As a health conscious foodie I have always loved beans and pulses but I never really realized the true nutritional benefits of them until I studied nutrition. As a Registered Dietitian, I always try to encourage my patients to eat more legumes, because really, they’re an essential food group just like fruits and vegetables. Not only are they high in a whole range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but their fibre content helps to promote the development of healthy gut flora, eliminate excess cholesterol, hormones and toxins from the colon and therefore prevent many diseases. For these reasons, legume consumption has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and even certain cancers. Due to their high fibre and protein content, legumes are also super filling and satisfying, making them a great weight loss food.
Ever seen somebody who is overweight because they eat too many lentils? Nope, me neither.
In addition to these many benefits, legumes are also a great source of iron and high quality plant protein and therefore can (and should) be used to replace at least some of the meat in our diets. Not only is meat high in artery-clogging saturated fats and cholesterol but it is both ecologically unsustainable and economically unaffordable for many. Legumes are therefore the perfect way to nourish the masses in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner and without causing further burden to our health care system from heart disease and diabetes.
Legumes have been used for their nourishment and affordability for many centuries by many traditional cultures and are still consumed on a daily basis by many cultures. Unfortunately, in South Africa and much of the Western world, legume consumption seems foreign to us. When I tell people that they should eat more legumes, their first question is, “But how?”, “How do I cook with beans?” “How do I make them into a satisfying and exciting meal?” And then there are those that say, “But I don’t like legumes” and “Legumes don’t agree with my stomach”.
So I can’t tell you how excited I am to find a pasta product that is made from pure legumes. This red lentil pasta provides a whopping 20 grams of protein per 100 grams and is so tasty, satisfying and delicious! If you don’t like beans, you can still get your legumes in! Or if you can’t get the kids to eat their lentils, why not try a lentil pasta? If your stomach reacts to legumes, legumes in this form are a lot lower in some of the gas-causing fibres that are found in whole legumes. Best of all, everybody knows how to cook with pasta, right?
Here is my favourite Mexican-inspired Red Lentil Pasta salad. I have added some black beans for an added dose of legumes, because you can never have enough legumes. This pasta salad is perfect for summer and for the upcoming festive season. Serve it as a side dish at your next braai or family gathering to ensure that everyone gets a good dose of disease fighting nutrients. Since this dish contains lots of complex carbohydrates, high quality protein, healthy fats and fresh raw veggies, it is a complete nutritious meal on it’s own right. I often cook this dish up on a Sunday night to pack as a healthy and energy packed lunch for work or school through the week, and it keeps perfectly in the fridge for a good 3 to 4 days.
So cook up and enjoy!
MEXICAN RED LENTIL PASTA SALAD: SERVES 8
- 500g red lentil pasta
- 3 mielies
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- ½ green pepper, chopped
- ½ yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 tin black beans, drained and rinsed
- 200g cherry tomatoes, chopped
- 1 mango, chopped (optional)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- A dash of cayenne pepper
For the sauce:
- 2 avocados, peeled and de-stoned.
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1 sprig fresh coriander
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup water or more to desired consistency
- Boil the pasta for 7 minutes according to the package instructions, then drain and allow to cool.
- Steam the mielies in the microwave for 8-10 minutes until cooked through but still crunchy.
- In the meanwhile, chop up your onion, peppers, tomato and mango and add to the cooled pasta.
- Cut the corn off the mielie cob and add to your pasta mixture along with the tin of black beans.
- Season the pasta mixture with cumin and cayenne pepper.
- To prepare the sauce: add all the ingredients, including the water, to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Once blended, add more water if necessary to thin the sauce to your desired consistency and add salt to taste.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta mixture and garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander
- Season as necessary
Guest blogger Jessica Kotlowitz is a Registered Dietitian who is passionate about the use of plant-based diets for the treatment and prevention of obesity and chronic diseases. Jessica qualified with a Bsc. in Dietetics from Stellenbosch University in 2012 and began her Masters degree in 2014 when she began to research the effects of plant-based diets in an attempt to find solutions to some of her own health problems.
After losing 15kg’s and miraculously transforming her own health with the use of a plant-based diet, Jessica went on to open her own private practice in Cape Town which focuses on helping others to achieve optimal health using abundant plant-centred diets.
Facebook: Plant-based Eating and Dieting South Africa
Jessica Kotlowitz (left) Leozette Roode, GreenMondaySA (right)