I love any dish containing beans, but there’s something about lentils that really satisfies me. I think it started years ago on a visit to Paris when I was served a plate of broiled quail on a bed of French lentils and kale. Yum.
Call me crazy, but this is my ultimate comfort food!
Because they’re loaded with so much good-for-you fiber, beans are the perfect weight-loss food. They fill you up on a minimum of calories and contain no excess fat.
Beans also shut down ghrelin (your “I’m hungry” hormone), while triggering more leptin (the hormone responsible for your body’s “I’m full” response).
In addition, beans are an ideal healing superfood for numerous medical conditions:
Heart disease. They contain pectin, a particular type of fiber that lowers levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and other blood fats naturally. They’re also loaded with beneficial antioxidants called anthocyanins that protect arteries from inflammation damage.
Diabetes. Pectin also sensitizes cells to insulin, so this important glucose-lowering hormone is better utilized by the body. Beans also slow the absorption of glucose for a full day after you eat them. Here’s medical proof that beans are “the #1 anti-diabetes food”:
Type 2 diabetics who consumed a mere one-cup daily serving of beans improved their blood sugar enough to reduce their medication dosage, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Type 1 diabetics were able to reduce their dosage of injectable insulin by 38% simply by eating beans. This exciting conclusion comes from Dr. James Anderson, one of the early research pioneers on the health benefits of fiber. And people with Type 2 diabetes also benefited greatly. Eating beans not only reduced their need for insulin and other diabetic medications but, in some cases, all but eliminated the use of supplemental insulin!
In a recent study by researchers at the University of Southern California, overweight Latino children (a population with a much greater incidence of being diabetic than the general US population) lowered their risk for Type 2 diabetes, lost weight and showed significant improvements in their insulin response simply by substituting a half-cup of beans for one daily soda. Amazing!
Immunity. Eating beans strengthens your immune system by promoting beneficial bacteria (called probiotics) in the gastrointestinal tract, while suppressing bad bacteria and their toxic byproducts.
Constipation. Because of their generous fiber content, beans encourage bowel regularity.
Cancer. During digestion, beans produce the protective compound butyrate, which helps shield you from colon cancer.
All this sent me searching for the Great American Canned Lentil Soup so I could enjoy all these benefits with the twist of a can opener.
Our Test Kitchen Team bought every single brand of lentil soup available: Amy’s Organic Lentil Vegetable, Trader Joe’s Organic Lentil Vegetable, 365 (Whole Foods) Organic Lentil, Imagine Organic Lentil Apple, Muir Glen Savory Lentil and Wolfgang Puck’s Organic Lentil and Vegetable.
Then we heated them identically in our Test Kitchen and served them in a blind taste test. Guess who won?
Our panel of tasters was unanimous in their verdict: “Eew.” “Ugh.” “Yuck.”
Across the board, these canned lentil soups were mushy, over-salted, watery, too sweet and short on the beans.
Frankly, we were shocked that all but one of these respected brands were so far off the mark. Clearly, the manufacturers were compensating for a lack of fresh ingredients and adding boatloads of salt and sugar.
But why hold back on the beans? They cost next to nothing.
All the soups got a big Thumb’s Down from us, with the exception of Wolfgang Puck’s soup, which received 1 -1/2 Thumbs Up for decent flavor and texture. It will do in a pinch, but don’t go there unless you can handle the salt and cane sugar content.
“Why bother with canned?” asked our Chef Emmy. “Homemade lentil soup is a snap to make by using canned lentils. You can make a quick dinner, or make a full pot and freeze it so that you have it on hand for busy evenings to come.”
And she’s absolutely correct. Chef Emmy’s Super-Quick Lentil Soup will give you a delicious “homemade quickie” that’s ready in just 20 minutes.
There are a million ways to play with this soup! Add frozen corn, cumin and chipotle pepper for a southwestern flavor, or soy sauce, cilantro a squeeze of lime and fish sauce for Thai inspiration. A splash of balsamic vinegar or white wine adds zest.
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