A healthy idea: lentil salad

If you are Latino and reading this chances are you know someone who suffers from high blood pressure. Why? Because high blood pressure is, sadly, the leading cause of death among Mexican Americans, according to a recent article in the International Journal of Hypertension, and alarmingly common among way too many Hispanics in the U.S.

It’s something I’m all too aware of because it runs in my own family: my father, a diabetic with heart disease, battles hypertension every day. So about a year ago, frustrated by the fact that the diseases from which he suffers can, in many ways, be managed by a healthier diet, I decided to put to use all those nutrition courses I took while I was in culinary school. I created a series of dishes for him to see if they could indeed help lower his blood pressure. At first, like a good Latino man, he was skeptical. “Wouldn’t it be easier just to take a pastillita?” he asked. “Give me a few weeks,” I responded.

And you know what? It worked! Within two weeks his blood pressure had lowered from 180 to 132; within two months he’d lost the few pounds he needed to drop to be at a healthier weight. Even his physician and cardiologist were impressed.

When I created the dishes, I focused specifically on foods that were high in potassium, a mineral that helps blunt the effects of sodium and has been linked to reducing blood pressure. For good measure, I also relied on foods low in sodium and cholesterol and high in cholesterol-lowering fiber—an overhaul of his diet. That meant lots of fish (like fresh cod), green vegetables (like brocolli) and cooked, dried beans (as in not from a can.) (Click here for a list of foods high in potassium.)

Today’s recipe, a lentil salad that can be served warm or cold, comes directly from those dishes I made him. Why lentils? Because they not only contain high levels of potassium (nearly 200 grams per cup) they also contain the highest level of protein among plant based foods as well as fiber. A bonafide power food, lentils are easy and fast to make, a great go-to option for weeknight dinners.


Lentil Salad

1 cup French green lentils
1 small onion, peeled, ends removed, studded with 3 cloves
1 bay leaf
3 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T Jerez vinegar
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T parsley, finely chopped
2 T chives, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, whole onion and bay leaf. add the water and salt and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are al dente. Drain the lentils, discard the bay leaf and onion, and set lentils aside in a large bowl.

2. In a small, dry sauté pan, over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds until they are fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

3. To the lentils, add the oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, parsley, chives, red pepper and the toasted cumin seeds and stir gently to combine. Serve warm or chilled. Makes 6 servings.


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