Baby, it’s cold outside! How about some soup to warm you up? Make some lentil soup (fakes) and supercharge it for additional health benefits! Find out how.
You know you want some lentil soup!
Lentil soup (fakes) is a very common Greek dish enjoyed by many. It’s long been touted within the Greek community as an antidote for low iron levels and is also known as an overall extremely healthy dish! Did you know that you can actually make it healthier? Read on to learn how, and grab a recipe!
Well known for their high iron and micronutrients, lentils are considered a superfood due to their high phytonutrient content (substances found in plants that provide benefits to people who eat them). Their high in fiber, protein, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and more!
Lentils contain folate, a type of B vitamin found in food that’s needed for cell and DNA health. They’re rich in pre-biotics, a type of carbohydrate that our gut bacteria feed on for optimal probiotic health. Finally, they’re high in non-heme iron, a form of plant-based iron found in legumes. It’s easy to see why they’re a staple in the Mediterranean Diet!
IMPORTANT: Many times folate and folic acid are used interchangeably. They are NOT the same. Folate is the natural form of this b-vitamin and folic acid is synthetic form often added to processed foods and/or supplements. Many people struggle with absorbing and clearing folic acid effectively from the body. As a result, damage to the body occurs rather than benefits.
Did you know that lentils contain high amounts of phytates? These anti-nutrients that bind to minerals in our digestive tract, hindering our absorption of them. How does this affect us? The phytates found in lentils can actually hinder the absorption of iron and other minerals, making the dish difficult to digest and anything but an antidote!
The good news is we can remove phytates from our lentils by simply soaking them! Cover them in a bowl, with filtered water and a splash of vinegar (or any other of acid medium) to help remove the majority of the phytates. This will allow for optimal iron and mineral absorption within our bodies.
TIP: Want to remove even more phytate? Soak AND sprout them! By soaking them even longer the legume will eventually start sprouting (24-36 hours). Once sprouted, the legume then becomes almost a “vegetable” removing the majority of phytates AND allows for easier digestibility.
While many add in tomato paste to their lentils for taste and or color, the addition of an ingredient with high amounts of vitamin C (in this case tomatoes) allows for even MORE supercharged power with regard to iron. Lentils’ non-heme iron is considered the more difficult form of iron to absorb in the body. Adding vitamin C to non-heme iron-rich food, such as lentils, significantly increases iron’s absorption rate!
Carrots and celery
Prominent within the soup, carrots and celery should always be organic. Both are root vegetables and absorb a significant amount of toxins from the ground while growing. Conventional carrots and celery contain high levels of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides and are two of the top “dirtiest” vegetables around. Using organic versions of these vegetables is a must when preparing this dish, to avoid the unwanted ingestion of toxic chemicals.
Onions and garlic
Two amazing superfoods that have a plethora of health benefits are onions and garlic. While garlic is standard in lentil soup, onions seem to be added in by preference. For the purposes of this recipe, make sure to add in lots of onion (and garlic of course) to receive supercharged benefits. These vegetables contain organosulfur compounds and have antioxidant properties. Both make them protective against many health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. They also protect our DNA from accelerated damage.
What’s the best way to prepare onions? Peel them carefully, as the majority of their beneficial compounds are found close to the skin. Then chop into small pieces (not too small) to optimally release their “powers”, and let sit for a few minutes (10-15 seems to be the consensus) to allow full development. The same technique should also be used for garlic (that means no mincing!) since its compounds also need a few minutes to develop after chopping. Make sure to add in ample amounts of both into your soup.
The quality of olive oils on the market today is highly questionable. True extra virgin olive oil is very expensive, should not be in a plastic container, and should be of thicker viscosity. It should be dark olive green in color AND should cause a tang in the back of the throat when swallowed. A lot of today’s so-called olive oils may not even contain ANY olive oil, and instead, be a combination of other, cheaper types of oil. Once you’ve acquired a high-quality olive oil, add it to your soup after cooking for it to retain all of its health properties so exposure to heat doesn’t destroy them.
Many individuals add vinegar to their lentils either while cooking or after. What’s the best type of vinegar to use? Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)! Raw ACV is a fermented vinegar and contributes to optimal digestion by providing much-needed probiotics (make sure your raw ACV has the “mother” in it for probiotic benefits). Probiotics help us optimally digest our food and many individuals are deficient in them. The best time to add ACV is after the soup has been cooked and has slightly cooled, to not kill the beneficial bacteria found in the vinegar.
When to avoid lentils
As always, check in with yourself prior to consuming any food, regardless if it’s touted as healthy! Avoid lentils if you have a suspected food intolerance to them and any type of confirmed gastrointestinal illness such as a parasitic, fungal infection, H-pylori, bacterial overgrowth, and/or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It’s best to get these conditions under control first since lentils’ pre-biotics’ (oligosaccharides) are known to initially fuel these types of dysfunctions rather than help relieve them.
Time for Fakes!
Make yourself some lentil soup this fall season and continue to enjoy the short and long-term benefits of the Mediterranean Diet today!
RECIPE: Lentil Soup (Fakes)
- 8 ounces lentils (soaked overnight in filtered water with a splash of vinegar, then drained)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- chopped garlic (to taste)
- chopped onion (to taste)
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 quart water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- raw apple cider vinegar (to taste)
- fresh parsley (optional)
- Place lentils in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once boiled, strain lentils, cover with new water. Add onions, garlic, bay leaf, carrots, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Cover. Bring to boil, then let simmer until lentils have softened, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring
- Add additional water if the soup becomes too thick. Once done (ideally slightly cooled) drizzle with olive oil and apple cider
Have questions about pre-biotics, probiotics, and superfoods? Email me.
More from Roula Marinos Papamihail:
She trained at Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. and holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Indianapolis. She’s also the proud mom of 4 little boys. Roula is currently accepting new clients in her office, at home, over the phone, or via Skype. Visit her website at www.myhealthysoma.com.