These days soy is a buzzword, it seems that anything containing soy protein is deemed healthy and that as self-respecting consumers, we should buy all we can. After all, it’s healthy, right?
I do not mean to downplay the undeniable health benefits of soy, but to highlight a little known fact about them. Soy contains compounds called phytoestrogens.
These are classified as non-steroidal compounds whose molecular structure is similar enough to estriadol, the major estrogen steroid in humans, that it can mimic the effect of estrogen hormones.
This fact should be of particular importance to women following a vegetarian or vegan diet where it is easy to rely on soy as the main provider of protein.
Ready made soy products including tofu, soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and various baked goods make it easy to ingest large amounts of phytoestrogens without knowing about it.
This can have ill effects on women who may already be dealing with hormonal imbalances such as those caused by polycystic ovary syndrome as the body will interpret the surge of phytoestrogens as an overabundance of human estrogens.
This of course is all dependent on the person, amount of soy consumed, and the environment. Soy still remains a healthy option when eaten in moderation. This is why alternatives to soy protein are so important to know about.
Lentils, like soy, are a legume. You may have seen them in small bags in your grocery store near the dried beans. They come in a variety of colors from orange to green to brown and all have a satisfying, nutty taste.
Unlike most dried beans, lentils do not have to soak before cooking, making them a quick fix for a weeknight dinner. Simply add one part lentils to 3 parts boiling water and cook to the desired consistency.
Different varieties will cook differently; the red and orange varieties will cook down into a thick paste after twenty minutes or so in a covered pan, the brown and green varieties will retain their shape and simply become soft.
The great thing about lentils is two-fold in that they are nutritional powerhouses and extremely flexible in cooking. One quarter cup of dried lentils provides between 70 and 150 calories along with 10 grams of protein and a whopping 11 grams of fiber.
As for flexibility, because they absorb so much water in the cooking process they can be flavored any way you like right there in the pot. Try using chicken or vegetable stock with various herbs and spices, curry, or even tomato-based sauces.
And our hearty vegetarian shepherd’s pie is another great addition to your stock of lentil-based recipes.
Another reason for the popularity of these legumes around the world is their affordability. A one pound bag of brown lentils off the shelf typically costs less than $1.50. While the economy is down the drain we tend to reach for comforting, cheap foods.
Unfortunately these meals tend to come in colorful boxes and laced with fat and preservatives. Why not try out a healthy dinner and start experimenting with some good-for-you lentils?
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!