more liquid as needed. Cook over high heat, stirring often until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, thyme, fennel seeds, and cayenne. Simmer 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mash tofu in a mixing bowl, then stir in parsley and soy sauce.

To assemble, spread 1 cup of sauce in a 9″×13″ (or larger) baking dish. Cover with a layer of uncooked noodles, half the tofu mixture, and half the spinach.

Spread with half of remaining sauce.

Repeat layers of noodles, tofu, spinach, and sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake until noodles are tender, about 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This lasagna may be assembled up to a day in advance and baked just before serving. The noodles will soften while the lasagna stands, so the baking time can be reduced to 30 minutes.

Per 1-cup serving: 172 calories; 2.5 g fat; 0.4 g saturated fat; 12% calories from fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 9.8 g protein; 31.6 g carbohydrates; 5.9 g sugar; 5.8 g fiber; 123 mg sodium; 87 mg calcium; 3.5 mg iron; 13.4 mg vitamin C; 1,973 mcg beta carotene; 2.1 mg vitamin E

Adapted From: Healthy Eating for Life to Prevent and Treat Cancer by Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.; recipe by Jennifer Raymond, M.S., R.D.

Please feel free to tailor PCRM recipes to suit your individual dietary needs.


Silky Lentil Soup


l tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 colored pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 zucchini, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 cup split red lentils, washed and picked over
5 cups vegetable broth
1 can plum tomatoes
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
sea salt and black pepper,  fresh parsley or cilantro, to garnish (optional)
Heat the oil in a saucepan, then add the onion and cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes until soft.  Stir in the bell pepper, carrot and zucchini and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin and coriander, then cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.  Add the remaining soup ingredients, lentils, broth, tomatoes and juice, tomato paste and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes, until the lentils and vegetables are very soft.
Remove the bay leaf and blend the soup in a food processor.  The soup will be fairly thick, so dilute with a little more veggie broth if you prefer it thinner.  Season to taste, then reheat and serve garnished with parsley or cilantro.

Skip the Supplements

PHILADELPHIA — PARENTS whose children are admitted to our hospital occasionally bring along something extra to help with their care: dietary supplements, like St. John’s wort to ameliorate mild depression or probiotics for better health.
Here’s the problem: The Joint Commission, which is responsible for hospital accreditation in the United States, requires that dietary supplements be treated like drugs. It makes sense: Vitamins, amino acids, herbs, minerals and other botanicals have pharmacological effects. So they are drugs.
But the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate dietary supplements as drugs — they aren’t tested for safety and efficacy before they’re sold. Many aren’t made according to minimal standards of manufacturing (the F.D.A. has even found some of the facilities where supplements are made to be contaminated with rodent feces and urine). And many are mislabeled, accidentally or intentionally. They often aren’t what they say they are. For example:
In 2003, researchers tested “ayurvedic” remedies from health food stores throughout Boston. They found that 20 percent contained potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury or arsenic.
In 2008, two products were pulled off the market because they were found to contain around 200 times more selenium (an element that some believe can help prevent cancer) than their labels said. People who ingested these products developed hair loss, muscle cramps, diarrhea, joint pain, fatigue and blisters.
Last summer, vitamins and minerals made by Purity First Health Products in Farmingdale, N.Y., were found to contain two powerful anabolic steroids. Some of the women who took them developed masculinizing symptoms like lower voices and fewer menstrual periods.
Last month, researchers in Ontario found that popular herbal products like those labeled St. John’s wort and ginkgo biloba often contained completely different herbs or contaminants, some of which could be quite dangerous.
The F.D.A. estimates that approximately 50,000 adverse reactions to dietary supplements occur every year. And yet few consumers know this.
Parents of children admitted to our hospital often request that we continue treating their child with dietary supplements because they believe in them, even if that belief isn’t supported by evidence. More disturbing were the times when children were taking these supplements without our knowledge. Doctors always ask parents if their children are taking any medicines. Unfortunately, because most parents don’t consider dietary supplements to be drugs, we often never knew about their use, let alone whether they might react dangerously with the child’s other treatments.
The F.D.A. has the mandate, but not the manpower, to oversee the labeling and manufacture of these supplements. In the meantime, doctors — and consumers — are on their own.
Our hospital has acted to protect the safety of our patients. No longer will we administer dietary supplements unless the manufacturer provides a third-party written guarantee that the product is made under the F.D.A.’s “good manufacturing practice” (G.M.P.) conditions, as well as a Certificate of Analysis (C.O.A.) assuring that what is written on the label is what’s in the bottle.
The good news is that we’ve been able to find some vitamins, amino acids, minerals and a handful of other supplements that meet this standard. For example, melatonin has been shown to affect sleep cycles and has a record of safety, and we identified a product that met manufacturing and labeling standards.
The bad news is that this was a vanishingly small percentage of the total group. Around 90 percent of the companies we reached out to for verification never responded. They didn’t call us back, or their email or manufacturing addresses changed overnight. Of the remainder, many manufacturers refused to provide us with either a statement of G.M.P. or a C.O.A.; in other words, they refused to guarantee that their products were what they said they were. Others lied; they said they met G.M.P. standards, but a call to the F.D.A. revealed they had been fined for violations multiple times. Perhaps most surprising, some manufacturers willingly furnished information that their product didn’t meet standards — like one company that provided a C.O.A. showing that its product contained 47,000 International Units of beta-carotene, when the label stated 25,000.
Now, when parents in our hospital still want to use products whose quality can’t be assured, we ask them to sign a waiver stating that the supplement may be dangerous, and that most have not been studied for their effectiveness. “Use of an agent for which there are no reliable data on toxicity and drug interactions,” the waiver reads, “makes it impossible to adequately monitor the patient’s acute condition or safely administer medications.”
What can other individuals who are concerned about supplement safety do? They can look for “U.S.P. Verified” on the label — this proves the supplement has been inspected and approved under the United States Pharmacopeial Convention. Unfortunately, fewer than 1 percent of the 55,000 or so supplements on the market bear this label. The real answer is that, until the day comes when medical studies prove that these supplements have legitimate benefits, and until the F.D.A. has the political backing and resources to regulate them like drugs, individuals should simply steer clear.
For too long, too many people have believed that dietary supplements can only help and never hurt. Increasingly, it’s clear that this belief is a false one.
Paul A. Offit is chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Sarah Erush is the clinical manager in the pharmacy department.