Fill up not out with low GI lentils
If you have diabetes, lentils are one food you should learn to love – you can eat them until the cows come home. In fact, our dietitians report that no matter how much of them you eat, they have only a small effect on your blood glucose levels. But lentils are ideal for everybody, not just people with diabetes. Rich in protein, high in fibre and packed with nutrients like B vitamins, folate and minerals, this little nutritional giant fills you up – not out. They are also gluten free, easy to prepare (no soaking), quick cooking (15–20 minutes) and inexpensive (so great for feeding the family). All colours and types of dried lentils have a similar low GI value. Although opting for handy canned convenience increases the GI somewhat, lentils are still a very smart carb choice.
- GI 26 (red, home cooked)
- GI 30 (green, home cooked)
- GI 52 (green, canned)
photo: Ian Hofstetter
Low GI eating made easy with canned or home-cooked lentils
- Up the nutritional ante and thicken sauces and salsas with pureed lentils. If it’s a new taste sensation for your family, add just a little for starters until their palates adjust to the slightly earthier flavour.
- Transform a simple tomato soup into something substantial by adding a cup or two of lentils – whole or pureed if it’s a creamy style soup.
- Extend a stew or casserole with a cup or two of lentils. Great to help the leftovers feed the whole family.
- Whip up a salad in seconds with lentils, tuna, chopped red capsicum and finely chopped red onion, tossed in an oil and red wine vinegar dressing.
- Toss buckwheat noodles with lentils and blanched broccoli in a dressing of olive oil and white wine vinegar mixed with a little crushed garlic and finely grated ginger.
- Mad about mash? For an easy (and lower GI) alternative to mashed potato, bring to the boil 250 ml of reduced salt chicken or vegetable stock, 2/3 cup of split red lentils and 1 bay leaf, then simmer until the lentils are mushy and thick. Season with freshly ground black pepper and your favourite herbs or spices.
- Feel like a burger? Process a 14 oz (400 g) can of drained lentils in the food processor for a second or so until they look like coarse breadcrumbs. Soften a chopped onion, a clove of garlic crushed and a grated carrot in olive oil for a few minutes in a frying pan. In a bowl thoroughly combine the lentil ‘crumbs’ with 1/3 cup (40 g) sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup (50 g) rolled oats and ½ cup (40 g) wholegrain breadcrumbs and a dash of chilli or soy sauce (or both). Form into 4 patties, chill in the refrigerator for an or so until firm, then and cook 3–4 minutes a side on the barbecue or in a pan.
For starters you may like to take a look at a copy of The Pea and Lentil Cookbook - From Everyday to Gourmet from the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council. It has around 150 recipes (we'll give you a taste in the coming months), many of them photographed plus a nutritional analysis for each (not GI though). It's fun to read just for the tips on every page. You can order a copy from their website (www.pea-lentil.com) or email them for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Another source of ideas is the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers' Discover the Pulse Potential. There are around 100 recipes from appetisers and salads to soups and desserts each with a nutrient analysis (but not a GI rating). We’ll give you a taste over the next year (with a GI rating). It addresses special dietary concerns such as diabetes and celiac disease and provides information on pulse varieties and how to cook them. You can order a copy from www.amazon.ca or contact Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, 104–411 Downey Road, Saskatoon, SK S7N 4L8 Canada
Some websites to check out for more information on legumes (pulses):