Lentils. Low in calories, high in nutrition. And wicked easy to cook, never mind eat!

John Turrell, the Wellness Coordinator at the Greater Portland Branch of the YMCA of Southern Maine, wants us to feel healthier and be a little adventurous, so he’s encouraging us to try (or retry) nine new healthy foods.

His first recommendation was sardines. Last week it was hot chile peppers. This week he’s calming things down a bit with an ancient legume — lentils.

Bowl of lentils

PDPics / Pixabay

Guest post by John Turrell, Wellness Coordinator, Greater Portland Branch, YMCA of Southern Maine.

Would you like to connect in your kitchen with a prehistoric human ancestor from the Neolithic period? Then cook up some lentils, which were domesticated by our early ancestors in about 9500 BCE in the Near East.

Lentils continue to play an important role in culinary traditions worldwide, but especially in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent which have large vegetarian populations.

One reason lentils have played such an important role in the human diet for thousands of years is that they are easy to grow and cook. Another is that a high percentage of their calories (26 percent) is from protein.

A half-cup of cooked lentils provide eight grams of fiber and nine grams of protein. They also provide large portions of folate, potassium, phosphorus, thiamine and vitamin B6. Plus, lentils are one of the few plant-based sources of iron, providing 6.6 milligrams in one cooked cup.

Lentils are available in green, yellow, red and brown varieties and cost only a few pennies per serving. Unlike other legumes, dried lentils do not require pre-soaking and cook in about 15-25 minutes. Because of that, they’re often cooked with rice. They also provide a healthy and satisfying base to soup or stew.

The next time you invite a Neolithic friend for a meal, make sure you serve lentils, and you will have a lot in common!

Try out this recipe for Lentil Chili

To help you get started with John’s suggestion, here’s a recipe for Lentil Chili from Patsy Catsos. She is a registered dietitian in private practice at Nutrition Works in Portland and editor of the website IBS-Free at Last!

The recipe is from Patsy’s cookbook Flavor without FODMAPs. She says, “Canned, drained, rinsed lentils are less likely to cause digestive distress than other pulses (the edible seeds of legumes) so they are a big favorite!”

Lentil Chili
Cuisine: Low-FODMAPS
Author: Patsy Catsos
Serves: 12 cups
Some chilis can be a little hard on the digestive system — not this one. Canned, drained, rinsed lentils are easier to digest than other beans, and taste just as good.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb extra lean ground turkey
  • 1 TBS garlic-infused oil
  • 1/2 lb carrots, scrubbed or peeled and chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed or peeled and diced
  • 2 large green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 2 TBS ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 15-ounce can lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
Instructions
  1. Sauté the ground turkey in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula.
  2. Add garlic-infused oil, all the cut up vegetables and spices
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes
  4. Add the canned tomatoes and chicken broth or water
  5. Cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer for 50-60 minutes
  6. Serve hot
Serving size: 1 cup Calories: 174.73 Fat: 7.2g Saturated fat: 1.66g Carbohydrates: 16.72g Sugar: 4.03g Sodium: 489.45mg Fiber: 4.98g Protein: 12.49g Cholesterol: 32.05mg
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Thank you for reading the guest post from John Turrell. If you try Patsy’s’ recipe for Lentil Chili, please let us know how it was. And if you have a good lentil recipe of your own, share it with us!

While I have your attention, I could use your help. John’s food tips have gotten a great response, so I’ve decided to continue introducing a new healthy food every week. If you have a healthy food to suggest, please mention it in the comment box below or send it to me by email. And if you have a great (healthy) recipe to go with it … well, that would be awesome!

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now she writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.