Honestly, I only started eating lentils three years ago when I stumbled upon Trader Joe's lentil soup in the refrigerated section. One of the reasons I liked it so much was because it was filling and became a great animal protein substitution, for the most part. I also liked the fact that it was easy to prepare, once the grain (legumes, actually) had been soaked overnight.
I'm one of those people who can eat soups year-round, but hearty soup recipes, like the one I'm posting below, seems more appropriate during the cooler or cold weather months. I'm not a fan of using the term "comfort", as it applied to food, but in this case, lentil soup seems to provide comfort for my soul, and more importantly, essential nutrients for my body.
Lentils provides a wealth of health benefits, but I'll focus on the top 7 which includes:
Lowers CholesterolLentils help to reduce blood cholesterol since it contains high levels of soluble fiber. Lowering your cholesterol levels reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke by keeping your arteries clean.
Promoted Good Digestion
Lentils has been found to prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome) and diverticulosis.
Promotes Hearth Health
Studies show that eating high fiber foods like lentils reduces your risk of heart disease. Lentils are also a great source of folate and magnesium, which are big contributors to heart health. Folate lowers your homocysteine levels, a serious risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium improves blood flow, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Low levels of magnesium have been directly associated with heart disease, so eating lentils will keep your heart happy!
Of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein. 26 percent of lentil’s calories are attributed to protein, which makes them a wonderful source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Blood Sugar Stabilizer
Lentils helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which can be beneficial to those suffering from diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.
Lentils increase steady, slow-burning energy due its fiber and complex carbohydrates. Lentils are also a good source of iron, which transports oxygen throughout your body and is key to energy production and metabolism.
Promotes Weight Loss
Although lentils include all these beneficial nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins, they are still low in calories and contain virtually no fat. One cup of cooked lentils only contains about 230 calories, but still leaves you feeling full and satisfied.
BTW...Bulk is Usually Better
Although I buy prepacked dried peas and beans from time to time, I find it easier and much less expensive to purchase these from the bulk bins. I can typically purchase as much or as little as I need, especially if I'm only preparing a recipe periodically, plus it costs much less per pound than prepackaged items. However, always ask your grocer how quickly a particular bulk item moves, as you want to make sure you are buying the freshest ingredients available.
Slow Cooker Red Split Lentil Soup
Author: Regina Thomas Dillard
2 cups Red Split Lentils (soaked overnight)
8 Roma Tomaoes, hand-crushed or chopped (sub. 2 cans Fire-roasted Tomatoes)
4 Garlic Cloves, crushed (sub. 2 tsp crushed garlic - from jar)
2 Vegetable Boullions (sub 1 tsp Vegetable "Better Than Boullion" paste)
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
3 Celery Stalks, diced
3 Carrots, diced
1 Onion, medium, diced
2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp. Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Bay Leaves, whole
Slow Cooker Method:
Drain lentils and rinse thoroughly. To slow cooker stock pot, add lentils and all ingredients. Cover with water. Allow to cook on high for 4 hours. Adjust salt seasoning as needed.
Stove Top Method:
Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until lentils and vegetables are tender. Drain lentils and rinse thoroughly. To slow cooker stock pot, add lentils and all ingredients. Cover with water. Allow to cook on high for 4 hours. Adjust salt seasoning as needed.
This past Saturday, my family and I ventured out to Harvard, IL, a 90-minute drive from my home, to visit Royal Oak Orchard. for its annual Honeycrisp Picking Event. The orchard sits on 50 acres with over 17,000 trees which included lots of walking - it's a good thing we wore comfortable shoes. Although there are 30 varieties of apples, such as MacIntosh, Jonathan, Royal Gala, Crispin, Braeburn and Granny Smith, to name just a few, not all varieties are ripe at the same time. Be sure to call ahead to make sure your favorite apples are in season and ready for picking.
I thought it would be a great idea to pick a bushel, or two, of Honeycrisp apples for my upcoming living food class. I'm thinking of making Raw Apple Sauce, which is always a favorite recipe in the fall. Some of the characteristics and flavor notes of the Honeycrisp apple are: Exterior: Blushed scarlet over a yellow background. Interior: Creamy white flesh that breaks apart easily. Experience: Juicy, with a refreshing sweetness similar to fresh apple cider. Just like the name implies, Honeycrisp apples are crisp, with a unique texture that fractures cleanly with each bite.
If you have never eater a fresh-picked apple, I recommend visiting your local orchard and experiencing it at least one. However, I caution you: one bite and you may never want a store-bought apple again. To locate fruit orchards in your state, view the Unites States Orchard Directory.
6 Large Honeycrisp Apples, peeled and cored
8 Medjool Dates, pitted
1 1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Process all ingredients in food processor until desired consistency. For chunkier sauce, process less time. For smoother sauce, gradually add water, up to 1/4 cup.
Transfer to glass mason jar, secure lid. Store in refrigerator up to 5 days.
3 Honeycrisp Apples + 3 Pears, (ripened, peeled, cored)
Proceed with recipe above
I look forward to the fall season so I can take advantage of the earth's yield this time of year. Acorn squash is at the top of my "Fall Fav's" list and I try to find new ways to use this wonderful vine vegetable. Although considered a winter squash, the acorn squash is from the same family as summer squash, which includes zucchini. It is a botanical fruit which is treated as a culinary vegetable. Squash is native to the Americas. Thought to be the first food cultivated by Native American Indians, squash, along with beans and corn, is part of the Indian triad of the three most important food staples.
I've incorporated acorn squash in soups, stews and curries, but there's nothing like the simplicity of roasting these beauties, which softens the skin and brings out the rich, buttery and sweet flavor notes. For this reason, I tend to treat the acorn squash like a dessert, which is why I use a small amount of natural sugar to lightly caramelize the flesh. So, the next time you're shopping the produce department, pick up an acorn squash and experience the wonderful flavors hiding behind the green, rigid skin.
For your reference, I've included a simple recipe below for Caramelized Acorn Squash. Try it out and let me know how you like it!
Caramelized Acorn Squash
Author: Regina Thomas Dillard
Preparation Notes: You'll need to remove the fibers and seeds from the center of the acorn squash before steaming, broiling or baking. To make the squash easier to cut, pierce the skin in a few spots before baking. The deeper the yellowish orange color of the flesh, the sweeter it is.
2 Acorn Squash (halved, seeded)
4 Tbsp Coconut Sugar (2 Tbsp per squash)
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1/2 tsp Cinnamor or Nutmeg
1 Tbsp each (Pistachios, Walnuts, Raisins) May substitute raisins for dried cranberries or chopped dates
Remove seeds and fibers from squash. With flesh side up, drizzle with coconut oil. Wrap squash with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes or until flesh is tender. Remove squash from oven. Add Coconut Oil, Sugar and Cinnamon to each acorn half. Place halves under broiler for 5-10 minutes, or until flesh has caramelized. Remove from broiler and top with nuts and dried fruit. Allow squash to stand 2 minutes before slicing.
When was the last time you...
Connected with nature? Watched the sun rise? Looked up into the starry night sky for at least 20 seconds? Went for a 15 minute walk? Hiked a trail? Sat on a park bench and ate lunch? Played at the local park with your kids/grands? Took off your shoes and walked in the grass? Sat on the beach?
Listened to the ocean waves? Went swimming, snorkeling, kayaking? Visited a botanic garden or nature conservatory?
Did you know researchers found that more very young children can play a computer game and open a web browser than swim or ride a bike. Meanwhile there has been a steady decline in visits to U.S. national parks, and a drop in hiking, camping or fishing.
Today many children, as well as adults suffer from what researchers call “nature-deficit disorder”— reduced awareness and a diminished ability to find meaning in the life around us.
Yet research shows that there are important positive correlations between human health, intelligence and nature. Studies reveal that humans, in general, are healthier, happier, and perhaps even smarter and more creative when they have a connection to nature.
Commit to at least 10-15 minutes communing with nature for the next 30 days. You'd be amazed at all the benefits you will receive simply by connecting with the Earth. Once you do, come back and share your experience. If you already implement this practice, feel free to share.
This is my lovely pink yoga mat, which I am truly bonded to. I get a sense of peace just looking at it. Why? Because I know when I've completed my practice for the day, I AM going to feel relaxed, centered and ready to focus on the day. Over the years, there may been such misconceptions and mysticism surrounding the word "yoga". Although the beginnings of yoga was developed in Northern India over 5000 years ago, the practice has much to do with cleansing the body, mind and prolonging life. The biggest misconception is yoga being a religion. It is not. Yoga is a Sanskrit word which simply means "union" or "to join". The English word "yoke" is also derived from yoga. When I first started practicing yoga, I soon realized it wasn't just a focus on exercise, but a mental discipline. While I was accustomed to sweat-drenching, heart-racing workout at my local fitness center, I realized I needed to incorporate a routine which helped move energetic fields in my body which allowed my body to heal itself. Yoga simply helps me achieve one thing: oneness with myself. It isn't necessary that you focus solely on yoga for physical fitness. However, it has been proven that stretching will help:
Aside from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress, which is known to have devastating effects on the body and mind. “Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate. Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.
By utilizing yoga meditation and breathing practices, one can improve their own mental well-being. I practice yoga regularly due to my "monkey mind" and inability to focus on small tasks. My mind tends to go many directions at once...it's just the way my creative mind is wired. However, my practice helps create mental clarity and calmness, relaxes my mind and helps me become more centered.
Now, I should warn you, - although yoga looks easy, I can assure you, it is not. However, don't let that frighten you. The benefits of yoga far outweigh any temporary discomforts. As with anything new, it takes practice to become better at it. While there are many yoga practices, beginners may find it difficult getting started. In order to assist you, I have included a link to Yoga Health Foundation's website, which allows you to sign up for a FREE 1-WEEK yoga class, offered at over 1600+ participating studios nationally. Be sure to sign up as the offer expires September 2017.
I truly hope find a class in your area and experience the wonder mind, body, spirit benefits of yoga.
There's one thing I have completely enjoyed about using flax seeds in raw and vegan recipes and it is its versatility. This small, nutty seed has been used in my puddings, muffins, cookie, bread and cracker recipes, as many of my clients require grain and gluten-free foods. Not only do flax seeds enhance the flavor of a recipe, it also acts as a binding agent, much like an egg, when combined the water. There are two basic varieties of flax seeds — brown and yellow or golden. You can eat both, but you’ll find the golden flax seeds to be the most common in markets. Flaxseeds are also cultivate flax for its oil — known as both “flaxseed oil” and “linseed oil” — which is considered to be a healthy, edible oil.
For me, this nutritionally dense food is a staple in my diet and it I want to share why it may be a good idea to include into yours as well.
High in Fiber, Low in Carbs
One of the most extraordinary benefits of flax seeds is that they contain high levels of mucilage gum content. Mucilage is a gel-forming fiber that is water soluble and has incredible benefits on the intestinal tract.
The mucilage can keep food in the stomach from emptying too quickly into the small intestine which can increase nutrient absorption.
Also, flax is extremely high in both soluble and insoluble fiber which can support colon detoxification, fat loss and reduce sugar cravings. You should aim to consume 30-40 g of high fiber foods daily. Personal Note: I am currently going through a system detox which helping undo some of the long term effects sugar has had on my body since I was a child. - flax seeds are included in this detox. I'll right more in a separate blog post.
Healthy Skin and Hair
If you want healthier skin, hair and nails then consider adding 2 tbsp of flax seeds to your smoothie or 1 tbsp of flax seed oil to your daily routine. The ALA fats in flax seeds benefits the skin and hair by providing essential fats as well as b-vitamins which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of acne, rosacea, and eczema. This also applies to eye health as flax can reduce dry eye syndrome. Flax seed oil is another great option since it has an even higher concentration of healthy fats. You can take 1-2 tbsp internally to hydrate skin and hair. It can also be mixed with essential oils and used as a natural skin moisturizer. Did you know you can also make a natural and organic flax seed gel to use on your hair? Recipe Here
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that flaxseeds and walnuts may improve obesity and support weight loss. Since flax is full of healthy fats and fiber, it will help you feel satisfied longer so you will eat fewer calories overall which may lead to weight loss. ALA fats may also help reduce inflammation.
This is important for weight loss in that an inflamed body will tend to hold on to excess weight. Add a couple of teaspoons of ground flaxseed to soups, salads, or smoothies as part of your weight loss plan.
The Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that adding flax seeds into your diet can naturally reduce lesterol levels.
The soluble fiber content of flax seeds trap fat and cholesterol in the digestive system so that it unable to be absorbed. Soluble fiber also traps bile, which is made from cholesterol in the gallbladder.
The bile is then excreted through the digestive system, forcing the body to make more, using up excess cholesterol in the blood and lowering cholesterol overall.
Flaxseeds are Gluten-Free
Using flax is a great way to naturally replace gluten-containing grains which are inflammatory where flax is anti-inflammatory. So, flax seeds are great for those who have Celiac disease or have a gluten-sensitivity. They may also be a good alternative to omega-3 fats in fish for people with a seafood allergy. Another great aspect of flax being gluten-free is that it can be used as a grain-free option in cooking. I will often use it along with coconut flour in baking at home.
Flaxseeds are High in Antioxidants
Lignans)Amongst its other incredible nutrition facts, flax seeds are also packed with antioxidants. Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits for anti-aging, hormone balance and cellular health.
Polyphenols support the growth of probiotics in the gut and may also help eliminate yeast and candida in the body, one of the BIGGEST invaders in my body. Lignans are also known for their anti-viral and antibacterial properties, therefore consuming flax regularly may help reduce the number or severity of colds and flus.
Maybe the biggest flax seed benefits come from it’s ability to promote digestive health. The ALA in flax can help protect the lining of the digestive tract and maintain GI health. It has been shown to be beneficial for people suffering from Crohn’s disease or other digestive ailments, as it can help reduce gut inflammation. You can also take 1-3 tbsp of flax seed oil with 8 oz of carrot juice (or simply water) to help naturally relieve constipation.
Flax Seeds for Cancer
Flax seed benefits have been proven time and time again and even including fighting breast, prostate, ovarian and colon cancer. A study published in the Clinical Cancer Research discovered that consuming flax seeds may decrease the risk of breast cancer. The three lignans found in flaxseeds can be converted by intestinal bacteria into enterolactone and enterodiol which naturally balance hormones which may be the reason flax seeds reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the lignans in flaxseeds may also reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.
So, with that said, it's not wonder why flax seeds can aid you reaching optimal health if consumed regularly.
Here's a recipe for Red Onion & Flax Seed Crackers. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Note: This recipe requires the use a dehydrating unit. However, if you do not own a food dehydrator and would like to use the oven method, please follow instructions as follows:
I simply LOVE sweet potatoes! Unlike other people, I eat them just as they are...no butter, salt, sweeteners or anything. As a child, my fondest memories were of my mom making after-school snacks for my siblings and I. She was really good at making sure we had treats which were healthy for us and sweet potatoes were one of them. Yes, we love this orange root vegetable in pies, souffles and even as a potato fry, but there's nothing like a piping hot potato, straight out of the oven with the skin barely hanging on to the soft caramelized flesh. They simply have a natural sweetness which can satisfy sweet-toothed people like me.
Since my focus leans toward more alkaline-based foods and recipes, I wanted to include sweet potatoes into my green eating plan. I created this Sweet Potato Greens Salad so that I can enjoy the best of both worlds. I also included other greens and bitter herbs such as dandelion and cilantro, both of which are blood cleansers and healing for the body. This recipe would not be complete without a simple Honey Mustard dressing which is a perfect accompaniment. The grain mustard has just the right balance of vinegar and spice which really brings out the sweetness of the potato.
According to several medical studies and case studies, the benefits of sweet potatoes include:
What Are Sweet Potatoes Good For?By far, one of the most beneficial nutritional aspects of sweet potatoes is that they are an unusually high resource of vitamin A. In fact, no other food on the planet contains more vitamin A than sweet potatoes! This is one reason why they have been used as a valuable healing plant in South American folk medicine for over 5,000 years. Today, studies suggest that it can be useful to treat cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory-based conditions like heart disease. One common theme in both types of uses is that the entire plant should be utilized, not just the tasty root part that we’re used to eating. For example, the journal Carcinogenesis published a study in 2013 evaluating how polyphenol-rich sweet potato greens affect prostate cancer. In the recipe below, you may substitute dandelion greens for sweet potato greens, although it may be difficult to find them.
Dandelions can help the liver in many ways. While the antioxidants like vitamin-C and Luteolin keep the liver functioning in optimal gear and protect it from aging, other compounds in dandelions help treat hemorrhaging in the liver. Furthermore, dandelions aid in maintaining the proper flow of bile, while also stimulating the liver and promoting digestion. Proper digestion can reduce the chances of constipation, which in turn reduces the risk of more serious gastrointestinal issues. Dandelion juice can help diabetic patients by stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas, thereby keeping the blood sugar level low. Since dandelions are diuretic in nature, they increase urination in diabetic patients, which helps remove the excess sugar from the body. Diabetics are also prone to renal problems, so the diuretic properties of dandelion can help removing the sugar deposition in the kidneys through increased urination. Furthermore, dandelion juice is slightly bitter to taste, which effectively lowers the sugar level in the blood, as all bitter substances do. Consistently lower blood sugar and a more regulated system of insulin release prevents dangerous spikes and plunges for diabetic patients, so dandelion extracts can be a perfect solution!
One of the top health benefits of kale is that it’s a natural detoxifier. It not only helps remove toxins, but also helps eliminate them from your body.
This is due to a component in kale called isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are made from glucosinolates. They’ave been reported to help detox your body at the cellular level.
These ITCs are a powerful “one-two punch” against toxins and free radicals. Toxins in our environment, such as processed foods, pollutants, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, increase the toxic level of the body and increase the chance of disease.
Removing the toxins from you body is an important job. Toxins are destroyed first by antioxidants and then removed (detoxified) with glucosinolates.
Cilantro is a popular herb popular around the globe that resembles flat leaf parsley at first glance, but at first sniff, transports you to the Mediterranean, Mexico, Asia, and India. Cilantro gives a fresh boost of flavor, without the addition of sea salt or other seasonings.
This versatile herb is used in everything from guacamole and salsa, to curries, noodle dishes, and chimichurri sauces of Argentina. Not only does this flavorful, bright herb have unlimited culinary applications, but surprisingly to many people cilantro benefits the body and has many known healing properties.
Cilantro is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and the caloric value is nearly nonexistent. It is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Just a ¼ cup of fresh cilantro provides 270 IU of Vitamin A, and 16% of the daily value recommended of vitamin K. The vitamin K and calcium content of cilantro help to build strong bones, teeth, and hair. Cilantro is considered the “anti-diabetic” plant in some parts of Europe, and research shows that it helps to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, supports healthy cardiovascular function, and much more.
So now you see why it's important to consume a variety of plant foods. When you body is suffering from toxification (chemical, biological, environmental) or has been invaded by parasites (worms, yeast-overgrowth), it's vital that we provide out bodies with nutrient-dense, cleansing and healing foods into the body. This will give your body an opportunity to heal and recover on its own, as it was designed to do.
If you would like more recipes be sure to sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
Remember...Use Your Fork For Good!
RECIPE - Sweet Potato Greens Salad
Author: Regina Thomas Dillard
Bake Sweet Potato prior to assembling salad. Be sure to bake until firm, but not soft avoiding a mushy or mashed textures. Allow potato to cool completely before dicing.
5 Lacinto Kale Leaves
5 Dandelion Leaves
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Medium Sweet Potato, cubed
1/2 Avocado, diced
1 green onions, chopped (white bottom and green top)
Handful cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. Raw Pumpkin Seeds
In a salad bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss well with salad server or by hand. Top with pumpkin seeds. Chill 30 minutes before serving. Serve with Honey Mustard Dressing.
Honey Mustard Dressing Recipe
1/2 c. Coconut Milk
1 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Stone Ground Mustard (sub. Dijon Mustard)
1 tsp Honey (sub Agave Nectar
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Serve with Salad.
Regina Thomas Dillard is the author of "FEED: Living Food Recipes to be Made and Eaten with Love", and founder of Inner + Sanctum Wellness, a business dedicated to assist others as they embark on their holistic journey. All products are handmade and sourced from reputable organic and natural ingredients purveyors.