My husband and son picked up a virus from some friends last week and were both down with fevers. Meanwhile, I was down and out with a horrible allergic reaction, and the last thing I felt like doing was cooking, especially when the men in the house were barely eating. Fortunately, my mom is visiting, so she got to work making my favorite “I don’t feel good” food – lentil barley soup!
I personally love lentils in nearly any form and eat them frequently for both their taste and their numerous health benefits. My favorite variety are the French lentils, which taste amazing when sprouted – hubs and I eat them like popcorn!
Lentils are a terrific source of cholesterol-lowering fiber that are also of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal, making them an excellent food for diabetics and hypoglycemics. Lentils also provide 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 little legume is a nutritional giant that fills you up but not out! Lentils, like other beans, are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that snares bile (which contains cholesterol) and carries it out of the body. Insoluble fiber not only helps to prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.
Take a look at the following chart of the nutrient properties of lentils:
Note the high folate levels – this is an excellent food for pregnant/nursing women or those planning to conceive. There are also studies suggesting that the consumption of lentils and other legumes can reduce the frequency and intensity of morning sickness, due to its B vitamins. The high tryptophan level also makes this food ideal for those dealing with depression, anxiety or certain sleep disorders.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as lentils, helps prevent heart disease. Almost 10,000 American adults participated in this study and were followed for 19 years. People eating the most fiber, 21 grams per day, had 12% less coronary heart disease (CHD) and 11% less cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to those eating the least, 5 grams daily. Those eating the most water-soluble dietary fiber fared even better with a 15% reduction in risk of CHD and a 10% risk reduction in CVD. Lentils also contain significant amounts of folate and magnesium. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, and magnesium helps to prevent blockage in veins and arteries. In short, if you want to literally keep your heart happy, eat lentils.
If you’re new to lentils, this soup is an easy, delicious way to get acquainted. If you’re a lifelong lentil lover like me, you can add this to your arsenal of lentil recipes and pull it out an a cold winter’s day, a rainy afternoon in spring, or as a sick-day comfort food. There’s nothing like a big bowl of hearty, nourishing soup, and there is, in my humble opinion, no soup as good as this one! I originally got the recipe from my best friend. Hers didn’t call for barley; it was just a lentil soup, but I come from a family of major barley lovers, so mom and I have doctored up the recipe to reflect our obsession. The addition of the barley makes it heartier, so it’s really more of a stew. If you’re not a barley person (though I cannot fathom the concept!), rice can also be used. Or, unlike me, you can leave well enough alone and just make lentil soup. 🙂 Enjoy!
Lentil Barley Soup
• 3 C lentils
• 1 C pearled barley (or brown rice)
• 1 gallon water
• 3 rounded tsp. basil
• 2 tsp. parsley
• 3 tsp. garlic powder
• 2 tsp. sea salt
• pinch of cayenne
• 1/2 tsp. dill weed
• 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
• Splash of Nama Shoyu (or Bragg’s for those that use it) to taste
• 3 medium potatoes, cubed or chunked
• 2 stalks of celery
• 2 -3 bay leaves
• 1 med. onion, minced
Place water in large stock pot and add additional ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until lentils and barley are tender. Note: As with most soups, this one tastes much better the day after cooking, 🙂