When I made the decision to eliminate meat from my diet nearly four years ago (I now eat seafood on occasion), the first question I got 9 times out of 10 was, “But where will you get your protein?” The truth is, plant-based foods can and do provide us with plenty of the nutrition we need as long as we are eating the right things. As a matter of fact, trading in meat for veggies even just some of the time can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 19%, limit your chances of developing certain types of cancers, fight obesity and type II diabetes, and prolong your life. Going meatless also reduces your carbon footprint and protects the environment.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that about 20% of green house gas emissions are produced by the meat industry. Keeping this all in mind, try a new vegetable or legume dish and make it the star of your meal – you might be pleasantly surprised how delicious it is. Even more importantly, you may notice you feel great, too (both physically and mentally, knowing you are taking extra care of yourself and the environment).
If you’re in a part of the world experiencing winter, you’ve probably been dealing with some seriously chilly weather. I honestly can’t think of a better prescription for the winter blues than a bowl of hot, homemade soup. Soups are often intimidating to many people because they have a reputation for taking all day, as some of the best made-from-scratch soups can. Don’t fret – today’s recipe takes well under one hour to prepare and cook, so you’ll be enjoying it in no time!
The star of this recipe is the red lentil – a legume that, like its brother the brown lentil, is an excellent plant source of protein packed with minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, and copper, but takes only about 20 minutes to cook from its dried form. Combined with nutrient-dense kale and carrots, this soup will leave you feeling full and nourished. The most amazing part about this soup – besides the fact that it’s easy and delicious? – is that it costs less than $1.50 a serving!
If you buy lentils in bulk at the grocery or market (which I recommend because it reduces wasteful packaging and will save you some $$), be sure to inspect the dried lentils for any stones or debris before you rinse and cook them.
Easy Lentil Soup
Makes about 6 servings
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
1 quart water
2 cups red lentils
1 tablespoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper to taste
1 cup cooked brown rice
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook onions, garlic, and carrots until onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in chopped kale and cook for 3-5 minutes, until slightly wilted. Add broth, water, curry powder, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and lentils. (Note: If you do not have cooked brown rice, add ½ cup uncooked brown rice with the lentils, and increase broth volume to 1.5 quarts.)
Increase heat to bring soup to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add cooked rice and stir. Cook until rice is warmed through, about 5 minutes. I f you prefer a thinner soup, add more liquid and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve hot or, when cooled, store in refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 5 days or in the freezer for months.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend and we’ll see you on Monday.
And remember… there are no excuses when it comes to your health!
Cross AJ, Leitzmann MF, Gail MH, Hollenbeck AR, Schatzkin A, et al. (2007) A prospective study of red and processed meat intake in relation to cancer risk. PLoS Med 4(12): e325. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040325
Mozaffarian D, Micha R, Wallace S (2010) Effects on Coronary Heart Disease of Increasing Polyunsaturated Fat in Place of Saturated Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS Med 7(3): e1000252. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000252
Newby PK, Tucker KL, and Wolk A. (2005) Risk of overweight and obesity among semivegetarian, lactovegetarian, and vegan women. Am J Clin Nutr81:1267–74.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM