Lentils Can Fill High Fiber Role in Healthful Diet

Thanks to the scientific connection between high-soluble fiber intake and reduced blood cholesterol, most Americans today are eating more foods that are rich in fiber, especially oat bran. One health enthusiast has even admitted to swallowing tablespoonfuls of the grain along with water to boost his intake.

But there are many other equally nutritious and less radical means of achieving the recommended 25 to 30 grams per day of total fiber (both the insoluble and soluble forms). Adding one half to one cup of legumes to the daily diet is one of them.

Legumes (pronounced leg-yooms) offer a hefty dose of soluble fiber per serving. They add about eight grams total fiber to the diet per each one-half cup serving of garbanzo, kidney or canned baked beans and each one-cup portion of dried peas, lentils and lima beans. This is significant compared to about two grams fiber per portion of the following: a small apple, a slice of whole-wheat bread, one-half large biscuit, shredded wheat cereal, a teaspoon of wheat bran, two teaspoons of oat bran, 1 1/2 cups popped corn, one-half cup cooked broccoli or two cups lettuce.

Important Component

In the body, fiber is an important component in meeting the body's daily need for carbohydrates--the most efficient fuel for most body functions, according to nutrition experts. Fiber can be a dieter's friend as well, since it swells in the intestines and promotes feelings of fullness, therefore reducing overeating. It also aids in laxation.

Legumes in general, and lentils in particular, can be prepared using a variety of low-fat methods. And, because they are quicker to cook than some other forms of legumes, such as dried beans, lentils are an excellent addition to quick salads and soups. Mix with ground turkey in hamburgers, or puree and use to stuff ravioli or tacos.

To prepare, rinse and drain lentils but do not soak. Cover with water using two parts water to one part lentils. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer 15 minutes for salads, 30 minutes for vegetables and main dish recipes, 45 minutes for soups and an hour for purees. Drain lentils for use in salad recipes.


1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds

1 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth

2 cups water

1/2 cup dry lentils, rinsed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup low-fat milk

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

Spread almonds in single layer in microwave-safe dish. Microwave on HIGH 3 minutes, stirring halfway through. Or, spread in single layer on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Cool.

Remove 1/3 cup toasted almonds and chop finely in food processor or blender. Set aside.

Combine onions, celery and curry powder in large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in pumpkin, chicken broth, water, lentils and lemon juice. Cover and microwave on HIGH 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in reserved chopped almonds, milk and honey. Ladle soup into serving bowls.

Just before serving, dollop each bowl with 2 tablespoons yogurt and sprinkle with reserved slivered almonds. Makes 4 servings.

Note: To prepare soup using conventional method, increase water to 3 cups. Bring pumpkin, broth and lentil mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until lentils are tender.


1 cup dry lentils, rinsed

2 cups water

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped, seeded tomatoes

1 cup chopped, seeded cucumber

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

Lettuce leaves or pita bread

Place lentils in medium saucepan with water, garlic and onion. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 10 to 12 minutes or just until lentils are barely tender. Drain if necessary.

Toss lentils with tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, olive oil, oregano and cheese. Cover and chill several hours to blend flavors. Serve on lettuce leaves or in pita bread. Makes 4 servings.


1 cup dry lentils, rinsed

2 cups water

Salt, pepper

1/2 cup reduced-calorie ranch-style dressing

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1 cup chopped jicama, optional

2 cups chopped broccoli, blanched

Bring lentils and water to boil in medium saucepan. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Drain. Season while still hot with salt and pepper to taste and dressing. Refrigerate until chilled, then add celery, onions, jicama and broccoli. Makes 10 (3/4 cup) servings.


1/2 cup lentils, rinsed

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup cooked rice

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup reduced-calorie Italian dressing

1 small tomato, diced

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped celery

2 tablespoons sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives

Bring rinsed lentils and water to boil in saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, combine rice, salt, dressing, tomato, green pepper, onion, celery and olives in bowl. Add lentils, toss and chill. Makes 6 servings.


2 cups lentils, rinsed

2 quarts water

1 cup diced onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound mushrooms, quartered

1 (10-ounce) package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Dash cayenne pepper

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Bring lentils and water to boil in large saucepan. Simmer, covered, until tender. Drain and set aside.

Saute onion and garlic in oil in non-stick skillet until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, spinach, salt, pepper and cayenne. Saute mixture until mushrooms are almost cooked through. Stir in reserved lentils and heat through. Remove from heat to serving dish and sprinkle with cheese. Makes 6 servings.


1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1/2 cup tomato paste

2 1/3 cups water

1/2 cup lentils, rinsed

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried basil leaves

1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Hot cooked pasta

Saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in oil in non-stick saucepan until onion is tender. Add tomato sauce and paste, water, lentils, basil, oregano, sugar, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve over hot pasta. Makes 6 servings.


1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup wild rice, rinsed

1/2 cup long grain rice, rinsed

1 cup lentils, rinsed

1/4 cup margarine

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

2 3/4 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash black pepper

Saute onions, garlic, wild and long grain rice and lentils in margarine until onion is tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add almonds, broth, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered 30 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Makes 6 servings.

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