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    Naturally Gluten-free – Lentils

    Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse. They are also naturally gluten-free – one of my favorite things in the world. Naturally gluten-free foods make my life so much easier. Lentils are much easier to prepare than dry bean – taking less than an hour and there is no soaking involved. Here is some information on lentils from The World’s Healthiest Foods:

    Lentils are legumes along with other types of beans. They grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds that are round, oval or heart-shaped disks and are oftentimes smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser. They may be sold whole or split into halves with the brown and green varieties being the best at retaining their shape after cooking.

    Health Benefits

    Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein-all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up–not out.

    Lentils-A Fiber All Star

    Check a chart of the fiber content in foods; you’ll see legumes leading the pack. Lentils, like other beans, are rich in dietary fiber, both the soluble and insoluble type. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that snares bile (which contains cholesterol)and ferries it out of the body. Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

    Iron for Energy

    In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, lentils can increase your energy by replenishing your iron stores. Particularly for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, boosting iron stores with lentils is a good idea–especially because, unlike red meat, another source of iron, lentils are not rich in fat and calories. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. And remember: If you’re pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Growing children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron.

    One of my favorite ways to make lentils is Honey Baked Lentils. I also love to make Lentil Tacos (a method I will share below). I have a new recipe from Veganomicon that I have been dying to try for Snobby Joes that use lentils.

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    Lentil Tacos/Mexican Pizzas

    Cooked Lentils (follow directions on package; I used 365 Organic Lentils)

    1. 1 cup lentils (this makes a lot of lentils!)
    2. 4-5 cups hot water
    3. Simmer gently with lid tilted until desired tenderness is reached, about 30 – 45 minutes.
    4. Drain

    Taco Seasoning

    Refried Beans (I used Trader Joe’s)

    Tostada Shells

    Cheese

    Olives

    Tomatoes

    Red Hot

    1. Take 1/2 cup of cooked lentils per serving and add 1 tsp of taco seasoning per serving (I used Old El Paso Original).
    2. Mix with a touch of water until well combined.
    3. Heat 2 tostada shells according to the package directions or use corn tortillas & bake in the oven. (I used Ortega).
    4. Spread your refried beans over your tostada shell; top with half of the lentils & shredded cheddar cheese.
    5. Bake until cheese is melty.
    6. Top with olives, tomatoes & Red Hot

    I used 2 tostadas & half a cup of cooked lentils for one serving. You can easily make this for more, just adjust the seasoning. The pkg. suggests 1-2 tsps per serving of meat, so I used 1 tsp for one serving of lentils. Technically a serving of lentils is 1 cup, but I was using refried beans, too, and there is no way I could get 1/2 cup of lentils on each tostada shell.

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    Lentils are important for me right now in getting the fiber, carbs, protein & iron that I need while training for my marathon. I also donated blood on Monday, so I need to replace what I donated. Red meat is a good way, but I don’t eat a lot of red meat, so lentils it is! :)

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